To hell with liberals & conservatives

At different angles, from Tocqueville to Schumpeter to a thousand reporters on the ground, it has been observed that liberalism defeats itself. I mean by this real liberalism, not the poison candy version that is offered to children by our academic Left. The real thing celebrates liberty as the central political good; and equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of result. It frees up economies and societies, by cancelling hidebound rules and regulations.

When much younger and under the influence of my father and his war-veteran generation (his was World War II), I considered myself a “liberal,” for views that activist mobs would now consider to be “conservative,” or as they label them, “fascist,” “racist,” “white supremacist,” and with other smears, both filthy and consistently vicious.

Opposition to totalitarianism was a key to that elder generation. They weren’t shy about using arms. A true liberal was an enthusiast for the War in Vietnam, and other global initiatives. Liberals were “open society” in an explicitly anti-communist, 1950s way. They loved “civil rights,” and opposed the Nanny State, although incoherently. They wished to accommodate the women’s movement. Their instinctive suspicion of social programmes, and revulsion for “ideology,” were slipping away; or had already slipped, to a longer historical view.

To be tediously economic, they were intoxicated by the view that, “now we are rich we can afford to have some fun.” They had long been bored with the absolute moral judgements that their ancestors (to whom neither divorce nor contraception were thinkable) took for granted — based on a Protestant Christianity that had been abandoned by sophisticated intellectuals a century before. “Church versus State” was no longer an issue, and because it wasn’t, morality became a statist “construct,” even without action from the Marxists.

When Ross Douthat writes a book on “decadence,” he is treating it as a temporal trend: something that comes and goes through the decades. His arguments are themselves decadent: something for the chattering classes to play, in the spirit of badminton. It is a topic for upmarket wit; no horror lurks beneath it. The old Gibbonesque “decline and fall” narrative has evaporated with classical culture, and been replaced by a dry happyface from which the wrinkles of serious history are botoxed. The “whig view of history” survives, but only by cliché.

(In private life, Douthat is a timid but not nominal Catholic.)

What isn’t defended, is soon killed off, in nature but also in metaphysics. Leftism flourishes today, not because it has won any argument, but by eating everything on the liberal side. Even the word, “liberal,” went down with a soft burp. It now represents the denial, or reversal, of everything that liberals once stood for. Gentle reader may prove this to himself, by reading old magazines.

Today, conservatism is disappearing, too, into the belly of the beast. It has been reduced to a few defunct liberal principles, such as “freedom of religion” (whatever that means). The conservative defends the last round of revolution against the next round, in a mush of moderations. He draws the line, at a moderate death wish. It is why I came to call myself not a conservative but a Tory, and now call myself a Reactionary to be clearer. We do not, as it were, “stand athwart history, yelling Stop,” but are the knights who say, “Backwards!”

And not to any particular point in time, such as the American Constitution or Magna Carta, but to the “originalist” salvific, Christological manifesto, in all its love and defiance. It is an absolutist, cosmological conception, of a relation between God and man, unrevised and unrepented. Evil must be opposed because it is evil, good must be advanced because it is good, and the wise can know the difference. There can be no glib, superficial “progress”; only a way to Heaven, and a way to Hell. “We walk to heaven backwards.” (Newman.)

Is this position unpopular at the moment?

Who effing cares?