How not to be a right-liberal

Don’t criticize anyone, whether they be right-wing or left-wing, friend or foe, on liberal grounds.

Don’t . . . criticize Muslims for supporting patriarchy.

Don’t . . . criticize the Chinese Communists for censoring the Internet.

Don’t . . . criticize city governments and/or police departments for presuming that officers accused of wrongdoing are innocent, even if the city is run by leftists.

Don’t . . . criticize gun control, business regulation, or other things of that nature for restricting freedom.

Don’t . . . criticize anyone for being unwilling to talk to or cooperate with the media.

Don’t . . . criticize any institution for preferring to handle misconduct by its leaders in-house

Don’t . . . criticize the Democratic Party for “not listening to the will of the people” or other such nonsense.

Don’t . . . call SCOTUS justices “philosopher-kings” as an insult.

Don’t . . . call leftists “fascists” or “Nazis”. Calling Nazis or fascists “Liberals” is allowed.

Don’t . . . call Muslims “homophobic”.

Don’t . . . assume that because the media claims that a right-winger, of any stripe, has done something bad, that they’ve actually done it.

Don’t . . . assume that because a group of people somewhere treat men and women differently, that they’re behaving unjustly.

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27 thoughts on “How not to be a right-liberal

    • No. Politics simply is restricting the freedom of some in order to advance some conception of the good that is contrary to that of those whose freedom is restricted. It’s true that the purpose of politics is to make men good, and that if everyone were perfectly good then there would be no need for politics, and there would thus be freedom. But trying to politically abolish politics is a losing battle from the start, such a utopia cannot exist, and is not desirable in a practical sense, until the return of Our Lord.

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    • Suppressing license is certainly a legitimate purpose of politics. And it’s certainly true that by virtue of subsidiarity, there are things that political authorities shouldn’t do (e.g. decide whether a given individual will join the clergy or not), but I wouldn’t call *not* doing something “the purpose of politics”.

      P.S. Politics properly advances the good by promoting virtue and suppressing vice, the only place freedom has in this is that there are some things that political authorities should not take upon themselves to decide.

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    • Yes, although with a qualification. If by “legitimate freedoms”, you’re referring to things like deciding to become a priest or not, that the government is prohibited from deciding by natural and/or divine law, then yes. If however you’re counting any decision that has multiple morally acceptable possibilities (e.g. which side of the road to drive on, whether or not to own a gun), then no, as the government can in general legitimately restrict otherwise licit behavior in the interest of the common good.

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  1. If you will allow me to rephrase my original comment, “is it not the purpose of Authority to promote the Common Good by upholding and protecting legitimate freedoms?” How does an entirely negative role in the preservation of freedom square with the partially defensive purpose of government?

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    • The government should promote the common good by promoting virtue and suppressing vice. It’s true that virtue leads to “true freedom”, and that some legitimate state functions will have the purpose of protecting a person’s freedom (e.g. preventing someone from preventing another from joining the clergy), but that doesn’t make “protecting freedom” the general purpose of government anymore than “protecting property rights” is the general purpose of government.

      To put it another way, any legitimate complaint to be had against a law can be expressed in terms of violation of subsidiarity or justice or whatever as well as or better than it can be expressed in terms of the law “restricting freedom”.

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    • Having established that the Common Good and the promotion of virtue is the purpose of Government, is it not true that when the Government violates (not simply restricts) freedom, it acts against the Common Good (as for example, American Prohibition)?
      P.S. I hope you don’t mind my asking all these questions.

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    • I’m not sure what distinction you’re making between restricting freedom and violating it.

      While I don’t agree with prohibition, I don’t see it as being an unjust law. But whether it was unjust or merely not the most prudent choice, the arguments to be made against it are that alcohol is not bad in moderation, it will promote illegal bootlegging, etc. There’s no need for freedom to enter into the argument.

      I don’t mind the questions at all.

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    • Freedom enters in that it inhibits the freedom of persons to legally pursue the occupation of alcohol selling, which is not prohibited under natural (moral) law. In so far as a law does not conform to natural (moral) law, is it not unjust?
      Of course this can be countered by the example of driving laws, but even then driving laws fall under the moral law against unjust killing by attempting to prevent such.
      Also, is it not true that “liberal” government ultimately suppress most freedoms?

