Liberal Distinctions and Leftist Conflations
In fact, Fried says much the same thing, although neither author devotes a separate section to the subject. Rather, the evidence is scattered throughout both books, so I'll attempt to pull some of it together here.
This probably sounds like a slightly dryasdust subject, but it definitely isn't, because it goes directly to our vision of the world. Without the proper tools, that vision can only be so deep, complex, and comprehensive.
Consider what happens when we chuck religious tools from our cognitive bag of tricks. It is not as if a hammer can replace the work of a wrench or screwdriver. But if that's all you have, you'll end up trying to pound religious screws into place with a hammer, which makes for an ugly and probably dysfunctional end product, like a half-assed home repair done by me.
A big one is the distinction between secular and spiritual authority. Prior to this distinction there is only authority -- or power -- period.
But there is more to it than just keeping these two domains apart, because for one thing, they cannot be kept apart. That is to say, they are complementary, not "opposite." To imagine the latter is be a leftist.
But the leftist only pretends to deny spiritual authority while actually usurping it. In short, he regresses to a state of mind in which the two are still fused, and then subsumes the religious into the secular, thus ending up with either the omnipotent state or the cult of personality (or both, as in Castro or Kim). Put another way, he denies a primordial complementarity and then subsumes one side into the other.
As Hartshorne has explained, this is a common strategy for all kinds of tenured foolishness. You might say that pre-Christian neo-Platonists tended to default to the spirit side, while post-Christian sophists default to the material side. But how can one even begin to describe reality without including both?
And while it is possible to regard one side of a complementarity as the more fundamental, these folks always choose the wrong side, as, for example, Marx did to Hegel; a pox on both, but at least Hegel gives spirit its props, since it can theoretically account for matter while the converse is impossible without millions of corpses.
Again, once there is a distinction between the secular and religious realms, that is not the end of their interaction. We are still left with the question of what constitutes legitimate authority, and that is a question that cannot be answered by mere power, i.e., the secular arm.
Rather, that is always a spiritual question, for which reason the American founding is thoroughly grounded in, and legitimized by, spiritual principles, i.e., nature and nature's God. While there is of course secular authority, if it should become divorced from spiritual authority, the founders say that this invokes the natural (i.e., God-given) right of rebellion.
The purpose of government is to secure our God-given rights. And if government becomes "destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them." Again, secular power is not self-justifying; rather, power is grounded in transcendent truth.
While we (conservative liberals) take this for granted, it took a very long time for mankind to draw these distinctions and to work out the political implications. As Fried writes, as of 1000 AD, "lords did not think in 'political' categories," for "the habit of thinking in categories was still only in its infancy then."
Thus, "There were no conceptions of 'domestic' or 'foreign policy,' or of 'politics' and 'the state.'" Indeed, "nobody would have understood them as templates for interpreting the world or for acting in a particular way, nor could anyone have associated a particular attitude with them or have advocated such a mind-set." Among other things, man had yet to recognize a clear distinction between mind and reality, or God and world.
As such, rulers looked to the world for signs and augurs; these "were everywhere to be seen for those who knew how to read them"; think of them as the pundits of the premodern world. Like our pundits, they all had opinions, usually wrong and immediately forgotten. They looked "to the sun, moon, and stars in the sky, in the natural world and among people, and even animals." The wrong decision might bring on the object lesson of a natural disaster, which "skillful interpreters could always be relied upon to proclaim their import with hindsight."
As man slowly individuates from the womb of nature, language undergoes a profound change, "engendering whole new sets of differentiating terminology, and bringing about advances in perception and an increase in the sum total of cognitive capacity." A new mode of thought emerges; you could say that this mode is capable of being critical because of the critical distance between subject and object.
Now, this critical distance between subject and object is a kind of "space" through which "new perspectives on and approaches to the complexity of the world and cosmos opened up." "[T]hings that had never even been imagined came into peoples' purview, while familiar things were seen in a new light" and "placed in a new relation to one another" (Fried).
From our privileged perspective, this space is "everything." Eliminate it and what's left, obedience to the state, or adherence to some state-funded ideolatry? Or perhaps a pre-political life of simply obeying one's impulses.
One implicit point made by both Fried and Siedentop is that freedom tends to emerge and flourish in the interstices between competing powers. It is almost as if these powers, because they are so preoccupied with one another, overlook little pockets here and there where people are left the fuck alone.
But it took until the American founding to make this principle explicit and put it the fuck in writing. That is, the framers recognized that freedom is only safe when power is dispersed among competing interests. Collapse these interests and powers, and we end with a freedom-usurping Obama. "The bigger the state, the smaller the citizen," as Dennis Prager says.
Which is precisely why the left sells us chains it relabels "freedom," as in "you're not really free if you don't have health insurance, therefore the state has a right to your body." To which we respond: why can't we have health and freedom? Why revert to a time when there was no space between ruler and ruled? Why deprive us of our God-given slack?