Charles C.W. Cooke, the editor of National Review, has written an article in which he lashes out against Sohrab Ahmari and the rise of post-liberalism on the American Right.
This is our response to his argument:
The post-liberals confuse the bones of classical liberalism with the meat that people in Free Society have put on the system
Is this really the case?
I would argue that the culture we have now is in an advanced state of degeneration and that the root cause of it is the liberal order. This is because it pretends to do away with an account of the Highest Good offered by traditional Christianity and classical philosophy.
It jettisons metaphysics and replaces it with a system based on the glorification of self interest, material consumption, radical skepticism and individualism. The starting point of the liberal order is demolishing authority and radically weakening the social order. It seeks to replace the traditional social order with a purely voluntary system of “spontaneous order.” It can be compared to how the HIV virus destroys the immune system of the human body which leaves it vulnerable to fatal infections.
History shows that over the long run the liberal order always leads to the same result which is cultural degeneration. This is because “liberty” and “equality” and “individual rights” and “tolerance” are praised and held up to be the Highest Good after Christianity and classical philosophy are dismissed and marginalized. As a result, these are the goods which are pursued in our political system and they are taken to ever greater extremes over time at the expense of social cohesion and stability.
The post-liberals are incomprehensibly vague
The charge can be more accurately hurled at the classical liberals:
1/x— Sohrab Ahmari (@SohrabAhmari) June 21, 2019
Substantive moral outcomes and comprehensive views, my critic says, are immaterial. Only procedure matters.
OK. What if a polity by perfect procedure legalized consensual cannibalism. And let’s assume the health risks could be 100% mitigated. https://t.co/cRG8nPU1Pa
2/x— Sohrab Ahmari (@SohrabAhmari) June 21, 2019
What barriers — besides insistent persuasion — could Cooke’s libertarianism erect against legalized, consensual, “healthy” cannibalism, enacted by perfectly fair liberal-democratic procedures?
3/x— Sohrab Ahmari (@SohrabAhmari) June 21, 2019
In the real world, liberal states still honor some pre-liberal taboos; Cooke’s version is so purely and perfectly procedural, it’s in a sense more liberal than any actually existing liberalism.
(And *I’m* the idealist, here?)
4/x— Sohrab Ahmari (@SohrabAhmari) June 21, 2019
Likewise, liberal states as recently as three or four decades ago enforced decency laws, blue laws and the like. Pretty illiberal stuff. Did our American parents and grandparents live under a monstrous totalitarianism? No.
As Sohrab Ahmari notes, Charles C.W. Cooke and David French can have no principled objection to the establishment of consensual cannibalism in the United States because it would be legitimate if the proper procedures were followed. The conversation between David French and Nick Gillespie is revealing because it proves that for French the liberal order is the Highest Good and ranks above Christianity. Cooke and French agree that nothing can be done about Drag Queen Story Hour. As George Will admits, there is truth to the charge that mainstream conservatives have conserved nothing because of their ideological commitment to lolbertarianism.
The post-liberals badly misidentify the enemy and turn on their own allies
Are we mistaken that True Conservatism sees us as their real enemy? I don’t think so. It has always rolled over for the Left while ruthlessly policing the boundaries of the mainstream and respectable Right. The GOP Congress has condemned us at least three times since 2017 alone.
The Left isn’t holding us back. It is these people and their philosophy. They are the ones who have guided us to this point since the Goldwater era. They have created a paradise for illegal aliens, transsexuals and wealthy people who worship the DOW and the GDP while disparaging traditionalists. Their entire history is one of making “the conservative case” for the latest trendy leftwing social fad.
By attacking classical liberals, we will limit rather than increase our own power
This is absurd.
Right-Lolbertarians are 4 percent of American voters
Left-Authoritarians are 29 percent of American voters
In spite of our numerical strength, our values and policies are being set aside in order to implement the neocon and cuckservative agenda of wealthy donors like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson. Virtually all Republicans are social conservatives and authoritarians. That’s the glue that animates and holds the rightwing coalition together, not “classical liberalism.”
We will be much stronger after reorienting the Right around the authoritarian axis:
The post-liberals offer no specifics and are only a whine
Specifically then, the liberal order is the disease that has produced our current state of cultural degeneration. The Confederates realized this in the 1860s and their solution was to decouple their constitutional republic from the leveling abstract ideology of liberal democracy. The Confederacy was based on the cornerstone that “all men are not created equal.”
The American order is classical liberalism
Charles C.W. Cooke is an English classical liberal and atheist who is deeply rooted in this country. He arrived here in 2011 and became a naturalized American citizen last year.
