By Robert L. Capehert
The infamous line goes:
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.
Put another way, Are you sexually active?
How many sexual partners have you had?
Are you homosexual or heterosexual?
Approximately how many sexual partners have you had in the last 60 days?
Are you currently, or have you ever been a drug addict?
These are some of the kinds of questions doctors will be tasked with asking patients when ObamaCare goes into effect.
In short, a full and complete dossier on every private sexual act a person could do in a lifetime with his or her own personal body (and another person at least presumably) will be recorded.
Don’t worry, though. The information is only for the eyes of those in government.
And so, the greatest trick the statist left pulled — and they have successfully pulled it off — is convincing large swaths of the American people that liberal ideals like individual liberty; of being in control of one’s own property, including one’s own body, are political values of the left up and against the “authoritarian values” of the American right.
It is true various constituent classes on the right have muddied the waters with extra-constitutional ideas about morality, and the role of the federal government. And when many conservatives opine on many another issue the last thing someone thinks about is freedom of the individual.
A whole lot of conservatism over the last 20 years seems to put government in charge of doing conservative things, which is an oxymoron.
Over at the Confessional Outhouse, Todd Bordow posted this. I hope to interact with it soon. But the basic point, which goes back before America was America, would still be a rebuke to far too many conservatives who think conservatism is about enforcing religious norms of morality on the populace at large.
In short: we never have. There’s always been a libertarian twist to our cultural attitudes when it comes to private sexual behaviour, deemed sinful by religious instruction.
Those who think traditional morality make them “politically conservative” are arguments have decoupled from the classical tradition of American conservatism.
Unfortunately, for a great many of us, such pontifications have done great harm to the communication of what it means to preserve and animate a free society by concentrating on where government belongs and where it does not.
In times past (too many to be sure) I have listed the “conservative” politicians who have helped buttress such confusion on the right — and God help us, the left have used such jackass statements and political campaigns to straw man the political right for decades.
Misinformed opinions on the American right — from the proper boundaries of government, to foreign policy positions removed from classical liberal philosophy — have no doubt helped the statist left pull the wool over vast seas of American voters.
But this also has something to do with how conservatives have talked about the left.
Rather than explicate the statist left from the paradigm of What is the role of Government, many conservatives have chosen to describe leftism by particular moral issues.
Do we think something is morally right or wrong — verses the often a straw men of the left by superficial conservatives that leftists reject all moral categories.
This is untrue. Leftists are radically moralistic — they just have a different moral vision than those on the right. And they also use government to enforce their moral vision on everyone, rejecting societies natural islands of separateness — especially those islands that offer a different moral vision than the leftist.
Hence, the attack upon orthodox Christianity and other forms of mediating associations that offers the faithfully pious competing ideas about the purpose of life detached from government being at the center of an eschatological vision.
Statists too, tend to think that institutions can somehow make straight the crooked timber of our humanity. They believe passionately the best institution equipped to do so is big Government.
Needless to say, in too many conservative circles what it means to be of the political left is usually based upon a particular moral stance, rather than the role of the government, federal and locally considered.
This ignores the philosophical reasoning behind many positions those on the left and right take politically, reducing the debate into confusion.
A classical liberal will no doubt cede the lessons natural law reveals.
Still, the right to do something does not make someone right in doing a particular behaviour. Just because the state does not say “no” legally, does not mean in the least the behaviour is wise or morally acceptable.
In the words of William F. Buckley, Jr., it is perfectly legal to contract syphilis through consensual sexual activity. But honourable behaviour it is not — nor empirically considered, healthy for the body.
Philosophically, it is the classical liberal who wars against preference-based policy.
I may be against homosexuality, but I can defend its legal practise in consensual, adult relationships, as people are their own province in the eyes of the civil authority, under the U.S. Constitution.
The progressive leftist has no such philosophy. If they do, it’s borrowed from the political right If consistent, the leftist is forced to assume if behaviour is unhealthy for society, government has the power, and duty, to enforce those value judgments against the personal autonomy of the individual.
This is why the Volstead Act (Prohibition) was a progressive movement — not a classical liberal one. Many conservatives would appeal to nature and medical studies showing excessive drinking to be ill for the body. That is a discernable fact.
But it is philosophically inconsistent for a classical liberal to than suppose government must enforce abstinence from all alcoholic beverages on the populace at large.
The idea one’s (ruling class) own morality must be every one else’s in the nation is not conservative philosophy, but progressive. Such thinking does not stem from the 18th century liberal philosophy of the Founders.
This is why conservatism is not moralism properly understood. While it recognises moral truth, of course, that does not mean it shapes law. All kinds of things in American life are wrong. Most are legal in a hundred different conditions.
