Why is liberalism both liberationist and totalitarian?
recent thread, one of our regular participants asked a perennial question of modern politics
, to which I don’t think a fully satisfactory answer has ever been given: Why are liberals “extreme libertarians with respect to sex, and totalitarians with respect to everything else”? Jim Kalb replied:
Sexual libertinism changes sex from a principle of social order (because it is basic to the family) to a private indulgence on a par with any other private indulgence or consumer good. It’s necessary to the perfection of a system based wholly on rational market and bureaucratic institutions that is totalitarian in the sense that it has no place for any other principle of authority. Those who support such a system will therefore come to support sexual libertinism one way or another.
At first Mr. Kalb’s meaning was less than transparent to me. Then clarity dawned.
Sexual liberationism is the means of weakening one of the principal bases of traditional order—i.e., the family—that serves as an alternative to bureaucratic and state control. The general idea is that the left-liberal state must be totalitarian
in relation to everything that comes within its own
purview, but libertarian
in relation to everything that comes within the purview of other
sources of order, such as the rule of law, traditional manners and self-restraint, family, church, ethnic nationhood, national sovereignty, and so on. For example, liberalism wants to supplant the nation-state with a global bureaucratic state; so it “liberates” individuals from any connection to the nation-state, via open borders, mass influxes of unassimilable foreigners, cultural rights for minorities, and so on, all of which has the effect of radically weakening the nation-state and ultimately cancelling it out of existence.
Thus the paradox or double standard implicit in the original question—why is liberalism libertarian in some areas, and totalitarian in others?—turns out to be not a paradox or double standard at all, but the rationally consistent activity of liberalism in building up its own authority and destroying all traditional sources of authority that stand in its way.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 18, 2003 05:54 PM | Send
Even on a purely quantitative basis the liberality of liberalism on sexual matters may be illusory. I’d venture that if you gathered all the precepts on sexuality of any major religion in one volume it would amount to no more than a substantial pamphlet. If, on the other hand, you were to compile the major sources on the modern law of just, say, sexual harassment, you’d have a groaning bookshelf. Throw in the doctrines of sex discrimination generaly, family law, the definition of consent, gender-based affirmative action, etc. and you’ve got a library!
Mr. Smith’s example does not contradict my point. Consider today’s colleges. On one hand, students are liberated from all traditional sexual morality, a morality that, Mr. Smith rightly points out, is really quite simple; while, on the other hand, the students are subjected to amazingly detailed rules controlling sex behavior from a feminist point of view. Liberalism thus liberates young people from traditional morality, in order to subject them to a feminist totalitarian code. The liberation and the totalitarianism work together.
What I’m saying is really just a recapitulation of the familiar conservative critique of Jacobinism, that it wipes out all intermediary forms of authority (such as traditional morality, local customs, and so on) in order to institute a single, centralized dictatorship.
Lawrence: You’re right, libertinism is a form of anti-authoritarianism. But conservatives are not much different, acting libertarian on issues like guns and capitalism, but totalitarian on issues like sex and drugs. Perhaps the better question is this: With what techniques do unrealistic ideologies engineer society?
An ideologue cares little about reality, and only with social engineering. As you observed, leftist ideologues will attempt to further their anti-authoritarian agenda however they feel fit. On the other hand, right-wing ideologues will try to achieve social stability at any cost. Those elements of human behavior which encourage the adoption of the ideologue’s endpoint are encouraged, and those which discourage the adoption are proscribed.
Leftists encourage all human proclivities toward individualism and primitivism, including libertinism, anarchism, rebellion, drug use, non-traditional social arrangements, and other anti-authoritarian practices. They also discourage at all costs humanity’s innate need for hierarchies and competition, including capitalism, religion, government, and so on. From the other angle, rightists encourage and discourage just the opposite things. One issue’s liberal is another issue’s traditionalist.
But let me conclude with this: The term “liberal” is incorrect. (I know this is the billionth time it’s been said, but please, don’t roll your eyes!) It’s perhaps the finest example of leftist Orwellian double-speak, the same as Dennis Kucinich calling Bush’s tax cuts a “weapon of mass destruction”. Leftists are so anti-authoritarian, even the language we speak is to them a tool of hierarchialism, colonialism, and hegemony. (I’m sure there are endless reams of scholarship from both sides on this point.) They call themselves “liberal” to sow intellectual confusion in the minds of thoughtful people like yourself.
I’m not sure what Mr. Heghinian is getting at, other than to suggest that liberalism and conservatism are both ideologies and therefore are morally equivalent to each other in their means and ends. I don’t agree, but perhaps I’ve misunderstood him.
