Tag Archives: Equality

Attempting to Understand the Alt-Right Part V

In its essence the Orthospherian-conservative argument against liberalism seems to be that liberalism is a rebellion against proper authority and ultimately God. They see all authority as derived from God in a continuous hierarchy. Thus a rejection of any link in the chain is a rejection of the chain entire (i.e., a rejection of God). I assume according to this philosophy that all authority is good in their eyes and thus any attempt by an authority to apply an ethic of freedom and equality (i.e., liberalism) onto its citizens is an abrogation of its authority and in effect a self-contradictory rejection of its own goodness (which is therefore bad).

img_0827The Orthospherians assert liberal authority is self-defeating at best and self-destroying at worst. A liberal authority by definition supports those who rebel against authority (i.e., liberals). This rejection of authority takes the form of fighting for freedom and equality. Liberals, therefore, exist in a perpetual state of revolution against the injustice of inequality and because inequality is inherent to existence. Thus, although liberalism on some level purports to have an idyllic end game it is the struggle itself that is the real end game.

Liberalism as defined by the Orthospherian contributor named Zippy is the political doctrine which holds that securing individual freedom and equal rights is a primary and legitimate purpose of government. There is a standard meme on the Othosphere declaring that liberalism is “incoherent” as a political philosophy. This meme is most clearly championed by Zippy who argues that the primary purpose of securing freedom and equal rights for its citizens which defines liberalism is at odds with a government’s other primary purpose which is to maintain law and order. It is because of this supposed incoherency that any liberal government must become more and more repressive over time in order to maintain the freedom and equal rights of its citizens. This repression works against anyone who would champion conservative values which stand in opposition to freedom and equal rights. Because (as is believed by the Orthospherians) the universe is fundamentally unfree and unequal the liberal government has set itself against the universe. This is ultimately self-defeating and can only be maintained by becoming more and more repressive in its means of maintaining this system as the reality of the universe closes in on it.

In this way the Orthospherians can make the argument that Stalinism and Nazism are both liberal ideologies even though neither one respected the freedom and equal rights of its citizens. I suppose the argument goes something along the lines of, but for a liberal authority seeking to create a society of free and equal citizens there would be no need to become authoritarian so as to suppress the conservative forces opposing it. As such it is the initial aim of freedom and equality that matters when labeling a government liberal and not the ultimate unfree and unequal outcome.

In contrast to liberals, the true Orthospherian-conservatives believe in authority and obedience to authority. In this dynamic there is no contradiction of primary purposes and thus no need for the ever increasing level of authority that liberalism inevitably brings about. It would seem that authority is good but ever increasing authority is bad in the eyes of the Orthospherians. Moreover, an authority based government whose primary function is not to create a society of free and equal citizens is stable and unchanging (which is good).

I have not observed any Orthospherian make the argument that the citizens of such a state will ultimately be happier in the bargain but I assume they would naturally think this. I also assume they at least believe that the members of the elite class in this society would be happier than under liberalism. I suspect there is somewhat of a “tough shit” approach to anyone who might feel cheated by their place in society under an Orthospherian ideal government. But to complain would be to espouse liberal values after all and such is the price to pay for stability.

I must admit that the Orthospherian world view seems logically consistent on a broad theoretical level but only if the terms “freedom” and “equality” are defined absolutely and not relatively. Certainly no government can maintain law and order while at the same time leaving its citizens free to do whatever they want. But no liberal has ever defined freedom in this way. So long as there is a balance between the two there really is no incoherence in liberalism as defined by Zippy.

Another way Zippy attempts to chip away at liberalism is to argue that there really is no objective thing called freedom. Specifically he asserted in a comment,

Borrowing from liberal philosopher John Rawls, whether or not you consider a particular society ‘oppressive’ generally depends entirely on who you happen to be in that society and (adding the part that Rawls carefully avoids) what you think it is good to enforce. A ‘free society’ is – the question is begged – one which sends the right sort of people to prison.

I think this argument fails because it ignores the fact that there is a generally agreed upon view as to just what rights are respected in a free society of the West. These rights are very well articulated in the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution and can be clearly demonstrated when one compares the society of North Korea with the United States. Obviously one society is more free than the other and it is not merely a difference of opinion as to who belongs in jail.

