I must admit that I am really enjoying "Decius", we think MUCH alike, he writes better, and he is even wordier than I (ok, well maybe not by much). Most of my focus will be on our differences and some of the larger themes. My recommendation is to take the time to read him.
"One must also wonder what is so “immoderate” about Trump’s program. As noted, it’s to the left of the last several decades of Republican-conservative orthodoxy. “Moderate” in the modern political (as opposed to the Aristotelean) sense tends to be synonymous with “centrist.” By that definition, Trump is a moderate. That’s why National Review and the rest of the conservatives came out of the gate so strongly against him. I admit that, not all that long ago, I probably would have too. But I have come to see conservatism in a different light. To oversimplify (again), the only “eternal principle” is the good. What, specifically, is good in a political context varies with the times and with circumstance, as does how best to achieve the good in a given context. The good is not tax rates or free trade. Those aren’t even principles. In the American political context, the good is the well-being of the physical America and its people, well-being defined (in terms that reflect both Aristotle and the American Founding) as their “safety and happiness.” That’s what conservatism should be working to conserve."
In my view, the principles that a conservative seeks to "conserve" are eternal -- reverence for God, truth, wisdom, cultural heritage, family, community, and the ability to pass these from generation to generation. Animals "breed", man seeks to pass on transcendent meaning to successive generations. "The good" doesn't change, and "happiness" is at most a byproduct, and really never a goal for a Christian. Christ promises "peace" and "joy", but neither are really the sort of "peace and joy" that secular people imagine. They are more the sort of a joy a parent gets when their disabled child makes some progress, or the peace of exhaustion after a day of of chasing a toddler.
I'm not sure when "safety" ever became a supposed value. First or all, it is always an illusion, and secondly, the believe that you have it is like the rich man in the Bible that had stored up all sorts of earthy wealth and then finds his soul is required of him that very night.
It seems that Decius believes that a a secular good can suffice and somehow the old America can be rebuilt on that foundation. He definitely disagrees with the founders on that -- John Adams in particular. Yet, he links to an argument by John Marini which would seem to point out the perils of the secular bureaucratic rule of elite intellectuals.
Understood in this way, what is central to politics and elections is the elevation of the status of personal and group identity to something approaching a new kind of civil religion. Individual social behavior, once dependent on traditional morality and understood in terms of traditional virtues and vices, has become almost indefensible when judged in light of the authority established by positivism and historicism. Public figures have come to be judged not as morally culpable individuals, but by the moral standing established by their group identity. Character is almost unrecognizable and no longer serves as the means by which the people can determine the qualifications for public office of those they do not know personally. As a result, it is difficult to establish the kind of public trust that made it possible to connect public and private behavior, or civil society and government. When coupled with the politicization of civil society and its institutions, the distinction between the public and the private or the personal and the political has almost disappeared. Anything and everything can become politicized, but things can only be understood and made intelligible—or made politically meaningful—when viewed through the lens of social science and post-modern cultural theory. In short, the public and private character of American politics has been placed in the hands of the academic intellectuals.
Our lives have been subsumed by the great political machine, and the experts are in charge, what is more, our past has been found to be a horror.
Post-modern intellectuals have pronounced their historical judgment on America’s past, finding it to be morally indefensible. Every great human achievement of the past—whether in philosophy, religion, literature, or the humanities—came to be understood as a kind of exploitation of the powerless.
So we live in a culture and nation judged evil by it's own elites -- who run it, but like to pretend that they don't.
Members of the vital center understand the world through their attachment to their professions: academia, science, economics, business, media, entertainment, and even religion. They often lack political consciousness of themselves as a class. Many of them do not even think of themselves as political. Their interest and loyalty is to what it is they profess to study and what they think they know, and what establishes their intellectual and political authority is their production of what is seen as useful knowledge in the administrative state. Indeed, it could be said that without the policy sciences, the administrative state would be almost impossible to operate. It is the technical requirements of the modern administrative state that have made it possible to politicize the elites in a manner that disguises their political role. When nearly every social, economic, scientific, religious, and political problem is decided in a bureaucratic or legal way—and always from a central authority, usually Washington, but sometimes New York or one or two other places
"The Party" (TP-D) really doesn't consider itself to be political, certainly not a party, and absolutely not a "class". It is is "correct" and it's hierarchy is based on "merit" -- 30% technical merit and 70% the merit to parrot the party line with conviction and even "leadership".
