(Note: This is a post about libertarianism, which is a very bad ideology. It does not contend that all libertarians are necessarily bad people. When not mistakenly advocating for wicked policies, many of them are lovely people personally.)
Via Via Meadia, we learn from Gallup that
Via Via Meadia, we learn from Gallup that
Thirty-one percent of Americans describe their views on social issues as generally liberal, matching the percentage who identify as social conservatives for the first time in Gallup records dating back to 1999.... In contrast to the way Americans describe their views on social issues, they still by a wide margin, 39% to 19%, describe their views on economic issues as conservative rather than liberal. However, as on social ideology, the gap between conservatives and liberals has been shrinking and is lower today than at any point since 1999, with the 39% saying they are economically conservative the lowest to date.Social liberalism is ascendant, but laissez-faire economic ideology is still more than holding its own for the moment. We are living in a "liberaltarian" era. Mercifully, this too shall pass: perhaps a view of economics that grants a role for state aid to the poor will continue rising, or there will be a backlash against the squalor of today's porn-addled Sodom. But this Liberaltarian Era is our political moment, the beige dictatorship of our new power elite, and we must make sense of it if we are to be of any use in the public square right now. So let's take a look at this rough beast slouching toward us.
When Brink Lindsey coined the term "liberaltarian" back in 2006, he wrote of the attractions of such a project that
it has become increasingly clear that capitalism’s relentless dynamism and wealth-creation—the institutional safeguarding of which lies at the heart of libertarian concerns—have been pushing U.S. society in a decidedly progressive direction. The civil rights movement was made possible by the mechanization of agriculture, which pushed blacks off the farm and out of the South with immense consequences. Likewise, feminism was encouraged by the mechanization of housework. Greater sexual openness, as well as heightened interest in the natural environment, are among the luxury goods that mass affluence has purchased. So, too, are secularization and the general decline in reverence for authority, as rising education levels (prompted by the economy’s growing demand for knowledge workers) have promoted increasing independence of mind.
Yet progressives remain stubbornly resistant to embracing capitalism, their great natural ally. In particular, they are unable to make their peace with the more competitive, more entrepreneurial, more globalized U.S. economy that emerged out of the stagflationary mess of the 1970s. Knee-jerk antipathy to markets and the creative destruction they bring continues to be widespread, and bitter denunciations of the unfairness of the system, mixed with nostalgia for the good old days of the Big Government/Big Labor/Big Business triumvirate, too often substitute for clear thinking about realistic policy options.
Hence today’s reactionary politics. Here, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the rival ideologies of left and right are both pining for the ’50s. The only difference is that liberals want to work there, while conservatives want to go home there.
Can a new, progressive fusionism break out of the current rut? Liberals and libertarians already share considerable common ground, if they could just see past their differences to recognize it. Both generally support a more open immigration policy. Both reject the religious right’s homophobia and blastocystophilia. Both are open to rethinking the country’s draconian drug policies. Both seek to protect the United States from terrorism without gratuitous encroachments on civil liberties or extensions of executive power. And underlying all these policy positions is a shared philosophical commitment to individual autonomy as a core political value.This ideology is really just libertarianism simpliciter, with Lindsey's coinage serving only to emphasize the tactical benefits to libertarians of moving from Meyer-style fusionism with the G.O.P. to alliance with the Democrats, and to indicate a laudable willingness to countenance some kind of safety net for the poor, which latter deserves its own post here sometime. I borrow the term because it highlights the growing edge of libertarian ideology in our time, which is sexually libertine and smugly secularist--indeed, laïque and anticlerical.
Contra Lindsey, I yearn for both the traditional families and the vigorous union-driven broad prosperity of the 1950's. I'm a voice in the desert of today's surreal Sodom against onanism and sodomy, and I am an unabashed "blastocystophile," (as Lindsey puts it) who loathes Moloch as much as Ishtar. Indeed, I increasingly think molochism ought to be my new word for the murder of the unborn, to match sodomy and onanism: you coin your words Brink, I'll coin mine.
So just what is a Catholic who strives for orthodox submission to the authority of the Magisterium on both "life" and "social justice" issues to make of this liberaltarian libertarianism? Consider that troll-sown kudzu of the comboxes, the Nolan Chart:
Now, the economic and cultural individualist is of course the libertarian, seeking to enable corporate rapine and cultural poison. And the seamless garment Catholic--that is to say, the orthodox Catholic, submissive to the Magisterium--works pursuant to the Gospel of Life for a cultural focus on community (traditional family open to life, flourishing parish, political subsidiarity and a patriotism of the local, a MacIntyrean Benedict Option in which to learn and incarnate virtue, etc.) and pursuant to the Gospel call to social justice, for an economic focus on community (universal destination of goods, preferential option for the poor, solidarity, distributism, unionism, guilds, co-ops, "small is beautiful," care for the "least of these," etc.).
