Edmund Burke, George Will, and the Duke of Sussex

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri notes in The Federalist that George Will was his introduction to Aristotle and Edmund Burke. I can’t say that but like Senator Hawley Will was for years a must read for me. Too bad that he changed, from Senator Hawley:

Will’s fulminations are typical of a certain set of Clinton and Bush-era commentators who call themselves “conservative” but sound more like a cartoon version of libertarianism. Will shrugs at the decline of the working class and the loss of the communities that sustain them. He celebrates instead the “spontaneous order of a market society,” by which he apparently means woke capital, offshoring, and the growing corporatist alliance between big government and big business.

Will advises working families displaced by lost jobs and neighborhoods to shut up and move, like the Joad family in Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath.” Packing up all their belongings and abandoning their family farm demonstrated the Joads’ “dignity,” Will opines. Interesting. He might want to re-read Steinbeck.

Or Edmund Burke. Will casts himself as a champion of individual liberty, but his reduction of individual freedom to market choice—the right to buy cheap stuff from China—wouldn’t have made any sense to Burke. (Or the American founders. Or the voters who cast their ballots for Donald Trump.)

Burke understood that individual freedom is formed by culture and community, and you have to work to defend both. The “little platoons,” Burke said—home and church, school and neighborhood—are where we grow, where we learn to love, where we find the strength and support to make something of our lives. And they are where we forge the common bonds that sustain our national sense of purpose.

In a nutshell, that sums up much of the never Trump nonsense, doesn’t it? I can’t say with complete confidence that it is choosing one’s paycheck over one conscience, but it sure looks that way. In fact, it stinks of selling out, for a price, to the globalists, who seem to think that the most important part of trade is a cheap workforce. Of course, it also provides a way to prevent competition from other smaller companies (and individuals) who might just find a better way to make things in America (or Britain for that matter). And that’s even better for the corporatists.


A Time for Choosing

Gavin Ashenden has a few comments on the plan of the Sussex’s ‘to carve a progressive role’. I couldn’t agree more with him when he says:

There is a tragic element to the blinkeredness and immaturity that mistakes a bid for independence as ‘carving a progressive role.’It isn’t that at all of course. In reality it is choosing between two competing philosophies or ethics. One, which the monarchy is founded on and depends on, is a Christian one in which doing one’s duty on behalf of others takes priority over self-interest. The other is a concentration on self-interest and self expression (however it is justified) at the expense of self-sacrifice and duty.The problem for the Sussexes is that they  have chosen to put their own self-interests before their public  duty and family. It has been tried before both by ordinary people and by prominent people like Edward 8th. The tragedy is that it almost always ends in a growth of self-pity and sadness.

I can’t say I’m especially surprised, Meghan (or should that be ‘Me Again’?) like most actresses appears to have more ego than sense, not to mention an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, and an addiction to saying ‘Me, me, me!’ incessantly. Harry if he read his family history ought to know better though, and has shown some real leadership at times.

If one were to look at his grandmother’s and especially her mother’s life, one would see just how hard a taskmaster duty can be, even when it comes in a gilded carriage. But as General Lee often noted:

Duty, then is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more; you should never wish to do less.

It is a very high and hard standard, in both stories today. But nothing less is acceptable in free people.

Dawning of the Pelagian Age

Senator Josh Hawley

The other day, in trying to sort out the various types of conservatives, here, we mentioned Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, as one of the rising stars of conservatism, in the Post Liberal group. I’m not the only one who noticed his article in Christianity Today So did Gene Veith over at Cranach, my favorite Lutheran blog. Here’s some of what he said.

That we are unused to hearing this level of analysis from an election official is itself telling, but Sen. Hawley, the youngest member of the Senate at 39, is being hailed as a rising star of the conservative movement and the Republican party for his ability to bring together conservatism and populism, as in the way he is leading the charge to apply anti-trust law to Google, FaceBook, Apple, and Amazon.

At any rate, consider what he says:

Pelagius held that the individual possessed a powerful capacity for achievement. In fact, Pelagius believed individuals could achieve their own salvation. It was just a matter of them living up to the perfection of which they were inherently capable. As Pelagius himself put it, “Since perfection is possible for man, it is obligatory.” The key was will and effort. If individuals worked hard enough and deployed their talents wisely enough, they could indeed be perfect.

