Luther and His Progeny: 500 Years of Protestantism and Its Consequences for Church, State, and Society, edited by John C. Rao.
What I would like to demonstrate in this study is the unnatural “nature” of what has been labeled “negative liberty.”
So writes Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula (to save myself much trouble, from here on I will refer to him as IBC). In this post, I will not examine the background of why the author lays blame on the Reformation for the war on nature brought on by the spread of the idea of negative liberty; I will merely examine the ramifications of this idea – ramifications that are manifest in the west today.
The non-aggression principle offers precisely this negative liberty; it offers a “do not.” Do not initiate aggression. It does not offer a “do.” It is in this void that I have been exploring the value and import of culture in the context of achieving and maintaining a libertarian order.
[Negative liberty] is an empty concept, a “freedom” from the restraints imposed by fundamental realities.
Freedom from the restraints imposed by fundamental realities. This is libertinism gone wild. Take the chapter titles from Walter Block’s Defending the Undefendable, add to this the cornucopia of newly invented sexual / gender / animal preferences, and you will have a pretty good starting point of the “fundamental realities” that need no longer restrain man – well, at least until nature (and the inevitable conflict between and amongst men) fights back.
What are some of these fundamental realities (well, besides gender and stuff)?
…man is not created to live in isolation… From his very birth, the Lord places a man in a natural social context…
IBC offers family, community, and political society as this “social context.”
Through the concomitant action of family, other natural communities, and the Church, the individual receives language, culture, a sense of belonging to a structured society, and a spiritual community of which he is a legitimate member.
If you don’t like the theological source for this, I offer Rothbard:
Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that everyone is necessarily born into a family, a language, and a culture.
…usually including an ethnic group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions.
Yes. Many contemporary libertarians ignore the fact that humans are human…with some fundamental realities.
Returning to IBC:
Negative liberty seeks to destroy this purposeful and socially guided development of positive liberty. A rational understanding of the absurdity of such absolute, negative freedom must be grounded on the perennial philosophy that accepts the objective reality of the external world.
I will note two things from this statement: first, note how IBC considers the term “positive.” It is not used, at least in this context, as we often use the term – a description of “rights” demanded from others. It is a positive liberty offered by living within a real (not mythical or utopian) community.
Second: if all we have is this absolute negative liberty (the aforementioned Block chapter titles and cornucopia of newly invented sex/gender classifications)…well, doesn’t this fly in the face of “the objective reality of the external world”?
Humans are, after all, human. They have a nature, they live in a social and historical context – there is a fundamental reality to “human.” Whether you believe that nature was placed by God or developed over countless millennia of time, it is real. A human, after all, is a real person:
In speaking of individual freedom, we must always be concerned for the real person in his concrete historical reality: not the abstract “citizen” of liberalism.
“The non-aggression principle is for everyone.” So we are often told. Even if I grant this as true, inherently it cannot be for everyone wherever and whenever you might plop him down in space and time.
Cultural norms and traditions evolve – different in different parts of the world, different in the same part of the world but at different times. To believe that “anything peaceful” means the same thing in application to all people everywhere is naïve thinking, ignoring – as IBC and Rothbard both put it – the specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions.
I have previously used an example: the new neighbor who enjoys sex orgies in the front yard. The new neighbor is not violating the NAP, yet what is the likely outcome when it comes to the peace of the neighborhood by this culture and tradition-destroying newcomer?
Being rooted in tradition prevents us from being imprisoned solely within contemporary presentations of what is, and is not, real.
When culture and tradition are destroyed, we lose our ability to live in peace because we lose the rules of “what is acceptable around here.” I don’t mean rules about murder and robbery; those are easy. I mean rules about sex orgies on the front lawn. I don’t even have to go that far – can any of you keep up with what is and isn’t politically correct in terms of speech or behavior or with what constitutes “aggression” (micro or otherwise) anymore?
Jordan Peterson describes these rules as coming from observed stable behavioral patterns; stable meaning conducive toward sustaining life. Do the rules come first? No! The actions come first; these are honed through experience – the experience of countless millennia. The rules come after; these are tradition-derived rules that are honed through experience.
Once these rules from tradition are destroyed, “what is acceptable behavior around here” must come from somewhere. ICB offers that when this traditional, objective order of things is abandoned – when negative liberty reigns supreme – something must replace it: truths will be created from whole cloth via consensus; in reality the truths will be manipulated by a few strong men. They manipulate in order to control society without society feeling controlled.
Once the foundation built on tradition is destroyed – the learned wisdom from time immemorial of “what works” (per Peterson, the game that can be played over and over again without degeneration) – the author offers the new sources of manufactured tradition: propaganda, manipulated language, history rewritten.
“That bionic, he has really gone soft on the NAP.”
Nope, no change. It is a wonderful political theory, but “though shalt not” does not bind a community. I really don’t get it anyway. Who really believes that the non-aggression principle is an all-encompassing formula for a peaceful life? Who really believes that the non-aggression principle will define itself, interpret itself, and defend itself? I guess only those who view it as a religion of some sort.
In any case, it is all of the “thou shalts” that we share – not with 100% conformity, but generally accepted – that binds a community. A community with a generally accepted set of “thou shalts” will come closest to a self-governing community.
Something or someone will govern: either learned tradition and culture built on “what works” or a strongman (whether dictator or democracy) making it up as he goes along.
Which one offers more stability in the law? Which one offers the best prospect for freedom in a world occupied by humans?