The Nolan Chart is plain enough: the libertarian takes a stand that is the polar opposite of the doctrine of Christ and His Church. The version of the Nolan Chart I've pasted above is kind enough to call Christ's will for us "communitarian." Other variants, more popular among libertarians I've encountered online, dub the pole of the Chart where the Cross is planted to be "populist," or "statist," or worse, "authoritarian" or "fascist."
That the libertarian runs all of these disparate movements together both with each other and with the teaching of Christ and His Church shows a typically libertarian shallowness of mind, a kind of autistic flattening of perception which one encounters ubiquitously among both libertarians and among eliminative materialists, who indeed are often the same people, given how attractive a package the two diabolical doctrines are to such deformed minds as are so prominent in our culture that autistically worships mere technological toys like a phallic cult of propeller-headed rocket-science.
The metaphysical underpinnings of liberaltarian diabolism are precisely what you would expect, given the diabolical consequences of nominalism. Liberaltarian blogger Will Wilkinson has decreed, with the smug glibness typical of his jejune coterie, and indeed of many of his coddled peers in the new clerisy that Metaphysics is Boring When You Know the Answers, the answers of course being Quinean scientism, nominalism, and other sorts of answers that are both the polar opposite of the wisdom of the Church. Of course, Wilkinson's precisely wrong, pernicious and faddish philosophical preferences are perfect for our moment: they are the sort of thing that the Quine and Parfit and Rorty reading likes of bien pensants like juicebox mafioso Matt Yglesias are sure to nod with approval at when Wilkinson hits a Beltway cocktail party, right before Yglesias makes the autistically economistic observation that churches should lose their tax exemption because "there's no reason to believe that religion-related expenditures enhance productivity" which is exactly the sort of derp, as these cool kids say, that centuries of nominalist materialism has made respectable, and so perfectly encapsulate our very autistic, very liberaltarian moment funded by techbro extropian John Galts.
But the "glibertarian" is at least frank: Christ is his enemy, these odd worshippers of Chrestus a mere populist rabble of authoritarian elitists, effete pacifist communitarian hobbits, all warlike fascist orcs, an unsettling, disrespectable (even trashy) anarcho-monarchist chimera, led by a troublesome priest of Melchizedek of whom some enterprising proconsul, preferably a nice, sensible nominalist, ought to rid the American Empire. The only thing that's clear from this mush-minded muddle of pejoratives is that the libertarian (and thus the "liberaltarian") knows the Church for what it is: his foe.
Given the pejoratives ("fascist," etc.) flung at us from the Nolan Chart-brandishing side, I shall not shy away from naming the libertarian position for what it is: the pole opposite the Cross, and so by its own definition the position of the Enemy, of Satan. (The satanist has been a Nazi and a Nero and lots of other things over the centuries, but I write of the present moment.) Libertarianism's frankly satanic position is precisely, literally-as-to-etymology diabolical, in the sense Rod Dreher recently highlighted in a deeply thoughtful and richly rewarding post on the symbol/diabol distinction:
Rieff’s prophetic point is that Western culture has renounced renunciation, has cast off the ascetic spirit, and therefore has deconverted from Christianity whether it knows it or not. In bringing this up with my priest friend, I asked him why he thought sex was at the center of the Christian symbolic that has not held.
“It goes back to Genesis 1,” he said. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then he told them to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ We see right there in the beginning the revelation that male and female, that complementarity, symbolizes the Holy Trinity, and in their fertility they carry out the life of the Trinity.”
In other words, from the perspective of the Hebrew Bible, gender complementarity and fertility are built into the nature of ultimate reality, which is God. Our role as human beings is to strive to harmonize our own lives with that reality, because in so doing we dwell in harmony with God.
“Do you know what the word ‘symbol’ means in the original Greek?” he asked. I said I did not.
“It means ‘to bring together,’” he said.
“To integrate,” I replied.
“Yes. Now, do you know what the antonym for symbol is
“It is diabolos, which means to tear apart, to separate, to throw something through another thing.”
“So when something is diabolic, it means it is a disintegrating force?”