On the use and misuse of “liberalism,” this is something we’ve discussed a great deal at VFR. I tend to see liberalism and leftism as different segments along the same continuum. What they have in common is the intent to liberate people from transcendent and traditional values and institutions. Liberalism claims to want to do this within the form of the existing society, leftism says the existing society must be radically re-made. However, since there is no principle within liberalism that can affirm the traditional and transcendent values of socity, liberals can only hold on to such values by practicing what I call an “unprincipled exception” from liberalism. In fact, liberalism in its essence is contradictory, since on one hand its only principles are equality and freedom and progress, and on the other hand it wants to preserve the existing society. But lacking any principle of higher order within itself to justify that desire, liberalism tends to become ever more leftist over time. So leftism, while it may manifest politically in a very different way from liberalism and even be at war with it at times, is not radically different philosophically from liberalism. It is different mainly in terms of the consistency or virulence with which it expresses the liberal beliefs in equality and freedom and the desire to free men from the shackles of traditional institutions and religious morality.
Perhaps the simplest proof for what I’ve just said is the familiar observation that for liberals there are no enemies to the left, which shows that liberals feel themselves to be involved in a common project with the left.
None of this means that I am opposed to liberal principles per se, such as individual freedom, equality of citizens before the law, and so on. But in order not to turn destructive, those principles must operate within, and be contained by, a cultural order which is not itself liberal.
How do the above considerations leave us feeling about America, since America is seen as the liberal society par excellence?
To answer that question we must ask a second question: was the early American Republic a liberal order which survived and flourished because it practiced the unprincipled exception on a massive scale, or was it a basically traditional order that practiced some liberal ideals while constraining those ideals within traditional limits? I tend to think it’s the latter, and so I continue to look to the old America as a source of inspiration, though I also see profound flaws within it. There are others on the right who think it’s the former, and so have in effect withdrawn their political loyalty from the old America. I think that is a terrible mistake.
Mr Auster: Yes, I find left and right similar, perhaps because we define our terms differently. I call everything non-empirical ideological, and I find the left and right similar both in ideological fervor, and in distrust of others. (I meant no insult by these comments, and I apologize if any was taken, though I suspect (with a gentle wink) this may be my first and last discussion on this site.)
I hope I may ask you a direct question. I wonder whether you believe the following are “liberal” or “conservative”: the right to bear arms; free trade; low taxes; freedom of religion; low corporate regulation; freedom from racial quotas; school choice.
My dictionary calls these things “liberal”, in the sense of “tending toward individual liberty”. I call “conservative” that which insists all laws flow as received wisdom from God and King, and that people are to be restricted in their trade, religion, and right to personal protection, as necessary to protect the two named institutions. In that sense, I see extreme conservatism as much favoring central government as leftism, only that one attempts to create similarity by imposing morality, and one attempts to create similarity by disrupting hierarchy.
Before anyone attempts to remind me the Magna Carta, Mayflower, and U.S. Constitution are safely fixed in the historical record, I would remind them America is an exception among nations, that it is the successful result of liberal experimentalism finding what works, in the name of progress, with conservative traditionalism maintaining it, in the name of stability. The Saudi government should remind us extreme conservatism still has a meaning, and always will. (The US will never be Saudi Arabia. I’m speaking in the abstract. I only believe words like “liberal” and “conservative” should have meaning.)
If you call such items “libertarian”, then I wonder whether defining “liberal” as “moderate leftist” answers the question before it is asked.
With respect to your observation that there are no enemies to the left of liberals, I have observed in fact a rapidly increasing number of liberals distancing themselves from those who protested the Iraq war, and those who cannot debate coherently any matter on which GW Bush has said a word. I believe this number will increase even more rapidly as the Democrat Party’s engages in its nomination process. I think we will indeed find such people voting for GW Bush as the “liberal” choice, as opposed to the “leftist” one.
As I said, we have dealt at great length with these issues at this website, including taking into account the older definition of liberalism that Mr. Heghinian uses, and I’m not going to rehearse the discussions here. He could go to our archives pages and start browsing in articles that contain the words liberalism and conservatism in their titles.
But I will say this. He is acting as though the meaning of “liberalism” had not changed since the 19th century. Of course it has changed, and very dramatically, and someone who discusses the definition of liberalism without making reference to today’s liberals is not dealing with the issue in an honest way. So the question is, is there a common thread between the older liberalism he describes and the liberalism of today? That’s what I was trying to answer.
In a recent article/discussion (I forget the title), Matt pretty much persuaded me that conservatism is not a useful category for political science because it has no ontologically stable meaning, whereas liberalism (despite the variations within liberalism) does have an stable meaning. We agreed there is left-liberalism and right-liberalism (i.e. today’s conservatism). So I’m in agreement that President Bush is a liberal. The main opposition, then, is not between liberalism and conservatism, but between liberalism and traditionalism.
But traditionalism here has nothing to do with that of some third-world country or Arab despotism. It has to do with Western, Christian traditionalism, which it is not simply the collectivist power of the past and of authority, but a balance between order and freedom, a tension between the transcendent as transmitted through a particular tradition and the spiritual conscience of the individual person.
Mr Auster: I apologize for retreading old ground, but I believe it is essential we do so, because I believe the question you ask is ontological after all. I believe this thread was essentially begun by asking, “When is a liberal not liberal,” in which case my answer is this: “When the term ‘liberal’ is defined two ways simultaneously in the same question.”
