Freedom, value, and the modern left

Over at What’s Wrong with the World, Tony M. reports that a former APA head claims to have cured hundreds of homosexuals of their disordered desires. The Southern Poverty Law Center is up in arms, of course, which prompted this remark from commenter “Thomas Aquinas”:

Odd though that if a man goes to a plastic surgeon and permits the physician to carve him up and inject him with hormones so that he may look like a girl, even though he is in fact not a girl, we have to all pretend that he is a girl, or face severe punishment. On the other hand, if that same man were a homosexual, sought treatment to change his condition, and then claims to have succeeded after many years of arduous discipline, this is supposed to be an assault upon reason itself. In fact, we have to publicly deny what he and he alone can know, that he has in fact changed. In the case of the transgender, we have to all affirm what all of us can plainly know is false: you can no more make a girl out of boy than you can make a dolphin out a thalidomide baby.

So what’s the deal? Why do leftists celebrate the free choice of certain classes of people to sodomize one another or mutilate their own genitals, but not the free choice of those same people to remain celibate or seek treatment?

All of us reactionaries know that freedom and value are in some tension, in the sense that our values tend to restrict our freedom of action. For instance, a man who values marriage will find that this valuation restricts his freedom of sexual action by obliging him to remain faithful and chaste. In a properly-ordered society, freedom would, in fact, not be terribly important, concerning mainly prudential judgments (“Should I become a husband and father or a celibate priest?”) and arbitrary preferences (“Should I stop for lunch at McDonald’s or Burger King?”).

The leftist inverts this (and most other things) by subordinating values to freedom. To the extent that values restrict freedom, then, they must be deformed or destroyed, the better to liberate us from their shackles. Hence no-fault divorce laws, readily available and publicly financed abortions and contraception, gay “marriage,” open marriages, and every other innovation which destroys the value of marriage. They probably won’t abolish marriage outright, of course, and people can stay “married” if they like. But that’s the only reason they’re allowed to marry and to stay married: because they like it, not because they value it, and certainly not because it is objectively valuable.

Because value and freedom are in conflict, to the leftist mind, it is not enough to freely choose to do a thing. The choice to do a thing cannot be value-motivated, cannot be anything more than an arbitrary exercise of the utterly sovereign will, or else it is not truly free. The distressed homosexual who seeks treatment or opts for lifelong celibacy may be making a choice, but his choice (to the leftist’s horror) involves the endorsement of a value system and thus the denial of freedom-as-the-highest-good. They are freely choosing not-freedom — and this choice, in the leftist worldview, is one they are not free to make.

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14 thoughts on “Freedom, value, and the modern left

  1. In a properly-ordered society, freedom would, in fact, not be terribly important, concerning mainly prudential judgments (“Should I become a husband and father or a celibate priest?”) and arbitrary preferences (“Should I stop for lunch at McDonald’s or Burger King?”).

    Except that in a properly-ordered society, McDonald’s and Burger King wouldn’t exist :). (Channeling Laura Wood here).

  2. It is perfectly clear that homosexuality can be cured, at least in some cases. The sight of a friend or relative dying of AIDS cured a lot of people. They stopped having sex with men, and, after a while, stopped finding men attractive and started finding women attractive This is well known, yet no one is allowed to notice it.

  3. Here’s a funny question: How do all the true things in this post intersect with the undeniable fact that many leftists do adopt truly Pharisaical morality and self-control in their choices regarding things like vegetarianism or even veganism. A devout Catholic need eschew meat only on Fridays in Lent or, at most, Fridays all the time. A devout animal rights leftist must do without meat all the time. Other examples are things like not using plastic bags, sorting your garbage, keeping your carbon number low. These things really can be related to a system of morality and value–in general the environmentalist and animal rights system of value. If you talk to those who are ardent, you’ll see they strongly do believe in objective value in these realms. Of course, their priorities and values are ridiculously skewed and wrong-headed. Kill a baby in the womb? No problem. Maybe even a virtuous act. Eat beef for dinner? Murderer of a sentient being! It’s an objective morality that is all messed up, but it is one nonetheless.

    Nor are such people _different_ from those who trumpet the right to pan-sexual self-determination. Often they are the _same_ people. So the same man who will issue a solemn lecture on the negative health consequences of eating fatty meat would never for a moment be equally “judgemental” about the negative health consequences of sexual promiscuity or homosexual acts. In fact, he’s a total relativist about those things.

    Is this just another example of the inconsistency of mankind? Or is there some unifying principle behind it all?

    • How do all the true things in this post intersect with the undeniable fact that many leftists do adopt truly Pharisaical morality and self-control in their choices regarding things like vegetarianism or even veganism.