That’s why no moral appendages are attached to freedom of speech in the Constitution — as if the right to free speech only depends on what is spoken being morally uplifting.
To whom? Who gets to decide that?
The Founders decided citizens get to decide, not civil authorities. For if government decides what is morally acceptable speech we are all at the whims of the ruling class and have constructed for us a recipe for the worst kind of tyranny.
This was the entire point of the U.S. Constitution.
Too many on the right appeal to the Constitution as if a moral life plan document. In reality, it is a document that unchains the individual and chains up government!
Far too many do not understand this. Too many think being conservative simply means being traditional moralists. But politically, it means one is interested in keeping the chains around government power tight and locked.
Gay rights happen to be another good example. Many conservatives have completely misunderstood the proper classical liberal position on gay rights. The statist left has pushed gay rights most aggressively, and it is the political right that has been most antagonistic to gay rights.
Yes, it is more accurate to say the majority of talking-head conservatives have pushed back against homosexual “special” rights, a distinction which is important.
Conservatives William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater both had numerous homosexual friends. Neither man stood against homosexuals being treated equally under the law.
Pres. Ronald Reagan, too, wanted no part of so-called “conservative” activists not allowing homosexuals to be teachers, doctors, etc. It’s obvious why — because these positions are not conservative, politically, they are moralistic — they misuse the ethics of the Kingdom of heaven with ethics befitting a secular, free society.
Still, that does not change the fact that enough religious fundamentalists on the supposed political “right” presume what is cultically normative in the Christian Church must be the societal norm.
This results from a confusion of ideology and theology, a conflation of moral right and wrong and the responsibility of government.
But if government is to enforce the “moral law” as revealed in the book of nature we do not have a free society. Government would then have full authority to legislate what food and what kind of sex people have.
Or anything else deemed unhealthy either temporarily or for all time. Medical science tells a precise story; certain kinds of sex is unhealthy — same with foods; same with most forms of abuse of the human body. This is what natural law teaches us.
If government is to enforce natural law we have state-sponsored tyranny.
Let us consider by what philosophy the progressive left supports homosexual rights?
They do so for different reasons than do those on the political right. On the right, the support favours individual autonomy, a limitation on state authority. But on the political left support for homosexual rights urges a usurping of natural law in order to break down the mediating associations inherent in society, like the family, in order to empower the state.
In the past the statist left attacked sexual monogamy, marriage, and family, violently — as all three tend to produce citizens with a sense of life removed from the interest of the state.
As Jonah Goldberg has pointed out, the 100-year ambition of the progressive left has been to marry the individual’s life and circumstance to the state completely. Marriage, family, children, all threaten that goal.
Case in point, the early homosexual movement was radically opposed to same-sex marriage.
It should be pointed out: those who call themselves leftists, but support gay rights for individual autonomy reasons are not championing a statist left premise, but classical liberal ones — about the nature of the individual in the face of society at large.
The statist left has used the homosexual and lesbian citizens is all to empower government. The same can be said of the race industry in America head-lined by Uncle Tom’s like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
The purpose of the Constitution was to decouple value judgments from civil authorities, placing them in the purview of individual, sovereign men and women. The idea was to limit the collective capacity of citizens to ensnare themselves in government regulation and coercion.
In contrast, the consistent conservative/libertarian supports homosexuals being treated equally under the law to limit and “fence in” the civil authority under the parameters of the Constitution, thus preventing the coercion of citizens by state power.
The true constitutionalist will find themselves supporting the free society the U.S. Constitution protects. We shall find ourselves supporting rights for behaviour we may find abhorrent, ill advised, or morally repugnant.
But it must be that way. And we must be more consistent or the great lie which undergirds the fascist premises behind ObamaCare and it’s intrusion upon individual life will continue to be proposed and made into law by leftists — while conservatives are being considered the authoritarians.
We are (in a classical sense) a liberal society. If we desire to stay that liberal and free — and protect ourselves from being ruled over by the whims of the ruling class — we will start describing our conservative fealty by what is constitutional, not what we deem to be right or wrong.
When constitutional rights are impeded — assaulted or destroyed — we have all the laws we need to prosecute crimes against fellow citizens. But when it comes to what the conservative is actually protecting, Barry Goldwater said it best: being conservative/libertarian means allowing individual men and women to do what they want so long as they do not hurt or impede the inalienable rights of their fellow citizens.
But is there not more to life than doing whatever it is you want? There most certainly is — but to cede that authority to decide such values judgments with the state will create tyranny. It already has in many other dimensions of American life.