The fact is, liberalism has two meanings, one connoting “toward collectivism (away from God)”, and the other connoting “toward individual liberty.” Similarly, conservatism has two definitions: “toward God” and “toward stability.” I called the Saudi government into this argument because they are a monarchy, a monarch being inherently the embodiment of God’s law on earth. I did not use the term “tradition,” however, because I find it the most unstable term of all. I dare say the term “tradition” is the most relativist term I can imagine. I find it artificial to define tradition as “ascribing to 18th-century American Colonial values,” even for the sake of this argument.
If conservative and liberal are defined as “toward God” and “toward collectivism”, then gun control and school choice are either liberal or conservative, depending on context. If defined as “toward stability” or “toward liberty”, then their categorization obviously depends on the personal liberty they engender. Both definitions are unfortunately both quite stable (yes, stable), and both quite documented. I believe one cannot discuss this issue without taking into account these two definitions, and being extremely careful to note which definition they are using at which time.
The OED contains countless examples of words which hold two simultaneous but slightly different meanings. As everyone here knows painfully well, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” are actually crude short-hand for “left-wing” and “right-wing”, meaning “away from the King” and “toward the King”, where “King” is God’s governmental representative on earth. It is this unfortunate Orwellian double-speak which perhaps pollutes the discussion, but there it is. One cannot ask “When is a left-wing liberal not a liberty-tending liberal” without acknowledging these two meanings clearly.
For example, on the issue of school choice, the matter is either liberal or conservative depending on the time the discussion occurs, and the choice of definitions used. In the sense of “government toward God”, school choice is neither liberal nor conservative. It is conservative in the sense that it breaks apart the current “collectivist” school monopoly, but it is liberal in the sense that it restores liberty to parents. The “conservative” solution to the problem of education could just as easily be to force the American school system to teach Western Protestant ethics, thus tending the school system back “toward God”.
We must be very careful to note which definition we are using at which time. I find both definitions extremely stable, and both extremely persistent. It is our usage which must take care. I wish the “God versus colletivism” definitions would revert to their original terminology, “right-wing” and “left-wing”, but they will never do, as those terms connote extremism, and extremism is unpopular. But there it is, and there we are.
To simplify Mr. HJH’s somewhat overly complicated presentation, there are two distinct sets of meanings, and each time we speak we must certify which set of meanings we’re using. Thus conservative vs. liberal means either:
Toward God versus Toward Collectivism; or
Toward Stability versus Toward Liberty.
I don’t see how this helps us very much. For one thing, it’s always obvious from context when the “small c” meaning of conservatism as Toward Stability is being used, and also it has no ideological content, for example, referring to loyal Leninists in the final years of the Soviet Union as “conservatives.” As such it connotes a temperament or situational posture rather than a political idea. So we’re left with: Toward God versus Toward Collectivism OR Toward Liberty. And then we’re back where we were before, trying to understand what the common thread is between the two meanings of liberalism.
I don’t see that Mr. HJH’s schema has added anything useful. For example, one of the meanings of conservatism is attachment to the basic values and institutions of Western civilization. This is neither Toward God per se nor is it Toward Stability per se. A conservative is concerned about more than God, and he’s not concerned about the stability of Soviet communism, but of his own tradition.
Also, Mr. HJH’s schema is irrelevant to my article, in which I am not dealing with two different liberalisms, but the liberalism we have today, which, as I said, is totalitarian or collectivist toward some things, and libertarian toward others. His approach would not have helped us understand that phenomenon at all.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 18, 2003 05:54 PM
“Why is liberalism both liberationist and totalitarian?”
this is the nature of vice as opposed to virtue. vice seeks a false freedom, it revolts from the good seeing evil as a good. whereas only the virtuous man is in actuality free in his choice since he is habituated toward the good and freely chooses the good.
the vicous man is totalitarian because his vice prevents him from seeing the good for what it is, and instead sees the good as the extreme opposite of his perceived good. vice is first totalitarian in the individual, it binds his soul and prevents him from choosing the good. secondly through hatred of himself for choosing evil, he seeks to bind other to him, he seeks solace in destruction of others. and on a more surface level, the vicous man is incapable of seeing the good in others. in his revolt, he chooses himself, and will always choose himself in preference to the good of another and thus seeks the usefulness of others.
Mr. Heghinian writes:
“The fact is, liberalism has two meanings, one connoting “toward collectivism (away from God)”, and the other connoting “toward individual liberty.””
I believe this to be just outright false. Liberalism is actually quite simple to understand in all its forms. People resist that understanding because of what it says about themselves, though.
Liberalism deals with the sphere of politics. Within that sphere (which naturally grows to encompass everything that has actual consequences), liberalism rejects transcendent authority and replaces it with individual freedom and equal rights for individuals. Finally, liberalism sets this understanding against the oppressor-untermensch that is preventing the emergence of the free and equal new man.
