Benjamin Boyce: “The bottom part of the left wants to destroy every order and the top part wants to centralize things. I don’t know what the left means.”
To which I replied:
Yes, you do. You just said it. There is nothing consistent or coherent about the left when you dive into it (and, by the way, much of what we label the right politically is equally left).
This is why, when the left is most successful at tearing down every order, you get a Stalin, a Mao, a Hitler (National SOCIALIST, as opposed to the communist left who are international socialists), etc.
And this is why the top part supports the bottom part – the top part knows that as the bottom part tears things apart by destroying traditional intermediating institutions and hierarchies, the top part will gain ever more monopoly power over the rest of us.
Destroy all intermediating institutions, tear down a natural law ethic, drive Christianity out (all the work of the bottom part and the desire of the top part), and the top part gets to absorb more authority. There, in one sentence, is the democrat party in the United States.
And from here, I offered the following:
What does conservativism wish to conserve?
What does liberalism wish to liberalize?
What does progressivism wish to progress to?
Only one of these has a functional answer, yet those who label themselves as such (conservative) are ignorant of it or don't wish to aim at it. That would be the purpose of man, which is the foundation for discovering the natural law - the foundation of which only comes to full development through Christianity.
The other two offer no target at which to aim, as there is always more to liberalize or to progress to. So we have Bari Weiss wishing for the NY Times of three years ago, apparently ignorant of the countless Walter Duranty types that preceded her by decades or more. And Jordan Peterson, who wishes to go back only a few years further - when [personal] pronouns actually had some definitional value.
I would like to expand on this, beginning with such labels in the current political scene. For us, the term “left” is associated with political parties labeled democrat or liberal, while “right” is associated with parties carrying labels such as republican or conservative. In this post, I will use the following terms in the following ways:
Right / conservative: those who want to support and defend something akin to a natural law ethic, with government intervention limited to defending / prosecuting acts of aggression.
I recognize that this is a much narrower definition of “right” or “conservative” than is currently employed. This is why I suggest that much of what is labeled “right” today is actually “left.” Without an anchor in a natural law ethic, the right has no place to stand.
Republicans: politicians who claim to support some sort of (nebulously articulated and conveniently ignored) traditional values; some may even mouth the words “natural law,” although it seems few understand it.
What traditional values are republicans conserving (or, in reality, attempting to, but failing to, conserve) these days, beyond that which they fought against not even twelve months ago?
Left / liberal, progressive: those who want to move humanity away from something akin to a natural law ethic, with government taking an active role in the process.
They don’t put it in these terms, but this is the reality. Every move away from a hierarchy that accepts the nature of man and the resultant natural law ethic moves human beings away from their intended purpose and, therefore, away from natural law.
Democrats: politicians who unashamedly articulate such visions and act accordingly.
The first thing, perhaps, to notice: most republicans are hypocritical on this matter – claiming to support traditional values while acting contrary to this; democrats are not at all hypocritical in their actions or words – they claim to want to drive change (progress, liberalize), and they put their words into action. Unlike republicans, democrats are at least honest about their aims.
Therefore, it is fair to conclude that while virtually all democrats can be labeled “left,” most republicans can be labeled “left” as well.
So…what to conserve? We each have a point to which we would like to return. At the moment, February 2020 doesn’t look so bad, albeit I know many of us didn’t believe that at the time. The election of Trump (the first time, not the second time)? The 1950s? The late 1800s, at the peak of what we now call classical liberalism? The time of the Constitution, or the Articles of Confederation, or the Declaration of Independence? The Peace of Westphalia, the Magna Carta?
Do we go back to before the legalization of gay marriage, abortion, the changes to immigration in the 1960s, the formalization of the European Union, the total militarization of the United States after World War II?
What is it that conservatives wish to conserve? None of these points above provide an anchor or a consistent philosophical underpinning. None of these are a steady target at which to aim. Whatever it is that conservatives wish to conserve, it most certainly is not represented by the bulk of the political right.
Whereas liberals or progressives have a mission. They don’t have a target, but they have a mission – a mission to progress or liberalize something, anything, the next thing. There is always something more towards which to progress, something more to liberalize. Human-animal marriage? Why not? Adult-child sex? No reason to not take this step. Child mutilation in the name of transgender identity? Wait, we already have that.
They don’t have to be consistent either, nor concern themselves about hypocrisy. Pro-choice on abortion, anti-choice on schools and vaccines; militarization abroad, defund the police at home; black lives matter when taken by whites, but not when taken by blacks; election security was such a disaster under Obama that Trump was elected by Russians, but Trump cleaned up the election security so much that the Russians were unable to get him elected for a second term.
Further, the liberals and progressives have a political party through which to force an agenda. The political left (and a good part of the political right) happily drives the bus for the cause.
Which brings me back to the top: the liberals and progressives have no target at which to aim, giving the political left a free run toward any objective of their choosing. The conservatives have a target at which to aim (the purpose and nature of man), but no political party through which to act.
What this means for the left: they fight amongst themselves about “this far but no farther.” We see this in evidence with the infighting and defections from the camp. Jordan Peterson was solidly in the liberal / left camp, until he said “you have gone too far.” At which point, he was labeled a fascist (slang for “right-wing extremist).
We see it in the treatment of Bret Weinstein at Evergreen – he a good representative of the left until he no longer was. As the left has no target at which to aim, there are no bounds to what can be liberalized. Permanent revolution. Personal feelings; my common sense vs. your common sense – but neither of us have “sense” in common. Everyone claiming to use reason, but only the loudest and most violent reason wins.
The left, therefore, is attractive to two groups, broadly speaking: those who desire no constraints (an ever-growing group given the education received), and those who desire to control (as the destruction of intermediating institutions only serves to centralize more power to the elite).
The only defense against this for society is a target at which to aim. That target is natural law, derived from the nature and purpose of man.
As for the conservatives, the issue is not to pick some point in history and say “here, this is what we want.” “Why can’t we go back to the original meaning of the Constitution?” “Let’s put prayer back in school.” “Let’s put people back in pews.” There is no going back to some magical time in history – there was no magical time in history.
The issue is to drive for a return to the center: what is the purpose of man? From this, natural law can be discovered. Human history as moved closer to or further from this mark – but this is the center at which we always return, unfortunately sometimes only after painful lessons.
The natural law ethic has something for those on either side of the political spectrum: all are made in God’s image, providing a proper framework for equality; God breathed into man, placing man above the rest of creation; man is to be a steward for God’s creation, providing a foundation for proper conservation; man’s ultimate purpose is love – first to God, then to his neighbors, setting a proper hierarchical order.
However, an adherence to natural law does not serve those who wish to usurp power, wealth, and authority. For this reason, one has to marvel at the success the powerful and wealthy have had at manipulating the masses (those who revolt against power and authority) toward their cause. While the protestations of the masses against those in power and control have grown ever more violent, the wealth and control exercised by those on top has only increased.
In Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty, Murray Rothbard writes:
…only forms of natural or higher law theory can provide a radical base outside of the existing system from which to challenge the status quo.
To further emphasize the point, from For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, Rothbard adds:
Murray Rothbard is known as Mr. Libertarian. It seems to me that it would be more accurate to call him Mr. Liberty. Rothbard recognized that liberty requires a foundation – a foundation more fundamental than the non-aggression principle, a foundation built on natural law. When one believes the non-aggression principle is sufficient for liberty, one is playing the game of the left.
The natural law is what conservatives must conserve if we are to move toward liberty. It is also what libertarians must build on if we are to achieve liberty.
Everything else leaves us fighting a losing battle, to those that have no target at which to aim and are happy about the freedom this offers.