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    • Every law inhibits freedom. I don’t see why outlawing a specific occupation is any worse than outlawing anything else. If you’re arguing that the prohibition law was unjust because it was pointless, that it didn’t serve any purpose in advancing the common good, then that argument can be made without referencing “freedom”.

      To put it more simply, if a law unjustly restricts freedom, then the key word is “unjustly”, as every law restricts freedom.

      I’d have no idea how to quantify “most” in terms of freedoms, but it’s true that liberal governments do suppress some freedoms, as all governments do (I of course disagree with which freedoms liberal states tend to suppress, but the issue is that they are wrong, not that they are suppressing freedom).

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    • How do you respond to Pope Leo XIII’s statement that “Liberty, [is] the highest of natural endowments… When, therefore, he acts according to reason, he acts of himself and according to his free will; and this is liberty… Nothing more foolish can be uttered or conceived than the notion that, because man is free by nature, he is therefore exempt from law. Were this the case, it would follow that to become free we must be deprived of reason; whereas the truth is that we are bound to submit to law precisely because we are free by our very nature… Therefore, the nature of human liberty, however it be considered, whether in individuals or in society, whether in those who command or in those who obey, supposes the necessity of obedience to some supreme and eternal law, which is no other than the authority of God, commanding good and forbidding evil.[em] And, so far from this most just authority of God over men diminishing, or even destroying their liberty, it protects and perfects it,[/em] for the real perfection of all creatures is found in the prosecution and attainment of their respective ends; but the supreme end to which human liberty must aspire is God.”1? Does not man’s free submission to the law increase his freedom (understood in the true sense of freedom), and not impede it?
      1. Libertas http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_20061888_libertas.html

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    • I can best define my terms with this quote from Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn: “When we talk about freedom… we must realize that we are faced here, to all practical purposes, by relative, not by absolute terms; by trends and tendencies rather than
      by unalloyed abstractions. Freedom in this study means the greatest amount of self-determination which in a given situation is feasible, reasonable and possible. As a means to safeguarding man’s happiness and protecting his personality it is an intermediary end, and THUS FORMS PART OF THE COMMON GOOD. It is obvious that under these circumstances it cannot be brutally sacrificed to the demands of absolute
      efficiency nor to efforts towards a maximum of material welfare.”

      Thus Liberty and Authority, Law and Freedom, the Common Good and the Good of the Individual, are as inseparable as the two arms of the Cross.

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    • It’s true that by willingly submitting to the law (whether divine law or just human law), one becomes more free, since one conforms ones will to the good. But this freedom comes about because the will is thus made good, not the other way around. This is why attempts to “promote freedom” always end up promoting vice, because it’s putting the cart before the horse, as it were.

      And yes, God endowed humans with free will, but that doesn’t mean that the general purpose of government is to perfect our freedom. Only God can do that.

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    • That’s begging the question. I’d dispute that “promoting freedom” promotes the common good, given that every society that has self-consciously done so has attacked the common good.

      But aside from that, the main point against it is that it’s incoherent, politics just is the tactics of restricting some people’s freedom in favor of a view of the good that they disagree with, so the purpose of politics can’t be to “promote freedom”.

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    • Having already demonstrated that law in accord with Divine law protects and prefects freedom, can you explain why you keep returning to the fallacy that law restricts freedom? Also, are you not being relativistic? Is there not objective good, which can be known through reason? Is not a man when he acts of his own will according to reason? Should not then laws guide him to the use of reason known objectively(and not subjectively as you seem to imply)? What of v. Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s definition of freedom as the greatest amount of self determination reasonable under the circumstances? What of his definition of the Common Good being made up of “justice, equity, freedom, charity, and reason”? Is it not collectivist and contrary to the Common Good to attack the good of the individual? Is it not begging the question to state without evidence that ” every society that has self-consciously [promoted freedom] has attacked the Common Good” considering that the Church is a society that has promoted freedom (as defined above) and yet the goal of the Church is the Common Good of mankind?