      Yes, I deal with the same thing not infrequently. Feminist commenters at my site will gnash their teeth over women encouraging one another to embrace self-sacrifice and submission to their husbands within marriage. They are angry because they feel that women should have Choices! Lots and lots of Choices! And submission limits their sacred Choices. So it’s bad.

      But when asked why some choices that women make, such as the choice to give up some of their freedom by obeying the Bible and their husbands, are wrong, they can’t really answer logically. Apparently all choices are equal but some are more equal than others.

    • Pharisaical morality and self-control in their choices regarding things like vegetarianism or even veganism.

      Left veganism is theoretical and spiritual, and seldom reflects actual food consumption. A leftist vegan identifies as vegan, much as a man claiming to be a woman identifies as lesbian.

      • I dunno. I’d say judging by the pasty white faces and extreme thinness, there are ones who are real. Sometimes force their kids to be too. It’s a religion all its own.

        I’m inclined to think that with all these things, including the detailed rules about where to put your garbage and what-not, it’s a substitute religion. Makes ‘em feel like, despite believing in sexual libertinism and all sorts of other destructive choices, they actually do Stand for Something Important.

    • How do all the true things in this post intersect with the undeniable fact that many leftists do adopt truly Pharisaical morality and self-control in their choices regarding things like vegetarianism or even veganism.

      Some leftists are leftists because they are pathological altruists, that is their morality is all about harm and non-interference, even for creatures that are non-human. They don’t want to harm an animal, by such as killing and eating it, and some even want to treat animals as autonomous beings that should not be “used” for anything, even non-lethal, non-painful extraction of food.

    • Excellent point. I tend to think that ritualism and an ordering toward the objectively real is simply a fact of human nature that most people can’t escape. They *need* these things, but please God, let me be anything but a Christian! So spite motivates them to pick up ludicrous causes in order to maintain the delusion of objective morality, which just happen to have the added benefit of letting them look down on bumpkin Christian breeders and meat-eaters and also validating their pathological sexual habits.

      Put another way, these people are not really fully instantiating the nature of leftism. Which is, of course, an impossible task, since leftism is inherently negative and destructive. We know the “nature of leftism” the way we know the limit of a function as it approaches a vertical asymptote. In other words, the thunderous moralizing re: veganism et al. isn’t part of their leftism, it’s an unprincipled exception to it. Put even more simply, the truly principled leftist looks a lot less like a hippy vegan and a lot more like Dr. House.

  4. As usual at this site, this is another good post. I would object, however, to the casual use of the words freedom and value. By value I assume you mean order and freedom is referenced as a unitary negative. From a casual acquaintance with English political philosophy I believe that the three “values” in any society are order and freedom and equality. Each of them has two sides like a coin, a good side and a bad side. A biblical and constitutional order is good and a socialist or fascist order are bad. Freedom also has obverse and reverse sides. It is clear that here Proph is referencing the licentious (bad) side of freedom (I can do whatever I want to do) which is guided only by original sin and deference to the state. But, there is also the good side of freedom which is liberty (I am free to choose what is right without being forced to choose it by outside authority). This is the sort of freedom sought by the Founding Fathers in establishing a constitutional order for a republican society. The moral/social anarchy discussed in this post is worsened by the fact that Western leftists have inverted the natural list of order to freedom to equality into equality is paramount followed by (licentious) freedom and then statist order as the enforcer of the other two.

    • I do not see how a society can ban making choices to do wrong without thereby forcing people to choose to do what is right, to extent that one creature can force another to choose. If you forbid bans on choosing what is wrong then you have just forbidden all law which is just the banning of certain immoral behavior. It can be argued of certain bad choices that they are either too trivial to be punished or for some reason governing bodies do not have the ability to punish them for it, but people do not have a right to choose wrongly, error has no rights. Liberty can have two definitions in the political sense: 1. the classical concept of self-governance, which as Robert Filmer showed, is impossible except in consensus democracy and even then all of your choices would be subject to anyone’s veto, hardly self-governing; or 2. the liberal notion of freedom from constraint which is metaphysically impossible for any entity other than God, and even he cannot act against his own nature. It is a shame that when people think of the English political tradition they forget the works of James I, Charles the martyr, George Berkly, Robert Filmer, the Jacobites, and Samuel Johnson.

  5. Women who make the kinds of choices you’re talking about, Mary, can’t possibly be truly “free,” and thus aren’t really making such choices “freely.” I take it that this is the general attitude among that element of women of which you speak. When they speak of liberating women, therefore, part and parcel of their meaning is that they wish to “liberate” women like yourself, my wife and others, from the debilitating (biblical) mindset that convinces them to reject absolute female autonomy. Or, more accurately I should think, they mean to severely hamper your positive influence on other women prone to your way of thinking.

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