“You could say that, yes,” he said. “All the time I’m dealing with the fallout from divorce and families breaking up. Kids who don’t know their fathers. You should hear these confessions. It’s a huge deal. You can see the loss of the sense of what family is for, and why it’s important.”
He said that the students he works with are so confused, needy, and broken. Many of them have never seen what a functional, healthy family looks like, and have grown up in a culture that devalues the fundamental moral, metaphysical, and spiritual principles that make stable and healthy family formation possible — especially the belief that the generative powers of sex, within male-female complementarity, is intimately related to the divine nature, and the ongoing life of the Trinity. Nobody has ever explained it to them, he says. If they’ve heard anything from the Church, it’s something like, “Don’t do this because the Bible says not to” — which is not enough in this time and place. And many of them have never, or have rarely, seen it modeled for them by the adults in their lives.
The Judith Butler essay brought that conversation to mind this morning, and reflection on the symbol/diabol distinction sent me online looking for more. Lo, the Google results give me this entry from a dating website, in which the author quotes from a bestselling 2004 book The Art of Seduction, by Robert Greene. From the website:
In the book, Greene talks about the importance of language in seducing someone. Seduction, as you know, is a matter of how and what you communicate to your target, and is thus, extremely important in your interactions.
Greene makes the distinction between two types of languages – symbolic and diabolic language. To quote him here:
“Most people employ symbolic language—their words stand for something real, the feelings, ideas, and beliefs they really have. Or they stand for concrete things in the real world. (The origin of the word “symbolic” lies in a Greek word meaning “to bring things together”—in this case, a word and something real.)
“As a seducer you are using the opposite: diabolic language. Your words do not stand for anything real; their sound, and the feelings they evoke, are more important than what they are supposed to stand for. (The word “diabolic” ultimately means to separate, to throw things apart—here, words and reality.) The more you make people focus on your sweet-sounding language, and on the illusions and fantasies it conjures, the more you diminish their contact with reality. You lead them into the clouds, where it is hard to distinguish truth from untruth, real from unreal.”
As an indirect seducer, you must focus on using diabolic rather than symbolic language. Your goal is to stimulate your target’s imagination, enveloping her into your spirit. Do this, and she will not be able to resist you.There you have it. If nothing is real, then there is nothing but lies — that is to say, the manipulation of reality — and the pursuit of power. A worldview that believes in nothing real, only the will to power (expressed, for example, in deciding that your gender is what you say it is, and nothing more), is intrinsically diabolical. It scatters, it disintegrates, and makes the song of the world into senseless cacaphony....
This civilizational madness will have to run its course. We now have our leading scholars saying that women can have penises — and this is considered the highest wisdom. It is on the basis of this wisdom that our laws are being changed. It is diabolical, in the sense of being fundamentally about dis-integration. Depending on your point of view, it is diabolical in every sense of the word. You hear in Judith Butler the voice of the Seducer, the voice of the Diabolist. Hers is no longer a marginal voice, but rather one increasingly magnified by our mainstream media....
The denial of Logos as an ordering principle, and asceticism as an ordering function, is leading to the disintegration of all things, including the family, and ultimately the human personality. The world accepts this. Even many in the church accepts this. If you are going to be part of the resistance, and one day far into the future, when the lies fail, a renaissance — then you had better make provision for surviving and thriving in the long defeat.Now, Judith Butler (a dangerously radically nominalist "queer theorist" but also a person of the Left) is no libertarian. But the precisely "diabolical" seduction strategy of Robert Greene, the quoted venereal Screwtape in Rod's post, is the seductive siren's call of the Market, of Mammon, of Venus, of the Nolan Chart's disintegrative, anomie-promoting "individualism," of oily men photographing gape-mouthed, wide-eyed girls to glance come-hither at the camera to sell you poisonous junk food and corpulent gas-gluttonous giant trucks, of Don Draper and Ayn Rand, of P.T. Barnum and Larry Flynt, of the voice that Rage Against the Machine warned me long ago is always there tempting the fighter for justice, seductively whispering:
come and play,Well, Christian, the Church is the Movement Christ founded. Don't let the whispering Serpent seduce you from your pilgrim's progess, and don't let his sirens tempt you to desert Christ the King and go over to the Enemy.
come and play,
forget about the Movement.
Now we've stared into the abyss--let's not linger. Soon, I hope to post on the political tactics of cultural and economic guerrilla resistance that any Benedict Option will need for a successful subversion of the empire of this Beast.