Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Liberal Limits on the Limitless Reason of the Left

"Liberalism and democracy, although compatible, are not the same. The first is concerned with the extent of governmental power, the second with who holds the power" (Hayek).

Obviously, real liberalism is much more vital to our liberty than is mere democracy. Indeed, democracy can as easily erode liberty as any other form of tyranny. Liberalism is only protected by principles; or, to put it another way, it is not grounded in the demos but in the principial realm, which is timeless, universal, and ultimately God-given: we are endowed with certain (super)natural rights which it is the purpose of government to secure.

Teleocracy. I thought I made it up, but it's actually a real word. I was about to say that our system of government is a teleocracy, in the sense that it has the goal of protecting and extending liberty, but so too is every leftist tyranny a teleocracy, in that they have the goal of undermining liberty and imposing equality. So it's a neither here nor thereword.

In any event, notice what's been going on with our illiberal left: since its authoritarian designs are being frustrated by our liberal order, it has taken to making crude, demogogic appeals to "democracy" -- for example, abolition of the electoral college, or delegitimizing the senate, or the latest whining point cooked up by the children of Vox -- that Americans aren't prepared "for the crisis that will follow if Democrats win the House popular vote but not the majority."

In other words, if our liberal system works as it supposed to work and has always worked, it is a crisis. Why is it a crisis? Because -- follow me here -- it will have limited the power of those who wish to extend the power of the state to limit our rights and liberties. The bottom line is that -- of course -- "a democratic government may be totalitarian and that an authoritarian government may act on liberal principles" (ibid).

I know this because I live in California. Yesterday, for example, our obedient NPCitizens voted by a wide margin to maintain a highly regressive gasoline tax in what is already the most heavily taxed state -- and with the highest poverty rate -- in the union. And of course we re-elected Diane Feinstein, who, in order to maintain political viability, made it a special project of hers to assassinate a judge.

But Hayek goes deeper into our political differences, writing that illiberal leftism and conservative classical liberalism "rest on altogether different philosophical foundations."

Of course, I would go too far and suggest that they are grounded in different metaphysical sources -- ultimately heaven and hell (or O and Ø) -- but let's stick with Hayek's more sober understanding: that genuine liberalism "is based on an evolutionary interpretation" (emphasis mine) which recognizes "the limits of the powers of the human reason."

Let's stop right there, because his point is somewhat orthoparadoxical: science and reason have allowed us to gain insight into the evolutionary process, but a deep understanding of evolution requires us to appreciate the limits of science and reason. If reason and science are limitless, then they enclose us in a kind of ultimate ignorance that the left uses as an ultimate control.

It's the difference between the reasonable use of reason vs. a tyrannical and totalitarian use of it. Evolution itself can be liberating or stifling, depending upon whether we see it as an open or closed system.

For example, no one "invented" our free market system. Rather, it evolved spontaneously as a result of a rule of law that placed limits on government interference. Only after the system was well underway did people consciously reflect upon it and give it a name: the "free market," or "capitalism." The main point is that the system not only evolved spontaneously, but never could have been created by conscious intent.

But don't tell that to the left: it is rooted in what Hayek calls "constructivist rationalism," a manmade intellectual system that "leads to the treatment of all cultural phenomena as the product of deliberate design" and insists "that it is both possible and desirable to reconstruct all [evolved] institutions in accordance with a preconceived plan." Again, notice how this encases us in the tyrannical pseudo-reason of the left.

There are further important distinctions: genuine liberalism evolves in the context of tradition, which itself was invented over thousands of years by Nobody and Everybody, the living and the dead, male and female, parent and child, group and individual, God and man. Conversely, leftism "is contemptuous of tradition because it regards an independently existing reason as capable of designing civilization."

Think, for example, of marriage, which is one of those things that was designed by no one and everyone. The left thinks it can fundamentally redefine and alter it with a top-down imposition of its own desiccated reason. But this new thing -- whatever it is -- will be no more real than, say, vitamins abstracted from the food with which man has evolved. No one can live on vitamins. And the spirit of man cannot live and breathe in the creations of the left. For proof, look at what has happened to academia and the arts.

Conservative classical liberalism "is a modest creed, relying on abstraction as the only available means to extend the limited powers of reason," whereas leftism "refuses to recognize any such limits and believes that reason alone can prove the desirability of particular concrete arrangements."

Which is why genuine liberalism is not only compatible with religion, but "has often been held and even been developed by men holding strong religious beliefs," while the anti-American kind "has always been antagonistic to all religion and politically in constant conflict" with it (except for those religions that undermine our tradition, such as Islam).

Time out for aphorisms that approach the subject from different angles -- most of which you've heard before but are always worth remumbling and remembering:

None of the high eras of history have been planned. The reformer can only be credited with the errors.

The progressive believes that everything soon turns obsolete except his ideas.

Progress finally comes down to stealing from man what ennobles him, in order to sell to him at a cheap price what debases him.

The political platforms of the left are gradually transformed into scaffolds.

Let us preserve in any institution the “defects” that the modern mentality denounces. They are the last air holes.

For the left the constitution is a shameful attack on the sovereignty of the people.

Dying societies accumulate laws like dying men accumulate medicines.

Hell is the place where man finds all his projects realized.


The excess of laws emasculates. For proof I give you California, home of the Geld Rush.


julie said...

And of course we re-elected Diane Feinstein, who, in order to maintain political viability, made it a special project of hers to assassinate a judge.

Horrible, that. But sadly unsurprising. I still hold out hope that someday, sanity might be returned to California, but would be surprised if it happens in my lifetime.

Gagdad Bob said...

A big problem is that something like half of California households speak Spanish, and that there is -- as far as I know -- no Spanish FNC or conservative talk radio. They're locked into the left's unreality, with no escape.

ted said...

With the ongoing rebellion with Truth, it appears now age is truly not a number anymore. Or at least a number that coincides with any clock.