Zippy also tries to demonize liberalism by pointing out the evils it is responsible for,

When it comes to the matter of ‘repression’ and the like, it may be worth pointing out that (e.g.) feminism (which is as American as Rosy the Riveter) has slaughtered far more innocents than the Nazis and the Stalinists combined.

Of course Zippy is alluding to legalized abortion within modern Western countries. I suppose the argument goes that a government whose primary purpose is securing individual freedom cannot deny a woman the right to have an abortion. Therefore liberalism is responsible for all the deaths abortion has caused. There may be some merit to this position but it is worth pointing out that abortion existed prior to the advent of liberalism. I honestly do not know if the number of abortions practiced since it became medically safe and legal exceeds all prior abortions in raw numbers or in frequency. But I do know it cannot logically be said that liberalism is responsible for abortion if it existed both before and after liberalism came into being.

The supposed evils of liberalism are debatable. I do not know that liberalism always and necessarily leads to more authoritarian governments. I do not know that liberalism is any more or less stable a form of government than is a monarchy. History has demonstrated that monarchies can be overthrown by liberal forces and I do not think any revolution happened simply because the citizens were acting naughty and not respecting their proper authorities. It seems obvious to me that there were more real and complex dynamics at work.

I also do not know that liberalism is a rejection of God. I believe in freedom and equal rights and I also believe in and love God. I further believe that one has to be free in order to love God authentically. Is that not the point of God endowing man with free will?

As I have said before, it is not my intention to argue against conservatism in this series of blog posts. I merely wanted to document my thought process as I took in what I learned. So any counter argument I may have made is simply what came to mind when I considered the various positions I encountered. My original intention was to better understand the Alt-Right in connection with the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. It turned out that the Orthosphere was not the best place to do that as most of the contributors there identified themselves as Traditionalists. But I do feel like I have come to a better understanding of the wider conservative movement through this exploration. Even though the conservatism I encountered at the Orthosphere is probably more intellectually grounded than the conservatism espoused by the bulk of those who voted for Mr. Trump. I suspect their conservatism is more emotionally based but I do not know that for a fact.

Obviously there is more to learn but I am going to leave things here for now. Once more I thank the commenters from the Orthosphere for the information they provided me along the way.

 

 

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Attempting to Understand the Alt-Right Part II

A great deal has transpired since I published my last post. Notably, I was informed that the contributors and most of the commenters at the Orthosphere do not consider themselves to be “Alt-Right” but rather “Traditionalists.” A commenter named Terry Morris was particularly helpful by explaining this distinction in the comment section of my last post.

[T]he Orthosphere contributors and regular commenters are not, by and large, openly hostile to the alt-right…

[T]he alt-right often criticizes Traditionalists for our ineffectiveness in countering liberalism. The basis of their complaint against Traditionalism as such is that it is unwilling to cross certain boundaries alt-righters have no qualms with crossing. E.g., using crass language, trolling liberals and that sort of thing – basically fighting fire with fire. Whereas Traditionalists would criticize alt-righters for attacking liberalism on the perimeters and not attacking it at its core …; a kind of treating the symptom and not the disease.

As I understand it, Traditionalism in this sense is on the same spectrum but not as far to the right as the Alt-Right. Accordingly, by learning more about the Traditionalist world view I am in a sense educationally approaching an understanding of the Alt-Right’s world view. For this reason I decided there is no need to change the title of this series of posts.

The Definition of Liberalism

There has been much discussion on the Orthosphere lately about the definition of “liberalism.” In my previous post I took issue with the fact that many people on the political right use different definitions of liberalism. Some even choose to use no definition at all. I would think any reasonable person would agree that as a general principle the failure to use a common definition makes it very difficult to engage in a coherent conversation on any subject. In this respect I do not so much have a problem with any particular definition of “liberalism” so long as the people discussing liberalism use the same or reasonably similar definition of the word.

pic 8.20.16It is probably obvious that my politics are significantly to the left of the average Orthospherian. I do not, however, consider myself a liberal as such. For example, I am deeply opposed to the concept of political correctness. I am also a practicing (but in no way perfect) Roman Catholic. In general, however, I do agree with the general liberal principles of freedom, equality under law, reasonable toleration of differences, etc. But essentially, I am uncomfortable putting myself in any box (which itself probably makes me a liberal in the eyes of many). On the other hand I do not take the label of liberal as an insult. I object to it because I do not think it is entirely accurate. This is especially true when the definition is so amorphous. I say all this to make the point that I approach this journey from the standpoint of espousing certain liberal view points and having been accused of being a liberal even though I consider myself to be an independent politically.

