Tag Archives: Traditionalist

Attempting to Understand the Alt Right Part III

img_0827In 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.

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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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