All liberalisms, being ontically the same, are self contradictory (because nondiscriminatory government enforced freedom is self contradictory, equal political rights are self contradictory, and indeed the list of ways to express liberalism’s self-contradictions is long). Self-contradictory ideologies can manifest in all sorts of ways as they desperately adopt various strategies in attempts to achieve not merely the impossible but the (literally) inconceivable. Thus you have large numbers of groups who superficially appear different — nazis, communists, modern liberals, libertarian capitalists, etc. — when in fact, when it comes to *essentials*, the basic core ideological structure of their political thought, they are the same.
Sure, in some liberalisms as a practical matter power collects in capitalist robber barons. In other liberalisms power collects instead in centralized bureacracies, and in others still it concentrates itself in a fuhrer. For the nazis the Jews represent the oppressor-untermensch, and for many modern liberals the nazis represent the oppressor-untermensch. Those distinctions (between how one sort of liberal thinks versus another) are real, of course, but people always falsely think that those distinctions are _essential_ — in part because thinking that allows them to cling to their own brand of liberalism while pretending they are not liberals. The distinctions are not essential, though. The basic political loyalties — including the fact that those loyalties necessarily entail equivocation, unprincipled exceptions, etc — are the same.
Mr. Heghinian’s construction does have one interesting feature, by the way: it defines an axis of collectivism (away from God) versus individualist libertinism (wink wink, toward God). This nicely illustrates the point that to a liberal, the equal wills of the individual supermen *are* God (or in the equivocation are the only thing that is allowed to have tangible political consequences — to many liberals God can have political consequences as long as the free and equal supermen assert with their equal wills that He gets to have consequences). This is every bit as true of communists as it is of other kinds of liberals, even though communists used collectivism as a strategy to achieve individual equality.
Correct you are Messrs. Kalb and Auster. Many conservatives are out too lunch in the current Gay Marriage debate and the relationship to the ongoing quest by Liberals and totalitarians for sexual liberation. Many conservatives in rhapsodizing about marriage never mention that most important purpose of marriage is too establish a family.
Take for instance these comments in Gideon’s Blog:
“I believe that marriage is important to individual well-being in so many ways that it is hard for me to articulate them briefly, so I’ll mention just one way: marriage orders a life. It gives a life a center, a purpose, a trajectory; it anchors a person the way nothing else - no business or vocation - can. A marriage is about love, and friendship, and economic security. But before it is any of these things, it is about the completion of a self through the transcendence of the self.”
For Goldberg at NRO, the main benefit of marriage is reducing promiscuity.
Many conservatives have accepted a reductionistic view of marriage that is best captured by the phrase, ”finding your soulmate.”
What about children? Isn’t marriage about having and raising children in a secure and loving environment? Governments have always been threatened by families. Governments have sought to control families since the Pharohs ruled Egypt. Governments aren’t threatened by soulmates.
Gay marriage is just one more step in the destruction of the family. David Frum writes that the idea of maternal preference will be destroyed, since Heather has two mommies. He is partially correct. Lost will be the idea of biological preference or connection. Since Heather really only has one mommy. Now, Mommy’s partner will have as strong a claim on Heather as her mommy, even though the partner had no role in starting Heather’s life.
If the biological connection becomes meaningless, then the government will have the ultimate victory over the family.
“What about children? Isn’t marriage about having and raising children in a secure and loving environment?”
Indeed. That is why the destruction of marriage begins with the acceptance of arbitrary contraception. If children are just something we can will into existence or not as we please rather than gifts — gifts of great power and responsibility that transcend our arbitrary will - from God then marriage ceases to be significant. It becomes (as Mr. Kalb would say) just another consumer good like potato chips or health care.
The current tempest is over the end of the end of marriage, not the beginning of the end. What we are witnessing is marriage’s final death throes after a long illness, not its intial contraction of the fatal disease.
To rescue marriage we must repent. That doesn’t start with opposition to homosexual “marriage”, it ends with it. And the repentance is moot unless we reject and repudiate the entire error, starting with the falsehood that it is morally acceptable for married couples to contracept at will.
Children are not the only reason to get married but their protection is the only legitimate reason for the State to regulate the institution. (I wouldn’t trust the State to attempt to protect people from broken hearts.)
So why not reform the whole institution in conformity with this compelling interest? Instead of diluting marriage to include more childless partners, make childbirth the necessary and sufficient legal condition for legal marriage.
Homosexual couples could be allowed to adopt like anyone else and they would be considered to be legally married, with all the restrictions and obligations, when they do. Similarly, the institution of “common law” marriage could be revived so that there are no out-of-wedlock births. You knock a girl up, you are _deemed_ to be married to her! Maybe you or she could show a judge good cause why the marriage should be ended but at least you’d have to make the case and accept the conditions the court prescribes.
Similarly, heterosexuals can have their union recognized by the church and/or community of their choosing. But it is none of the State’s business until they produce (or adopt) a child.
