You’re doing it wrong: Cardinal Cheesehead edition

From Dr. Charlton:

‘People’ do not want ‘freedom.’

They really don’t.

Well, of course they selfishly want freedom for themselves to do what themselves want to do – and if other people don’t like what they want to do and would want to try to stop them doing it, then they will say they want freedom.

But hardly anybody really wants freedom as a principle: instead, they want people to do what they want people to do: that is what they want, not freedom.

*

People do not get roused up about the crushing of freedom, and it is a waste of time trying to get people roused up about, freedom issues.

When the state suppresses freedom in an arbitrary fashion, the only thing people want to know is whether it was in a good cause.

*

What is wrong when Leftists crush freedom, as is happening now, is not that they are crushing freedom but that they are driven by the inversion of good.

The essential problem is that Leftists are using the power of the media and the state to prevent good and impose evil.  They should be doing the opposite.

*

Resisting evil by trying to reduce the power of the state, in order to defend the abstract entity called freedom, is incoherent, crazy and futile.

*

So, forget about freedom; (almost) nobody wants freedom.

Speak out and fight for a system that encourages what you believe to be true, beautiful and virtuous – and discourages lies, ugliness and vice; not a system that merely ‘allows’ good or bad things to happen, impartially.

Someone alert Cardinal Dolan before he gets any more bright ideas.

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18 thoughts on “You’re doing it wrong: Cardinal Cheesehead edition

  1. What really took the cake for me was his fawning praise of archprogressive bishop Clark of Rochester. Thankfully, however, the Holy Father has accepted his resignation with embarrassing haste and even put the Bishop of Syracuse in charge and let the seat remain empty for the time being rather than let this wrecking-ball reign one more day.

  2. Pingback: How to lose the battle over the HHS mandate « Zippy Catholic

  3. I have a standing problem with trying to “force” goodness on people. For starters, it doesn’t work. Of course one should speak for what one believes to be good, true and beautiful – and not as a “point of view” but as a universal truth.

    However, I want freedom so that people are free to be good. For certain, many people will not be good, when free. However, “goodness” when managed by the State seems no goodness at all. It is just the imposed wishes of someone assuming to know what God wills. The ruler may get it right, at times, and he may get it wrong at times. But he cannot (or at least I cannot see how he can) create the goodness in people.

    Am I committing some heresy here? I would be very interested in seeing whether or not I am wrong, and in that case why.

    And yea, I am one of those annoying conservative libertarians who are for both human freedom and a good society.

    • One can’t directly force individuals to be virtuous (as opposed to forcing them not to sin in various ways), but that’s not the direct goal of theocratic government. The goal is to make the public orthodoxy be true and the collective will–as expressed in law and custom–to be for the good and against evil. This is willed for its own sake, but also because it makes virtue easier if it has social conformity on its side, and being forced to practice virtuous behavior can indeed help inculcate interior virtue. Some will only pretend to be virtuous, but even hypocrisy is of value to public virtue by quarantining private vice. Better that than to have the social order restructured to endorse these vices.

    • But he cannot (or at least I cannot see how he can) create the goodness in people.

      I don’t believe you. That is, I don’t believe you can’t see how he can. You can’t see how institutions, incentives, and express norms affect behavior? Are you blind? You don’t think humans are creatures of habit? Are you stupid? Why do parents make their children do the right thing, if not to instill proper habits? Why do they model good behavior if not to influence their children’s choices?

      You don’t think, say, blue laws can help people keep holy the Sabbath? Seriously?

      However, I want freedom so that people are free to be good.

      This could be a quote from Frank Meyer. It is based on an equivocation on the word “freedom.” Neurologically normal people are always free in the sense necessary to be good. You can always choose right action or wrong action, even if those things are merely choosing willingly to entertain wrong/right thought. It is more or less a logical impossibility for the state to take away freedom in the moral sense—unless we are talking about handing out traumatic brain injuries or something.

      Freedom in the civil sense has nothing to do with freeing people to be good. Freedom in that sense is just the absence of punishment for this-or-that. You still choose to murder, even thought it is illegal. Even if you want to count the person deterred from murdering as somehow having not made a moral choice, he can still willingly entertain fantasies of murder which entertainment is still sin.

      Pursuing the murder example, why should it be illegal? Doesn’t that deprive would-be murderers of their ability to make moral choices?

