artium and moribus, De Regnis Duobus, Novus Ordo Seclorum, Status quaestionis

WHERE BAD POLITICS COMES FROM

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By David Beilstein

Edmund Burke once said, “It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.” In our time, this kind of political throughway could be argued to be the basic teleos of our political order.

Its effect, dreadfully, such post-modern design of politics continues to reap the worst kind of governmental order in generations.

Little seems in development, politically, to change the direction and spirit of our politics. Sure, some positive signs emerge in infant form, but nothing that will fundamentally reform the way Americans seek to govern themselves. Politics of personal preference, of radical individualist subjectivity, impregnate our politics to a radical degree.

At the top of the political order, the president of these United States, Barack Hussein Obama, continues to govern in such a way that the above causations on our politics accelerates at rapid momentum—unmoored from the historical experience of men and women maturing within a nation of a rule of law.

In the face of such circumstances, a plethora of divergent views war for the consensus in American life. Such views considered from a dualism between the provisional and the eternal are not so problematic. But in our day no such consensus exists between the fabric and design of the ultimate. Such a conception is needed — indeed was the foundation for — liberal government in American republican democracy.

Now, No longer in the eyes of the state — or the consent of the governed — is a gap between political philosophy and moral philosophy presumed, but have been conflated by both left and right ideological postures.

Far from being problematic, the gap between political and moral philosophy — a penultimate preserver of individual liberty and autonomy — is not so much defective, but no longer practised.

This is root to many social ills in these years. In an article published in First Things, Robert T Miller responded to Patrick Deneen concerning the difference between moral and political philosophy. Miller seemed to be arguing for a Roman Catholic version of Augustinian conceptions of Two Kingdoms, of sacred and civil realms, between this age and the age to come.

Miller, a Roman Catholic, pointed out American ideas of civil affairs allowed for a Thomastic-Aristotelian synthesis of ideas about the ultimate, while at the same time allowing for liberal formulations of civil society in the penultimate.

Needless to say, America is now a country that does not conceive of ultimate ideas about the true and the beautiful — but instead, sadly, views the functionality of 18th century liberal ideas about the state, to be the ultimate pattern of all things. In a word, 18th century liberalism is a great preserver of a free society and civil order. But when taken to be the fabric of the universe — of the reality of all things — it leads to radical subjectivity and moral relativism.Natural order is overthrown for radical moral subjectivity.

Our nation’s founders never imagined there was no such thing as truth. Never thought morality was merely a conception of the privacy of the mind. But they did conceive of government as provisional institution — unable to be judge over eternal verities.

This was to protect not only citizens, but the institution of government itself. The natural state of man demands accountability glimpsed through the auspices of natural law. Man is of crooked timber which demands the legitimacy of the state.

Still, nothing has been more harmful to the institution of government abroad or from within than its swift transformation into a tyrannical leviathan. We could glimpse our own time now and see evidence of this. The more tyrannical our government becomes it also becomes far less effective. It does those things even within its jurisdiction worse now than in many years past.

We come to the beginnings of a nightmare. Since the ethics maintaining a functional civil order in a penultimate sense have replaced the ethics of an ultimate standard of  truth, individuals are now their own judges. Like the biblical drama seen in the Book of Judges, man as ultimate judge leads to rapidly aggressive moral decay.

We see this moral decay prominently in our governing institutions. St Augustine wrote 1400 years ago in the City of God society did not need to be ruled by Christians in order to be just. Natural law provided the foundations for general equity by the light of nature. The Protestant Reformation developed this idea further, using Biblical revelation to decouple the state from the Church. Even still, St Augustine of Hippo was clear once corruption reached a certain tipping point, government would become nothing less than “a pack of gangsters,” something we are seeing in our time.

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