I personally would be worse off under such an arrangement. My wife and I have no children and I am able maintain a lackadaisical, free-lance employment status because I will always be able to mooch off my steady-working wife’s employer’s health insurance. The law entitles me to it. Of course, I like the arrangement but I have no idea why I should have a right to it.
The State also has a legitimate interest in protecting spouses who sacrifice careers to raise children from getting dumped in favor of a fresh chippie when they get old. But why should a spouse who sacrifices career to pursue finger-painting be entitled to be supported in the manner to which he or she has grown accustomed? Let the law of private contract cover that.
“The current tempest is over the end of the end of marriage, not the beginning of the end. What we are witnessing is marriage’s final death
throes after a long illness, not its initial contraction of the fatal
True. Gay marriage does literally mean the end of marriage and the perfection of the Enlightenment view of marriage as a contract. To redefine a concept is to destroy the concept. The redefining of marriage by the state is truly a breathtaking usurpation over the authority of religion, tradition and reality. The totalitarian states of the last century never had as complete of a victory as the Western sexual liberationist.
The next goal for liberationist will be the final elimination of the family.
When the biological connection becomes meaningless, the transformation of the institution of the family will be complete.
The gay liberationist movement has accelerated the pace to the brave new world.
Mr. Smith writes:
“Children are not the only reason to get married but their protection is the only legitimate reason for the State to regulate the institution. (I wouldn’t trust the State to attempt to protect people from broken hearts.)”
Mr. Smith attempts to define a single attribute as the only legitimate political interest in marriage and strong families. I am not sure why that should be thought the case. The well-being of adults is also highly connected to their family support systems, and it isn’t only children who are on welfare roles. I agree that government involvement in (for example) broken hearts is problemmatic, but an attempt to reduce the compelling State interest in marriage to an abstract “protection of children” is already to denigrate the institution of marriage.
I appreciate much of what Mr. Smith says, e.g. the “you knock her up and you are married” rule, etc. But I think that even attempting to define a single explicit legitmate interest in marriage and the family is to reduce the institution to something less than it actually is, even if we are only considering dramatic social effects that impact everyone.
The State has a compelling interest in marriage and the family because marriage and the family are transcendent goods upon which we all depend (even those who hate the institution) for a good life.
TCB, in his gloss on Matt’s comment, writes:
“Gay marriage does literally mean the end of marriage and the perfection of the Enlightenment view of marriage as a contract. To redefine a concept is to destroy the concept. The redefining of marriage by the state is truly a breathtaking usurpation over the authority of religion, tradition and reality. The totalitarian states of the last century never had as complete of a victory as the Western sexual liberationist.”
This is excellent. Worth including in a collection of quotes. Also, it lends support to my recent item about columnist Steve Chapman’s arguments for homosexual marriage and polygamy, where I concluded: “Leftism is politicized evil. Leftists want what they want, and will say anything to help justify it.” Now, I believe Chapman is some kind of libertarian, and after I wrote this it occurred to me that he would object to my calling him a leftist. But the answer to that objection is contained both in my original post here and in TCB’s comment: that the liberation from traditional norms and institutions by a state that is stepping outside its proper limits, and the imposition of totalitarian controls in their place, are all part of one process; and that process is the process that defines leftism per se. Libertarianism is a part of the leftist project.
Let’s also note TCB’s absolutely chilling concluding analysis and predictions:
“The next goal for liberationists will be the final elimination of the family. When the biological connection becomes meaningless, the transformation of the institution of the family will be complete. The gay liberationist movement has accelerated the pace to the brave new world.”
That libertarianism = leftism is hardly news. Ronald Bailey just joined the ACLU because he sees it as libertarian:
And then there’s John Stossel. Why does ABC News have the guy around? Because libertarian Stossel attacks the basic absurdies of the left while sharing its core value of liberationism. He likes the ACLU a lot. In fact, the mindless carping of libertarianism has done nothing to curb the power of the state, while its outrageous attacks on traditional values have been effective. If you are a liberal, what’s not to like?
“That libertarianism = leftism is hardly news.”
Well, even if Gary feels that this article and thread are saying things that have all been said before, I certainly don’t feel that way. I’ve gotten some new insights out of this.
The difference between leftist and libertarians are the ultimate goal. I think most libertarians (particularly the types at Reason Magazine) are anarchist (current euphemism “cultural libertarian”). For them unlimited freedom is the ultimate goal. As a consequence they seek to destroy the authority of any institution. Consequently, they seek to at least marginalize and weaken all institutions.
The liberal or leftist are more cynical. They recognize that the anarchy of libertarians will destroy all institutions except government. The leftist and anarchist attack parental authority. Government schools teach sexual morality. The anarchist attacks the tradition of lifelong marital commitment. Government moves in to garnish wages and determine when parents can see their own children. Now that marriage has been weaken to such an extent that most people believe that it is simply a romantic tool to tag a soulmate, a small elite oligarchy can redefine a 2000 year old concept without firing a shot.
The libertarians are dupes. They believe that by destroying institutions of authority people will be more free. Instead, the libertarians leave people more vulnerable to the utopian manipulations of leftist.