One thing is certain. Traditionalists are opposed to liberalism as a general principle. To better understand this Traditionalist objection to liberalism, Terry Morris suggested that I read the blog of another Othosphere commenter who goes by the name Zippy. I think one post in particular entitled “Definition of liberalism” is particularly ripe for analysis for self-evident reasons. Zippy begins this post by saying:

Liberalism is the political doctrine that securing individual freedom and equal rights is the primary legitimate purpose of government.

A liberal is a person who has a significant degree of commitment to this doctrine…

A liberal doesn’t have to believe that securing individual freedom and equal rights is the only legitimate purpose of government: he just has to see it as a primary legitimate purpose…

I would readily say I am a liberal using this definition. Let us proceed.

The main thrust of Zippy’s argument against liberalism is that it is in his opinion essentially incoherent.

[L]iberalism is incoherent [because g]overnment by its very essence is a discriminating authority which initiates force to support a particular conception of the good. … A concept of government with the primary purpose of preventing authoritative discrimination is therefore self-contradictory.

A right is a specific discriminating authority possessed by an individual; for example a property right discriminates between the owner and the trespasser, treating the former’s claims as authoritative over the latter’s claims.  The doctrine of equal rights requires that rights be distributed without discrimination: it requires that in the distribution of discriminating authorities (rights) there shall be no discrimination and no authority (equality).

If I understand him correctly, he is arguing that government cannot protect the rights of citizens while at the same time enforcing its laws. I do not find this argument particularly convincing. Essentially this is a straw man argument. Of course no legal system can secure the equal rights and freedom of its citizens absolutely. That is absurd and I would think no liberal espouses this. First of all, the term “equal rights” refers to the concept of equal treatment of citizens according to law. In other words, the United States Constitution recognizes no classes of people who enjoy specific privileges relative to each other. All citizens are treated equally by law as a general principle in this way. Equal rights does not mean that every citizen possesses the same rights in all circumstances. Secondly, in the same respect all citizens cannot be absolutely free. This was never the intent of any mainstream liberal movement to my knowledge.

General Principles

Rather concepts of equal rights and freedom are general principles. They are the starting point from which liberalism (at least in my understanding) proceeds.

The legal systems of the West all start with general principals. For example, the Constitution of the United States sets forth general principles to which all subordinate law (e.g., legislation and case law) must conform generally speaking. However, because general principals are not sufficiently specific they do not always overlay perfectly on real life situations. Exceptions have to made in specific circumstances. In principle these exceptions must be logically consistent with controlling authorities. Whether this actually happens is debatable and this debate happens through litigation. These exceptions are can also be articulated through legislation but more often stands as case law which provides examples of how the law can apply to specific fact scenarios. Case law in turn is used as authority to determine the legal outcome in other analogous fact scenarios. This is how the legal system in the United States and other common law jurisdictions functions.

With this in mind I take issue with Zippy’s pronouncement that liberalism is inherently incoherent. I see liberalism as setting forth general principals from which emanate forth the exceptions that make up our legal system. If this is inherently incoherent I am pretty sure the same argument could be made of a legal system based upon conservative general principles as well for the simple reason that no general principal can apply to all situations.

All that said, the purpose of this post is not to advocate the liberal perspective. As the title suggests I am attempting to educate myself as to the Alt-Right (and Traditionalist) world view. I understand that one of their objections to liberalism is that it is (in their eyes) logically inconsistent. So far I have not been convinced that this is actually true. I do not pretend that this is in anyway a comprehensive discourse. Really what I am doing is documenting my thought process as I explore this subject matter.

 

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