Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Placing Loyalty

Koz writes, "one thing that turns me off from the dissident conservatives is their lack of manly loyalty. We've been made to understand ad nauseum that their aspirations are higher than George W Bush's approval rating or Mark Levin's book sales figures. Great, then what exactly are they supposed to be loyal to, if not that? Whatever it is, they haven't told us."

I am quite happy to agree on this point, and it is perhaps the principal weakness in thoroughgoing libertarianism. I suppose Lew Rockwell and Jeffrey Tucker would argue that a libertarian is free to be loyal to whatever he wishes and it is not their business to force their loyalty toward something else (mainly The State).

I've often argued that libertarianism is a bit like the Physics 101 problems sets in which we are allowed to posit a frictionless surface for the sake of learning about how acceleration works. This is very helpful either at the beginning of one's physics career, or at times, when a thought-experiment is needed to test some other highly complex set of variables. Libertarianism, in my opinion, should get more attention from the right, but in the end, policy decisions will have to deal with the real world, which includes relationships that libertarianism does not always take into account.

That said, I think that a principal problem with the Republican party is that the manly loyalty so yearned for by Koz (and myself) is assumed to be directed toward the Party and toward America. Now we should be loyal to our friends and to our homeland. But who are our friends, and what constitutes our homeland? I personally have always had difficulty on a gut level feeling like I'm somehow part of the same patria as Bostonians and Los Angelenos. As for the Republican party, well, I agree with them on _some_ issues, but actually fewer and fewer. Does manliness consist in simply being loyal for the sake of being loyal? Or are commitments born of some other considerations?

Thank you for the kind Indepedence Day wishes. I am most grateful to live in a country where I am free to practice my religion, under a Constitution that ranks among the great political documents of history. Let's hope it makes a comeback!

After completing this post, I came upon this excellent article, comparing the libertarian views of Ayn Rand's The Atlas with the anarchist views of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It reminded me of some things to clarify in what I posted last night. That I am more in sympathy with Tolkien than Rand explains much of my critique of libertarianism. When asked my political views, I normally respond 'classical liberal and subsidiarist; when that's not possible, I'm a monarchist'. "The Return of the King" is a necessity in Middle Earth because of the ravages of Sauron's forces and the lingering dangers unleashed by it. But when peace returns, political decision-making devolves to the lowest possible authority necessary--what I mean by 'subsidiarist', a term borrowed from the Catholic Church's philosophy of government, post-Vatican II.

Returning to the issue of loyalty, then, I believe that our loyalties must start small and be based in loyalty to family and clan, friends, neighborhoods, co-workers and villages, and only through these mediating structures to larger-scale political groupings. Party politics seems to me to be a huge problem. We see that Republicans are pondering throwing overboard their pro-life principles for the 'greater good' of...of...beating the Democrats? What about the loyalty shown by the religious right for the past thirty years?

Faced with the menace of communism, there was plausible reason to rally 'round the cause of national security, meaning allowing for an expansion of a larger-scale political decision-making scheme. I am not at all convinced that terrorism presents the same necessity; if anything Bin Laden, et al, hate not our freedoms, but the looming specter of total state domination to the exclusion of religious principles. I dare say were we more free, they might respect us more, not less. In fact, I don't find that we are all that free politically. If I want to change something in my own Chicago neighborhood, well, I have no real recourse but to try and placate the higher powers of Daley's cabal or maneuver around implacable federal laws. And all this may, and often is, easily defeated by persons willing to participate in the corruption that such large-scale power entails.

Returning to loyalty: why be loyal to one's neighborhood when the prospect of real spoils looms if we forsake the neighborhood and remove ourselves to the abstracted levels of City Hall? Mutatis mutandis, if we go for the real golden goose of federal tax moneys and power? What sort of persons will wind up in national politics we can predict based on this, and these sorts of persons are not normally going to be ones that will elicit my sympathy, much less loyalty.

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