Thanks, Matt, for your comments. Actually, I did include the protection of the caregiving, career-sacrificing spouse along with children as legitimate government interests in marriage as a legally protected institution. If you think there are others that can’t better be handled in the private sector or at least outside of the law of marriage, let me know. (I don’t think I understood your point about adults on welfare. Can you spell it out?)
But I am really confused by your reference to the protection of children as an “abstract” interest. We’re talking real, live, squalling rug-rats here and the cold, hard do-re-me to help raise them. What could be more concrete? As to transcendence, I don’t trust the ham-fisted State to finesse that any more than romance but the legal institution of marriage should bind parents to remain physically together, for the sake of the child. Of course, they should also love each other and the child but I don’t know how to compel this with law. Maybe if divorce law more subtly penalized the unloving jerk in the pair causing the split up, that would give incentive to those who need it at least be nicer. Got any better ideas?
But you didn’t even mention the consequences of child-centered marriage for homosexual adopters. I thought someone in this group would go ballistic over that! (Maybe it was just too outlandish to merit comment. Oh, well.)
“But you didn’t even mention the consequences of child-centered marriage for homosexual adopters. I thought someone in this group would go ballistic over that!” — Merrill Smith
I went ballistic over it. (I just hadn’t gotten around to saying so in a comment.) Merrill Smith wrote, “Homosexual couples could be allowed to adopt like anyone else and they would be considered to be legally married, with all the restrictions and obligations, when they do.”
Sorry, but no. A moral, healthy, responsible society does not sanction the adoption of children by same-sex, openly homosexual couples.
When I say “same-sex, openly homosexual couples,” what I mean is, if a man is homosexual and discreet about it, then no one (apart from those who are privy to his most private personal life — a life which he likely succeeds in concealing even from his wife) knows he’s homosexual, and therefore he gets considered for approval as an adoptive parent on exactly the same footing as anyone else. (Of course, he would have to have a wife in order to adopt, not a male “partner” I think the term is nowadays.) But what homosexuals want in thinking they can live openly in that way, flaunting it in front of society and everyone, is society’s official acceptance of that perversion. This is what society can never and must never give. If we as a society ever give it fully, we go down. This point also is not to detract from the importance of the primary principle here, of course, the principle which is more important than all others: the milieu of two openly, actively homosexual men-parents (yes, and even women-parents — but more especially men ones, obviously!), rather than a wife and her heterosexual — OR DISCREET HOMOSEXUAL — husband, cannot ever be what is most conducive to an adoptive child’s mental-health development.
bubba gives the classical premise from which every discussion of homosexuality and every other unnatural act should start, and is well worth reading again.
matt indicates the same thing without saying it, when he says that marriage is the foundation of society:
“It seems to me that you often twist yourselves into all kinds of intellectual knots over what are at base very simple, straightforward questions….”Posted by: Bubba on May 9, 2003 09:22 PM
the premise is very simple: “nature acts for an end”. aristotle’s simple premise is in contradiction of virtually all modernism’s expanation of man. just like in any science, begin with bad premises and all that follows will be in error.
Mr. Smith writes:
“Actually, I did include the protection of the caregiving, career-sacrificing spouse along with children as legitimate government interests in marriage as a legally protected institution.”
But it wasn’t only that scenario that I had in mind, and in any case that represents a bit of an equivocation. It is true that Mr. Smith talks about protection of children as the ONLY state interest and then talks about other legitimate interests. Since I think the “ONLY” reductionism is intellectually flawed to start with it doesn’t surprise me that there are apparent incoherencies in the presentation.
I know of any number of multi-generational families, some of the individual members of which would be tremendous burdens on society (and who would themselves live far poorer lives) if their families did not exist as families, for instance.
“But I am really confused by your reference to the protection of children as an “abstract” interest.”
It is an attempt to reduce the compelling State interest in marriage and strong families to a single abstract attribute — to one abstract function that families perform, the protection of children. The point to my post is that the transcendent good we call the family cannot be reduced to that one abstract function.
It is true that Mr. Smith even mentions some other goods associated with marriage, e.g. the protection of adult women. There are others even if we take a strictly utilitarian view of marriage (which is itself objectionable, as I mentioned using different words before): for example, men in stable families are dramatically less likely to engage in criminal activity. But Mr. Smith jettisons those goods with his statement that protection of children is the ONLY legitimate compelling State interest in marriage.
Again, the objection is to Mr.Smith’s reductionist attempt to say that one abstract function of marriage, and ONLY that one abstract function of marriage, constitutes the whole of the State’s compelling interest in the institution.
“But you didn’t even mention the consequences of child-centered marriage for homosexual adopters.”
I suppose I didn’t answer it because it was like someone asserting that he supports the family as an institution as long as there is aboriton on demand. The premeses are so far from an objectively reasonable (in my view) discussion about sexuality, marriage, family, and politics that comment is nearly pointless, or at the least would need to be lengthy in order to even get to foundations. Since it is my view that homosexual behavior and contraception (other than abstinence) should be socially shunned and even possibly illegal it is like asserting that the openly criminal should be allowed to adopt, that prostitutes and drug dealers should be allowed to adopt, etc.