The American Founders created a constitutional republic, not a liberal democracy. The majority of them were “racists” and “white supremacists.” Some inclined toward classical liberalism while others leaned much more toward classical republicanism.
Adam Smith’s theories were controversial in the Early Republic and were ultimately rejected in favor of Alexander Hamilton’s program of national economic development. The Founders reserved American citizenship to “free White persons” in the Naturalization Act of 1790. The Constitution based representation in Congress on the 3/5ths ratio and provided for the capture of runaway slaves. It was created by White men for their posterity.
There is a long tradition in American history of conflating the American Founding with classical liberalism. This is especially true in New England which liked to keep up with the latest fashionable English trends and project those trends back on to their decidedly illiberal Puritan past.
The purpose of the classical liberal order to create a neutral framework
If that is the case, then it has already failed because taking anti-racism to ever greater extremes had been declared the Highest Good and the existing civil rights laws have nullified the liberal order. Charles C.W. Cooke is free to prove us wrong by advocating the repeal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The post-liberals claim the liberal order pretends to be neutral
Where is the lie?
We’re already living under a theocracy except the difference is that in this one there is no forgiveness. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his narrative has replaced Jesus Christ in our new secular culture. The sins of traditional Christianity have been replaced by all the new -isms and -phobias. There is nothing whatsoever neutral about the liberal order which monolithically enforces its own orthodoxy and persecutes dissenters. It regularly goes to war with foreign countries to impose its orthodoxy on them.
These are examples of leftwing illiberalism
Yes, classical liberalism eviscerates the social fabric while simultaneously pinching the working class by creating extreme levels of income inequality. As George Fitzhugh explained in his books Sociology for the South, or, The Failure of Free Society and Cannibals All! or, Slaves Without Masters this is what leads to the illiberal utopian movements which all fundamentally seek to restore either the lost social cohesion or to ameliorate class divisions. The system itself is what generates the disaffection and hence the -isms.
America had the same system in the 1930s and Drag Queen Story Hour couldn’t have happened then
In the 1930s, we were simply in an earlier stage of the disease following the liberation and enfranchisement of women. The goal posts of liberty, equality, individual rights and tolerance have moved since then.
What do the post-liberals offer?
The post-liberals have identified the disease which is classical liberalism. In contrast, mainstream conservatives celebrate the disease.
“To rectify the relation that exists between two men, is there no method, then, but that of ending it? The old relation has become unsuitable, obsolete, perhaps unjust; and the remedy is, abolish it; let there henceforth be no relation at all. From the ‘sacrament of marriage’ downwards, human beings used to be manifoldly related one to another, and each to all; and there was no relation among human beings, just or unjust, that had not its grievances and its difficulties, its necessities on both sides to bear and forbear. But henceforth, be it known, we have changed all that by favor of Heaven; the ‘voluntary principle’ has come up, which will itself do the business for us; and now let a new sacrament, that of Divorce, which we call emancipation, and spout of on our platforms, be universally the order of the day!Have men considered whither all this is tending, and what it certainly enough betokens? Cut every human relation that has any where grown uneasy sheer asunder; reduce whatsoever was compulsory to voluntary, whatsoever was permanent among us to the condition of the nomadic; in other words, LOOSEN BY ASSIDUOUS WEDGES, in every joint, the whole fabrice of social existence, stone from stone, till at last, all lie now quite loose enough, it can, as we already see in most countries, be overset by sudden outburst of revolutionary rage; and lying as mere mountains of anarchic rubbish, solicit you to sing Fraternity, &c. over it, and rejoice in the now remarkable era of human progress we have arrived at.”
This is what Charles C.W. Cooke invites us to do. As Thomas Carlyle explains, he invites us to “sing Fraternity &c.” over the ruins of our culture in a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah and to “rejoice in the now remarkable era of human progress we have arrived at.”
Frenchism is persuasion within the boundaries of classical liberalism
Frenchism is self-defeating because 1.) French himself elevates the liberal order over Christianity as the Highest Good and 2.) because the values of the liberal order – liberty, equality, tolerance, individual rights, etc. – are steadily taken to ever greater extremes which dissolves the social fabric and deracinates the masses into a blob of obese consumers.
If post-liberalism triumphs over classical liberalism, you will be persecuted
Small comfort in that classical liberalism has been useless in stopping our persecution which is already going on now. It has been successful in marginalizing us and denying us political representation which harvesting our votes to advance its inhumane economic agenda.
The best way to fight back is through classical liberalism aka mainstream conservatism
Yeah, the people who can’t even conserve women’s restrooms and who are losing that argument because they accept the moral premises of their enemies and are crippled by their own lolbertarian ideology.