These are relevant questions, irrespective of whether one is liberal or conservative, because I'm sure you'll agree that one of us is crazy. This is beyond mere disagreement; rather, one of us is distorting the world beyond recognition. One of us has an aversion to reality, and one of us has contracted a psychopneumatic illness that undermines the very purpose of the mind, which is to know truth. To "believe untruth" is intrinsically pathological, like loving evil, doing bad, or creating ugliness.
So, let's keep an open mind about this, for if we are crazy, we want to know about it -- just as we'd want to know if we had a serious illness.
Or would we? Here we need to appreciate the role of denial in human affairs. You could say it is the master defense mechanism, in that each of the others partakes of it. Every defense mechanism begins with denial of a painful truth that is split off, or projected, or compartmentalized, or sublimated, etc.
Or in other words, a defense mechanism is simply a particular way to deny an unwanted truth. There are any number of things to do with truth aside from knowing and bowing to it. (And bear in mind that defending against a truth implies the existence of truth; therefore, to deny truth -- AKA relativism -- must be the most massive defense mechanism of all.)
But the term "defense mechanism" can be misleading, because just what -- or who -- is being defended? And more to the point, it's really more of an attack; defense mechanisms always involve displaced aggression. And ultimately the aggression is directed at reality.
So when Conquest asks "How did the destructive intellectual epidemic strike?", he's on the right track, because he implicitly understands that we're dealing with an aggressive attack.
But why? In another context, Robert Barron writes of the prime characteristics of the being known as the Devil, Satanas and diabolos, which is to say accuser and scatterer respectively.
Accuser. That doesn't sound very nice. Aggressive, rather. "[T]he primary form of reality, on the Catholic reading, is coinherence, the coming together of the many in love. The [aggressive] power that is opposed to this is therefore a dividing, scattering force."
Barron uses the word "coinherence" where we deploy "intersubjective." But the point is the same, and either term goes to the ultimate reality of the Trinity: the Trinity is irreducibly intersubjective, such that each of the persons coinheres in one another; each is a member of the other.
This is where our political opponents are liable to say that we are crazy. You see, in those three paragraphs immediately above, we've stepped into the world of religion, and therefore out of the world of reality.
Which I am trying not to do per se; rather, I'm trying to keep this on a more metaphysical level, such that we can either affirm or deny that the world has a trinitarian structure. I'm treating it here as a principle, not a datum of revelation. If it is true, then it has certain implications and logical entailments. It explains a lot. Likewise, if untrue, then a great many important features of the world will go unexplained.
So instead of dismissing my first principle as crazy, why don't you just show me yours? I don't want to put words into your mouth, but if you are like other self-styled modern folks, then your metaphysic is ultimately rooted in a logical atomism in which everything is intrinsically separate and autonomous: a world of leibnizian monads. This is the implicit order of radical libertarianism. You will notice that it is the last word in being divided and scattered.
Barron reminds us of the majority opinion in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which rooted the decision in what can only be called a secular revelation: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."
Excuse me, but what were you saying about religion?
I believe we've hit bottom here in two senses. Let's begin with the charitable sense, in that we've reached a fork in the ontological road that proceeds left and right.
If you ask us -- or the founders, for that matter -- what is at the "heart of liberty".... Well, first of all, there is no abstract thing called liberty. Rather, there is no right without a corresponding duty, and of the two, the duty must be prior, for why would you ever grant freedom to irresponsible beings?
Oh, right. To get votes.
To say that liberty is the right to define existence in any way that pleases oneself is to embrace a doctrine of the most radical relativism imaginable. In short, liberty means being free of everything, beginning with reality.
But again, in the real world, there is no right without a corresponding duty. Thus, for example, we have the right to free speech. What is the implicit obligation? To be honest. Likewise, we have the right to private property. The obligation? Not to steal it.
Okay, so you have a right to murder your child. What is the corresponding responsibility?