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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Political Ironies

If I were to take a broad brush to our political conversation as a nation, it would seem that we have at one and the same time an intrusive federal government, whose interests and activities are legitimately and really injurious to socio-economic self-determination, and a substantial group of people who have no access at all even to the limited gravy-train serving up goodies to large firms in union with said government. You've got people who look at this and say, "They've 'assisted' quite enough, thank you, and perhaps it was never licit to try." That is, the adverse economic outcomes resulting from attempting to provide for the general welfare are not only obvious, but lacked legitimate sanction from the start. Others (like myself) point out that an unstated premise is that a contract entered into mutually by two or more parties is per se morally licit, and contributes (albeit indirectly) to the common good of all. This is false on the face of it, as a contract between two thieves trading stolen goods might serve to refute it. At its heart is the denial of the social nature of man, and a conception of "liberty" that is unduly individualistic in scope, and concerned only with coercion from the polis, as well as being indistinguishable from license.
On the other hand, the progressive cannot even imagine an intervention from government at any level--couched as it is as solidarity with the less fortunate--that would be unwarranted or unjust, unless it involved a moral claim. He is unwilling to investigate how virtue or the lack thereof affects entire groups, and how morality might impact how well or how poorly the government of the people serves those by which it is empowered. Indeed, the only moral absolute is the justice of ruthlessly suppressing any economic inequality, no matter its cause or result. More than this, he does not see the danger in grounding the justice of any government action in majoritarian consensus alone. Proper process indeed does not equate to justice, if the bloody 20th century is any guide.
In this way, conservatives who reject the false dichotomy between the economic and the moral (or in the common parlance, "social") stand ready to make a unique contribution: preserving the justice of government as such as an instrument of the common good, but recognizing the value of its limitation for the sake of socio-economic self-determination. We are the new "liberals."

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