This idea famously drew the ire of Augustine of Hippo, better known as Saint Augustine, who responded that we humans are not achievement machines. We are fragile. We are fallible. We suffer weakness and need. And we all stand in need of God’s grace.

But Pelagius was not satisfied. He took his stand on an idea of human freedom. He responded that God gave individuals free choice. And he insisted that this free choice was more powerful than any limitation Augustine identified. . . .Pelagius said that individuals could use their free choice to adopt their own purposes, to fix their own destinies—to create themselves, if you like. That’s why a disciple of Pelagius named Julian of Eclanum said freedom of choice is that by which man is “emancipated from God.”. . . .

Perhaps the most eloquent contemporary statement of Pelagian freedom appears in an opinion from the United States Supreme Court, in a passage written by former Justice Anthony Kennedy. In 1992, in a case called Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, he wrote this: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

It’s the Pelagian vision. Liberty is the right to choose your own meaning, define your own values, emancipate yourself from God by creating your own self. Indeed, this notion of freedom says you can emancipate yourself not just from God but from society, family, and tradition.

The Pelagian view says the individual is most free when he is most alone, able to choose his own way without interference. Family and tradition, neighborhood and church—these things get in the way of uninhibited free choice. And this Pelagian idea of freedom is one our cultural leaders have embraced for decades now.

But here’s the paradox. For all the big talk about individual freedom, Pelagian philosophy has made American society more hierarchical, and it has made it more elitist.

This is no accident. Pelagius himself was most popular with the old senatorial families of Rome—the wealthy, the well-connected. The aristocrats. They were his patrons. And why? He validated their privilege and their power.

Because if freedom means choice among options, then the people with the most choices are the most free. And that means the rich. And if salvation is about achievement, then those with the most accolades are righteous, and that means the elite and the strong. A Pelagian society is one that celebrates the wealthy, prioritizes the powerful, rewards the privileged. And for too long now, that has described modern America.

[Keep reading. . .]

Sen. Hawley goes on to explore the political and economic implications of Pelagianism.  Let’s think some more about the moral and cultural issues.

A question presents itself:  If we reject Pelagianism, doesn’t that mean we reject freedom?  Not at all!  Freedom is a good thing.  It is a moral necessity, since there can be no virtue if a person is forced to do the right thing.  An action must be taken freely if it is to have moral significance.  The will is a crucial faculty of the mind and the personality.

But for all of their importance, freedom and the will are not determinative.  They do not save us.  They do not determine what we should do.  They do not determine what is real.

But this is exactly what we are seeing in the Age of Pelagius.

As I have often pointed out, postmodernist ethics are built around the will.  Advocates of abortion call themselves “pro-choice.”  Whatever the woman chooses in regards to her pregnancy and her child is right for her.  If she is forced to have a child she does not want (another “will” term), that would be evil (which is why those who seem to be moral relativists can still demonize pro-lifers).  What determines the rightness or wrongness of an action is the presence of a willful choice.  This applies also in other issues, such as euthanasia (“if the patient chooses to die, who are we to say ‘no’?”).

Indeed, Keep Reading, including the comments

Sometimes with an article like this, I feel like I’m cheating, giving you someone else’s views rather than my own. That could be true, but it is not, because I completely agree with Dr. Veith (as I usually do, and do here) and he is a better writer than I am, so why hurt the message by trying to rephrase it. It’s the classical case for reblogging, of course, which I, like most of us, occasionally do. I dislike reblogging though because it is not particularly fair to the article you are reblogging because the snippet used is usually not enough to make sense of the author’s point

What Senator Hawley says (or what I say comparatively quietly) doesn’t do much of anything about solving the problem, of course, except that to solve a problem, first you need to figure out the basics of what the problem is. This moves along that course.

The other thing about this is that it is analysis by an elected official of a type not seen in the US in at least 150 years, since the heirs of the Founders, the generation of Clay, Calhoun, and Webster, culminating in Lincoln. It’s been sorely missed.

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