I agree with Matt. It’s as though Mr. Smith were combining a traditional, Aristotelian, teleological approach to marriage, with a modern, ideological, reductive approach to marriage. The Aristototelian approach tells him to look at marriage in terms of its end. The modern approach tells him to reduce marriage to that one end and that one end only, leading to bizarre results.
This is off subject, but this idea of starting with something that is transcendently true but then reducing all things to that one truth, reminds me of a person who attended a conference on America’s cultural problems a few years ago which I also attended. This man, who worked for a paleocon organization based in the midwest, had the family as his chief and sole concern. He had decided that the family is not only the central institution of human society, as we would all agree, but that it is literally the only institution that matters. All problems could be solved by reference to it. No other issues mattered or could be considered. It was as though he had found THE answer. A friend and I alternatively called him the Family Guy, or, less complementarily, the Family Fascist.
The protection of the aged spouse who sacrificed career for caregiving is of a piece with the State’s interest in protecting children. If you want to see it as reductionist, let’s roll it all into a core interest in child-_rearing_. It seems a bit ungracious to lable that “equivocation” and “incoherence” but whatever.
I’m not taking anything away from the transcendant value of the family, the only thing I am reducing is the scope of the State’s interest and authority to regulate. Does favoring limited government make me a libertarian? The relations between parents and adult children, grandparents and grandchildren, uncles and aunts and neices and nephews, cousins, etc. are all wonderful family relations full of transcendent value but the State does not regulate them. Do you think it should? (Actually, I may be wrong about that. I remember reading that a grandparent once went to court for visitation rights. Do you think that is an appropriate role for the state?) It seems to me the fine word transcendence would be sullied if it became a blank check for State intervention into family relations.
Married _childless_ men are less likely to commit crime? I’m all for fighting crime but I would be leary giving the State such wide latitude in such an intimate area of personal life on such a tenuous link to prevention.
I’m not sure I see the comparison between homosexuality on the one hand and prostitution and drug dealing on the other. A prostitute is by definition non-monogamous and I never suggested that monogamy be dispensed with as a condition of marriage. (Of course, the practical _enforcement_ of monogamy by the State is a sticky wicket but that’s just as true now.) I assume that criminals are barred from adoption now and see nothing in my argument that suggests that that should change.
Of course, heterosexual criminals can marry now and bear children. Would you prohibit that?
Unadorned wrote: “But what homosexuals want in thinking they can live openly in that way, flaunting it in front of society and everyone, is society’s official acceptance of that perversion. This is what society can never and must never give. If we as a society ever give it fully, we go down.”
Agreed. This harks back to Matt’s elucidation some weeks ago, in the thread, “How should homosexuality be viewed?”, that the state (which we could extend to meaning public society) should never do anything that suggests approval of homosexuality. This does not mean persecution. It means the complete absence of any public or formal acceptance of homosexuality per se.
I go back to Noel Coward, my exemplar of a good homosexual (a far better choice by the way than David Horowitz’s choice of the phony conservative Andrew Sullivan). Coward lived in a time when the Matt/Unadorned principle was in effect. Yet he lived a productive, interesting life, he did not feel himself persecuted, he was not alienated from society.
Lawrence Auster wrote,
“This harks back to Matt’s elucidation some weeks ago, in the thread, ‘How should homosexuality be viewed?’, that the state (which we could extend to meaning public society) should never do anything that suggests approval of homosexuality. This does not mean persecution. It means the complete absence of any public or formal acceptance of homosexuality per se.”
It also harkens back to Matt’s view (and Voltaire’s, and of course the view of others) that no government should approve a law that goes against morality.
Lawrence Auster: “I go back to Noel Coward, my exemplar of a good homosexual … . Coward lived in a time when the [above] principle was in effect. Yet he lived a productive, interesting life, he did not feel himself persecuted, he was not alienated from society.”
He did not FEEL himself persecuted or alienated from society, NOR DID SOCIETY PERSECUTE OR SEEK TO ALIENATE HIM OR CORDON HIM OFF. He was not ostracized for his weaknesses but ACCEPTED by society, provided he respected society’s need to do what it had to for its own good. That was the deal in those days — the code which everyone understood was for the benefit of all. The homosexuals who lived public lives, made successful careers, brought great pleasure to us all, and were completely happy and throve under that older code — the Noël Cowards, the Charles Laughtons, the Sir Michael Redgraves, the Sir John Gielguds — would have strenuously opposed what’s going on now, and some whom I’ve read voiced that opposition, even shock, in their advanced years — though I can’t give references at the moment.
Excellent statement, Unadorned!
Mr. Smith writes:
“It seems a bit ungracious to lable that “equivocation” and “incoherence” but whatever.”
