By David J. Beilstein
Bob Capehert did an admirable job in his latest piece describing the statist left’s ability to take credit for liberty of the individual while creating the misunderstanding authoritarianism is a product of the political right.
Complicating matters, Capehert explains how many on the political right promote ideas easily leading to authoritarian conceptions, using campaign rhetoric of loose enough dimension ideological confusion abounds.
In which case, it might be helpful to peek-a-boo into why such ideological confusion exists on the right, generally.
Perhaps it can be related to the idea political conservatives have always championed what Edmund Burke deemed an eye for the history of human conduct — which teaches us, there are in fact moral laws which govern the universe we live in.
Natural law, therefore, exudes itself as part of the created order. Human beings do not create morality, but are bound to it. Alas, some behavior is moral, some not. And there are consequences for individuals and society, stemming from both.
In the past, societies mediating associations — what Burke called society’s “little platoons” — helped structure a traditional morality upon the American culture outside of legal parameters.
Society once had a general agreement on what was morally responsible even though civil authorities in a myriad of areas of civil life did not enforce such standards.
Through the cultural upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s, the collapse of an overall dominate moral “culture,” those societal edifices which “gave structure” to public and private morality, ceased to be normative.
In recent decades, therefore, many conservatives have fallen to the temptation of using government to try and stitch back together the fabric of a dominant moral culture.
But history teaches government cannot do this.
Nor do such efforts behold the ugly dimensions the conservative workmanship has created, enabling government to be more tyrannical over its people.
It does not solve the problem — but worsens it.
The Bush administration’s faith-based policies are a resultant problem. Faith-based policies have grown government! and anesthetized the expression of elemental parts of societies’ islands of separateness, those being religious institutions.
The value of religion in American life is that it cannot be the handmade of government, by Constitutional authority, not opinion, and is thus its own mediating association; it’s own authority.
Thus, separation of church and state, of the spiritual decoupled from the provisional, is a check on government power, not religious authority.
The inability for far too many conservatives to comprehend such constitutional parameters — if only to wage the “culture war” — is the font of most of our problems on the political right.
It is the American conservative (classical liberal) who ought to fight for separation of church and state above and beyond the progressive statist. Sadly, it is the progressive left often enough who opine to conservatives about the verity and consequence of a “separation” between the Church and the state.
Too many conservatives will not listen to progressives when they are right on issues of church and state, because of a mistrust due to the progressive left’s antagonism toward the “church” and it’s teaching.
And it is true the progressive left often misconstrues separation of church and state in another direction. That is, they often express the idea rhetorically and legally; public expression of religion is to be suppressed.
This is as erroneous a conception of Madisonian ideas about Church and state — thus non-Constitutional — as are many modern day conservative ideas about church, state, relations.
Still, it ought to be of concern a cadre of present day conservatives do not realise how important it is to keep mediating associations like Church, education, etc., separate from the state — and the inability to do so, is a vera causa of much that ills our society.
The founders were by no means perfect men. Not even close. But our Founding Fathers did comprehend many another crucial issue right, and did so, anyway, by paying attention to the history of the conduct of men.
It is societies “little platoons” and “islands of separateness,” which contributed to an overall moral structure outside the legal authority of the civil government.
To rebuild it, government must be prodded back to it’s constitutional republican structure — as government power has atrophied societies mediating associations — which in turn, contribute to a healthy, yet decoupled from the state, general, moral submission in our civil and private lives.