It is not surprising, therefore, that few are willing or able to praise Trump in an unqualified manner. Insofar, as Trump has refused, to “walk on paths beaten by others,” as Machiavelli would say, “he has all those who benefit from the old orders as enemies, and he has lukewarm defenders in all those who might benefit from the new orders.” But it is not “fear of adversaries” alone that makes it difficult to bring about change, Machiavelli writes, but “the incredulity of men, who do not truly believe in new things unless they come to have a firm experience of them.” In our post-Machiavellian age, which is open to every kind of novelty, we are faced with a new kind of incredulity—one that prevents men from believing in the old things of which they no longer have any experience. It has become far easier for modern man to accept change as something normal, almost natural. What has become difficult to understand, let alone preserve, are things that are unchanging or eternal. History, understood in terms of the idea of progress in politics, economics, science, and technology, has made change, or the new, seem almost inevitable. As a result, the desire for the newest has become almost irresistible.
Since the moderns are steeped in the propaganda that the new is always better, and the latest drip from the still is better than 20 year old aged Scotch, Trump's slogan to "Make America Great Again" seems perfectly selected to anger the modern sensibility -- they have judged America and found it evil, and the concept of "greatness" in the past is antithetical to modern liberal dogma.
The most controversial aspect of Trump’s campaign, his slogan to “Make America Great Again,” goes to the heart of the problem. Trump’s view presupposes that the old America was good and established the conditions for its greatness. Is this true? Or is America something to be ashamed of, as the protestors against Trump have insisted, having accepted the teaching of post-modern cultural intellectuals?The standard left view is that America was the definition of immorality -- taking land from native peoples, slavery, unequal rights for women, income inequality, destruction of the environment, etc. It was NEVER great, and indeed BOistan is far greater.
Lincoln was aware that the only proper defense of the tried and the true—of tradition—was a defense of the unchanging principles of political right understood in terms of an unchanging human nature. This presupposed a distinction between theoretical and practical reason, which made it possible to distinguish unchanging principles from policies that must change according to circumstances. This understanding assumed the benevolence of nature and nature’s God, as well as the capacity of human reason to comprehend and impose those rational limits on human freedom that are necessary to ensure human happiness. It is only if the old can also be defended as the good that conservatism, or the tried and the true, can remain a living thing. The historicist understanding of freedom purports to reveal that nature itself is tyrannical, and has attempted the self-destruction of philosophic reason by liberating the creative individual from the chains imposed by nature and reason.There is that idea again, to "ensure human happiness". Even the founders only suggested the right to PURSUE happiness -- a quarry that slips from your grasp the more it is pursued. Human happiness is a SIDE EFFECT of family, community, worship of God, right living and a good deal of luck. For a Christian, the "pursuit" is better service to Christ -- only by putting Christ does "faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love" come into focus. Happiness doesn't even make the list.
It is possible that the Trump phenomenon cannot be understood merely by trying to make sense of Trump himself. Rather it is the seriousness of the need for Trump that must be understood in order to make sense of his candidacy. Those most likely to be receptive of Trump are those who believe America is in the midst of a great crisis in terms of its economy, its chaotic civil society, its political corruption, and the inability to defend any kind of tradition—or way of life derived from that tradition—because of the transformation of its culture by the intellectual elites. This sweeping cultural transformation occurred almost completely outside the political process of mobilizing public opinion and political majorities. The American people themselves did not participate or consent to the wholesale undermining of their way of life, which government and the bureaucracy helped to facilitate by undermining those institutions of civil society that were dependent upon a public defense of the old morality.America was founded on ideas, not territory, ethnicity nor religion. It is true that it developed a specific territory, it's main ethnicity was european, and it's religion Christian, but the idea of a government LIMITED by a written Constitution which created a separation of powers to hold government in check was an innovation in government.
BOistan has none of these -- save to some extent "territory", but even there, the borders are largely open. We are not ethnically European, we are certainly no longer a Christian nation, and BO has countervailed the Constitution through using the IRS as a weapon, creating a product that "must be bought" (BOcare), decrees on immigration and gun control, and spending money on BOcare never appropriated by congress (to name a few).
This isn't a crisis in "America", it is the creation of a new junta in this region of N America that I call BOistan.
Decius has apparently failed to perceive the level of destruction wrought by BO, or finds it far more reversible than I. He also apparently thinks that "the good" can be recovered without any transcendence, but rather through the pursuit of "happiness" with no reference to a religious or philosophic framework that provides a meaning to "happiness".
But he recognizes peril and perceives that something need be done -- we certainly have many areas of agreement.
I've very much enjoyed reading and commenting on these articles.
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