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    • That law restricts freedom isn’t a fallacy, it’s a fact. Every law restricts someone’s freedom, that’s just what law does. And you’re begging the question by conflating the good of the individual with maximized freedom. I’d dispute that maximum freedom is good for anyone.

      And I’m not aware of anywhere where the Church has set out to “maximize freedom” as its goal.

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    • “These precepts of the truest and highest teaching, made known to us by the light of reason itself, the Church, instructed by the example and doctrine of her divine Author, has ever propagated and asserted; for she has ever made them the measure of her office and of her teaching to the Christian nations. As to morals, the laws of the Gospel not only immeasurably surpass the wisdom of the heathen, but are an invitation and an introduction to a state of holiness unknown to the ancients; and, bringing man nearer to God, they make him at once the possessor of a more perfect liberty. Thus, the powerful influence of the Church has ever been manifested in the custody and protection of the civil and political liberty of the people. The enumeration of its merits in this respect does not belong to our present purpose. It is sufficient to recall the fact that slavery, that old reproach of the heathen nations, was mainly abolished by the beneficent efforts of the Church. The impartiality of law and the true brotherhood of man were first asserted by Jesus Christ; and His apostles re-echoed His voice when they declared that in future there was to be neither Jew, nor Gentile, nor barbarian, nor Scythian, but all were brothers in Christ. So powerful, so conspicuous, in this respect is the influence of the Church that experience abundantly testifies how savage customs are no longer possible in any land where she has once set her foot; but that gentleness speedily takes the place of cruelty, and the light of truth quickly dispels the darkness of barbarism. Nor has the Church been less lavish in the benefits she has conferred on civilized nations in every age, either by resisting the tyranny of the wicked, or by protecting the innocent and helpless from injury, or, finally, by using her influence in the support of any form of government which commended itself to the citizens at home, because of its justice, or was feared by their enemies without, because of its power.1”
      1. Pope Leo XIII, Magisterial Encyclical Libertas

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    • Did you read the whole quote?
      “Thus, the powerful influence of the Church has ever been manifested in the custody and protection of the civil and political liberty of the people. ”

      Also you reject without explanation and quite possibly out of hand the definitions of Freedom and the Common Good by v. Kuehnelt-Leddihn and others?

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    • Is that statement backed up historically? Every time I’m aware of where the Church unequivocally took a side in a political dispute where one side was rambling on about freedom and liberty, it was against said ramblers. And I’m not for aware where the Church has condemned slavery because it restricts freedom.

      His definition of freedom is just an attempt to shoehorn “maximum freedom good” into the realm of accepted propositions without argument, by defining it a priori as reasonable. I haven’t seen an explanation for his definition of the common good.

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    • Such a question is easily answered by a quote from Aquinas’ De Regno:
      “For if the man who despoils a single man, or casts him into slavery, or kills him, deserves the greatest punishment (death in the judgment of men, and in the judgment of God eternal damnation), how much worse tortures must we consider a tyrant deserves, who on all sides robs everybody, works against the common liberty of all, and kills whom he will at his merest whim? ”

      Notice that Aquinas does not say works against the Common Weal, but “contra omnium libertatem”. Also, your understanding of v.K-L’s definition of Freedom is fallacious. Reason is a qualifier to self-determination; if the self-determination is not reasonable, it is not true liberty.

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    • Yes, wrongfully depriving a person of juridical freedom is wrong (e.g. incarcerating the innocent). So is seizing private property without just cause. But just as that doesn’t make “protecting property rights” the general purpose of government, so too it doesn’t make “protecting freedom” the general purpose of government.

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  3. Oberon says:

    “The principle of Christian civilization is the existence of evil in the heart of man, and the necessity of authority in order to combat it and to establish the reign of virtue. The principle of revolutionary civilization is the immaculate conception of man and his right to liberty and equality. See there, the two roads; ‘they are not only different,’ a certain author of many evil books acknowledged, ‘but two very divergent lines,’ the author, Michelot, concluded, ‘that must always remain apart, even unto infinity.’”

    — Msgr. Henri Delassus, Americanism and the Anti-Christian Conspiracy

    Perhaps this makes things a little clearer, THR?

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