True. I should have simply said that I don’t understand Mr. Smith’s assertion that protection of children is the only legitimate state interest in marriage while simultaneously pointing out other legitimate interests.
I think that lots of State regulation of the family is a bad idea. I think the State’s legitimate interest is primarily in _protecting_ the family as a mostly independent institution for all sorts of reasons, and indeed detailed regulation is contrary to that legitimate objective.
However, I think that Mr. Smith’s formulation — that State intervention in the family is ONLY legitimate to protect children (or child-rearing in his revised version) has the opposite effect from what he intends. Mr. Smith attempts to create an abstract rule for determining where our legitimate public interest in the family starts and stops. His intention is no doubt to use this rule to impede the propogation of lots of meddling regulation that is itself a threat to the family and that attempts to substitute itself for the family. In fact, though, our interest in the protection of the family as an independent institution doesn’t have that sort of formal abstract bound.
Perhaps that is too abstract for some, so I’ll try to answer some of Mr. Smith’s specific questions directly.
“Does favoring limited government make me a libertarian?”
Not at all. Favoring a limited government is a general posture, and indeed is one I share even though I am essentially a political authoritarian. Favoring specific abstract rules that limit the legitimate public interest in the family has the practical effect of _reducing the family_ to those supposed legitimate interests, though. What I assert is that protecting the family is not an interest that can be limited by abstract rules that attempt to partition out certain utilitarian benefits that accrue from inside the institution into the utilitarian value bank outside of the institution.
“The relations between parents and adult children, grandparents and grandchildren, uncles and aunts and neices and nephews, cousins, etc. are all wonderful family relations full of transcendent value but the State does not regulate them. Do you think it should?”
To the extent State intervention is intended to protect the family as an independent authoritative institution there is no reason to rule out the possibility of such regulation. On the other hand (as already mentioned) excessive regulation is itself detrimental to the protection of the family as an independent institution. For example, all other things equal I would rather see political structures that encourage cousins to take care of cronically ill relatives than political structures that move the care of cronically ill relatives to unrelated public institutions. As a specific case in point there are tax advantages available to me if I donate money for the medical care of strangers through impersonal institutions; those advantages disappear if I fund medical care for my cronically ill nephew.
So yes, the State has in interest in arranging its own policies to support the moral obligation that an uncle has to his nephews.
“I’m not sure I see the comparison between homosexuality on the one hand and prostitution and drug dealing on the other.”
Homosexual acts, to be more specific since that is the sort of hair-splitting that is necessary in this late stage of degeneracy. I would be against allowing adoption by anyone who attempts to unrepentantly and publicly make a virtue out of a vice, or who attempts to make their personal vice into a component of personal identity in such a way that precludes a healthy moral environment for the child. Such people are intrinsically unfit parents. Of course unfit parents do give birth to their own children all the time, and there is little that the State can do directly about that except in extreme cases of crimes committed against those unfortunate children. The State can’t *prevent* those unfit parents from becoming parents on their own, but on the other hand it shouldn’t *deliberately* make them parents through adoption.
“The State can’t *prevent* those unfit parents from becoming parents on their own, but on the other hand it shouldn’t *deliberately* make them parents through adoption.”
This, by the way, is the reason why uncloseted homosexuals unanimously support homosexual adoption even though the vast majority have no desire or intention to ever adopt. The thing that is offensive to the vast majority of them isn’t the fact that they can’t personally adopt a child. The thing that is offensive (even though it is factually the case) is the notion that they are intrinsically unfit parents because of their _unrepentant_ homosexual indulgences. It isn’t about Christian tolerance of the vices of others in a context in which we all acknowledge that we struggle with vice and nobody is in a position to cast stones. It is about redefining a vice in order to pretend that it is not in fact objectively a vice. As St. Paul said in the book of Romans it is about submitting utterly to shameful lusts and substituting a lie for the truth. It is about redefining evil as good.
What a pleasure to discover VFR! The opening piece in this discussion pointed a lucid finger toward the horrible and fascinating mystery of Leftism. The Left’s liberalism and totalitarianism, juxtaposed, appear to be two means to the same end: thwarting human striving toward the Good Life, human life in society “attuned,” in Eric Voegelin’s expression, to the presence of the divine. What motivates such endless thwarting efforts? What can it be but rebellion against the centrality of God! Human relations organized in accordance with God-given human nature, as discovered in millennia of study, are an abomination to the Leftist who worships human will, his own or Man’s. To destroy restriction, where transcendent tradition imposes restriction, and to destroy liberty, where transcendent tradtion grants liberty—and, we might add, to destroy certainty, where transcendent tradition grants certainty, and to destroy doubt, where transcendent tradition permits doubt—all are well-practiced moves in the chess game of the Master Leftist.
Thanks to Mr. Carpenter. Welcome. However, as I look back at the original post, I’m no longer sure how we got from there to all the topics that have come up in the ensuing discussion, for example, the question whether the care of children should be the only publicly recognized function of marriage. But overall there does seem to be a common thread, which is the way leftism uses libertarianism to break down traditional institutions.