      • @Bill : It is of course truly blind of me to think that it is God that creates (or at least guides) goodness in people. Much better to make sure it happens through a tax-funded institution with legal monopoly of force? No, I do not believe that the State can instill proper behaviour in people. Parents can because they have a personal relation to their children. Congregations can because they have a personal relationship with their members. The State is a non-personal institution made for the upholding of (what soon becomes arbitrary) law and the suppression of either non-majority opinion or non-political class opinion.

        No, I do not see how that will instill goodness in people. It will rot, decay, and turn into exactly the mess we have today. The State is a fundamental destroyer of culture in its current incarnation (and all incarnations where it goes beyond being merely an upholder of peace and the law).

        Punishment should be absent for all actions except those unlawful. Being discriminated is, of course, not punishment. I do not believe in “freedom from discrimination” as no such freedom exists. I do, however, believe in freedom from coercion (which is the fundamental tenet of libertarianism). I believe in the non-initiation of violence, including threats of violence.

      • It is of course truly blind of me to think that it is God that creates (or at least guides) goodness in people [not] a tax-funded institution with legal monopoly of force

        If you mean that He does so unmediated by human institutions, then, yes, blind would be a very kind characterization.

        “tax-funded institution with a legal monopoly of force” is not Christian-talk, it is secular-talk. You are trapped in a schema of categories which frustrate rational thought.

        No, I do not believe that the State can instill proper behaviour in people. Parents can because they have a personal relation to their children. Congregations can because they have a personal relationship with their members. The State is a non-personal institution made for the upholding of (what soon becomes arbitrary) law and the suppression of either non-majority opinion or non-political class opinion.

        Thank goodness Hollywood is powerless, seeing as how it only has “a non-personal relation” to people. That’s a load off my mind!

        Are you planning to interact with the specific examples I gave?

        The State is a fundamental destroyer of culture in its current incarnation (and all incarnations where it goes beyond being merely an upholder of peace and the law)

        That is starkly delusional. States and state churches have been major sponsors and creators of culture. Bach, for example, was a government employee whose job it was to compose his music. Take a gander at a “wonders of the world” list. Lots of state-sponsored and state-church-sponsored projects.

        It’s actually kind of funny. Ask a hard-core libertarian to name times and places whose governments he’s fond of, and you’ll get back a list of cultural wastelands. Roman Republic/Empire, 19th C US, Old West, Saga-age Iceland.

  4. @hpx83

    It is a clear instance of the utter confusion engendered by decades of Leftism that people view the alternatives as between:

    A: The resent situation which is 24/7 mass media, government, and educational propaganda in favour of vice as virtue, ugliness as beauty and expedient lies as truth – and multiple punishments for publicly advocating traditional Christianity. or

    B: Forcing goodness on people.

    What a bizarre world view!

    It was not many decades ago when government pronouncements, laws and regulations, teaching in schools and of course churches wold – in their net effect – advocate truth telling, hold up examples of beautiful things as example of beauty, and praise virtue as virtuous. Laws would (overall, but with widely varying effectiveness) make it easier to do good then bad, and punish bad.

    All this shouldn’t be hard to understand, but it does require that good and bad are regarded as objective facts; and not regarded as purely tools of oppression, unnecessary impediments to a life of guilt-free pleasure, strictly personal preferences, the product of propaganda, only relatively true with o absolute, or evolving concepts.

    But ultimately it is a question of God. If you believe in the reality of God, then society should be arranged in light of this reality – society cannot be neutral or impartial about reality: either society takes account of reality (as best it can, in a fallen world), or it just plain denies reality. Which is what our society does.

    • With respect, I don’t think it’s quite that simple. There is a missing link in your argument. One can accept that particular things are objectively good or bad without believing that the coercive power of the state, backed by the threat of physical punishment, ought to be involved in punishing them (the classic example being adultery). You need to provide an additional argument to validate going down that risky and perilous road.

      • You need to provide an additional argument to validate going down that risky and perilous road.

        Reversed burden of proof. The risky and perilous road is not punishing wrong action. Very strong evidence indeed would need to be brought forth to justify freedom, as currently understood.

      • Yet, the state did punish adultery. It was one of the grounds for “at fault” divorce before no fault divorce came about. Do you believe no fault divorce has increased good living?

      • Adultery still is a ground for divorce in my jurisdiction (England & Wales), and is still frequently cited, despite the availability of no-fault grounds. The same is true in Ireland, where I used to practise (I’m a lawyer). I agree that divorce is too easy these days (and often financially inequitable for men), but I think Prof. Charlton had broader concerns than this in mind.

    • I’d also add:

      Laws would (overall, but with widely varying effectiveness) make it easier to do good then bad, and punish bad.

      But how far do you take this? I always remember the story of the 19th century Lord Chancellor (for the Americans, this is the equivalent of the Chief Justice) who said that he had never been instructed to draft a bill of indictment against a man for failing to love his neighbour as himself.

    • Bruce – thank you for an enlightening answer. The conclusion I arrive at is that our points of view do not differ radically. If I may be allowed to speak in my defense, obviously I do not believe that the only two options is the current system or forcing goodness on people. My fear is (as a libertarian) that some people will tend towards the idea that if people won’t behave properly, then we shall damn well force them, ergo doing exactly what the State does, but with a different vision of how society should look.

      Since I regard the State as a fundamental evil (especially in its current incarnation) I have a hard time having opinions on what government pronouncements and teachings in government schools should be, since I would preferably abolish it all. That is not to say I do not see a place for government, but I prefer making a clear distinction between State and government, where the government merely describes an organizational function, and the State consists of a machinery to force illegitimate laws and visions of society upon people.

      As for all organizations which are volountary to join I fully agree that if one believes in God, then one has to believe that one should strive to make these organizations conform to that reality.

      The whole question of law is tricky, in my view “legislation” is not “law”, rather the law is a common understanding of how to best live in an organized society. Quite clearly, this would mean that the view of what the law is and should be will differ between people, and herein lies one of the fundamental problems – if we embark on a journey to pragmatically try to come up with some “middle road” of what should and should not be allowed, we get the current mess. The only solution I have yet seen is to allow people, to the extent that they do not hurt others, to do whatever they will (meaning a common understanding of a value-free law), and leave to private individuals ang groups to form the rules and norms that will create a good society. The good society, I think, must be created through discrimination, and not through legislation.

      Again, I am open to the idea that I am getting something fundamentally wrong here, and in that case I hope you will direct me away from any of my misconceptions.

  5. @hpx83 – I was a libertarian for about a decade, as you can see from many of my published writings.

    But I am not really talking about a ‘state’ in the modern sense – but a Christian monarchy on the Byzantine pattern.

    Thus I am not talking about a constitution which can be implemented, but something which might grow organically from a Christian society (in the way that Christianity grew in the Roman Empire leading up to Constantine).

    Christianity just is an act of free will – it cannot be coerced.

    However, it can be prevented by the coercive imposition of something else – or, as now, by continuous distraction, lies, sophomoric pseudo-logic etc.

    As one example, it is much more likely that people will freely choose to become Christians if they know what Christianity actually is: and this is unlikely in many types of society where there may be zero information – or as in our society such as vast amount of misinformation and misrepresentation that people are led to reject what is in fact a totally false idea of Christianity.

    This is why society ought to be organized with this in mind.

    • If you are talking about the private organization of society, and not the public such, I can not do anything but wholeheartedly agree. In regards to the “public society”, meaning the political world and state powers, obviously all instances if lies, deceit, pseudo-logic etc. should be resisted and fought. I don’t think, however, that state power can ever be used for any good cause. I believe in the volountary organization of society, including a volountary organization of any Christian society. Maybe we are saying the same thing here, I’m not quite sure.

  6. @RP – When you say ‘how far do you take this?’ you are in effect asking for a societal blueprint: a coherent and comprehensive constitution which also guarantees that people will abide by it, and not misinterpret it and not abuse it etc….

    All I can offer is the *organizing principle* for ordering society (i.e. Christianity), in light of which specific decisions would (ideally) be made.

    At present we have no organizing principle – only an incoherent ideology, ad hoc rhetorical justifications and expediency.

    Now anything might be done, and pronounced good; any good might be discovered to be evil. No shortage of examples.

    Freedom is not an organizing principle – but something which happens within an organizing principle.

    But if power is arbitrary, then freedom is merely a consequence of the limitations of power.

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