Genuine postmodernism—a real reflection on the failure of the modern project—would be a recovery of the idea that the lives of free and rational beings are really directed by purposes given us by nature and God.
Pillar: Politics & Law
The third pillar of a decent society is a just system of politics and law. Such a government does not bind all persons, families, institutions of civil society, and actors in the marketplace to itself as subservient features of an all-pervading authority. Instead, it honors and protects the inherent equal dignity of all persons, safeguards the family as the primary school of virtue, and seeks justice through the rule of law.
Solzhenitsyn’s 1968 book Cancer Ward presented a metaphor of the state as a physician to capture what was happening in the Soviet Union. But the book can also help us examine American society in the Age of COVID.
Adrian Vermeule’s new book, an attempt to rescue American constitutional law by recurring to the “classical legal tradition,” is undone by the author’s unreasonable attack on originalism and his inattention to the Constitution and its history.
In a highly accessible and timely new book, Matthew Rose reflects on the criticisms of liberalism of five key thinkers on the “radical right.” He argues carefully and convincingly that, while often morally objectionable and politically utopian, their insights into the failures of liberalism need to be reckoned with by those who wish to preserve the global liberal order.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, some judicial conservatives have eschewed the virtue of constraint in favor of an ahistorical and excessively libertarian notion of the free exercise of religion. To achieve the correct balance between liberty and order, and to prevent activist judges granting religious exemptions in areas outside of their expertise, conservatives should return to a more realistic view of the limited role of the courts in the regulation of religious practices.
These days, major debates on the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives are exceedingly rare. For members of Congress to behave as proper legislators, the institution as a whole should be reformed. Members must strike a new bargain with leadership in both chambers that gives them the space to debate and legislate. We should expect more of Congress, and members of Congress should expect more of each other.
Based on Russia’s advantages in soldiers, tanks, and aircraft, Putin’s forces should have taken Kyiv, decapitated the Ukrainian government, and installed a pro-Russian regime in just a few days. But numbers aren’t everything. If they had paid closer attention to Russia’s greatest novel, War and Peace, Putin’s strategists might have been less surprised.
Andrew Doyle offers a splendid contribution to the ongoing debate over free speech, with a constructive approach that might surprise those familiar only with his Twitter alter ego. Though brief in length and focused on free speech in the West, the book is replete with thoughtful insights and relevant stories that provide the basis for his powerful advocacy of free expression.
Human flourishing requires both public health and individual liberty and an appropriate balance between these goods when they conflict. We know that human beings flourish in community; we are social by nature. As such, we should not be surprised that government Covid-19 regulations mandating school closures, lockdowns, masking, and vaccination have isolated us from our fellow citizens and imposed significant attendant harms. It is time to declare this emergency over and once again let people take responsibility for themselves.
A proper reading of the just war theory’s criteria clearly shows that Ukraine’s defensive war against Russia is just. Ukrainian armed forces and citizens have the right, and even the duty, to defend themselves in order to maintain their political independence and territorial integrity.
The question is not whether diversity is desirable or undesirable. Most of us can appreciate that there is value in diversity. The real question concerns what price we are willing to pay for it.
Russia is no “Christian powerhouse.” That narrative is little more than an easily falsifiable propaganda campaign by its kleptocratic governing class. Russia struggles not only to preserve its ancient faith tradition—in spite of significant government expenditures to the Orthodox Church—but also to protect and preserve its families in the face of substance abuse, domestic violence, and unmitigated cronyism.
For the nineteenth-century Italian Jesuit Luigi Taparelli, social justice is not about redistributive justice by government fiat. Nor is it linked to some idea of absolute social or economic equality, as in progressive parlance. Instead, social justice according to Taparelli must be grounded in the principle of subsidiarity and linked to a theological understanding of economics.
The law must stand above the powerful, and we should worry when the law is suspended or disregarded. But where is the law to be found? Most of the law consists of important fictions which live in the minds of lawyers. But what makes the fiction plausible? And how is the law’s benefit to be assessed unless we measure it against fixed, non-conventional, non-fictional standards of justice?
Veronica Roberts Ogle’s 2020 book, Politics and the Earthly City in Augustine’s City of God, shows that Augustine’s critique of the earthly takes place within a broader sacramental vision. He aims at purging amor sui and orienting it toward amor Dei, cleansing our souls of the lust for securitas. Politics can only be improved by personal responses to grace—which no political institution can hope to generate. Improvement of political spaces must occur beyond politics.
In the first part of this essay, I showed how the CCP persecutes individuals, and discussed the CCP’s structural control of the government and the nation. In this second part, I will compare the U.S. democratic system with the CCP regime to more clearly demonstrate how one-party rule results in authoritarianism.
The CCP regularly employs violent tactics to persecute and silence its opponents and operates with impunity as a shadow power. China’s political structures enable it to maintain monolithic control of the nation. By discussing my own experience under the CCP and shedding light on its opaque structures, I hope to show that comparing the CCP’s authoritarian regime with democratic governance is like comparing barbarism with civilization: there is no comparison.
Democracy Rules (2021) is Jan-Werner Müller’s attempt to explain populist authoritarianism, while at the same time setting out what he believes are the true pillars of liberal democracy. But he does so, understanding that democracy always operates under the handicap of uncertainty.
Today’s progressive nationalism is secular, yet it also relies on popular adherence to the civil religion of the left. There are two prominent manifestations of this civil religion—critical race theory’s (CRT) philosophy of history and the LGBTQ movement’s anthropology. We see evidence of this secularized-yet-religious nationalism in many places—media, bureaucracy, Hollywood—but perhaps it is most readily apparent in education.
Allen C. Guelzo has written a perceptive character study (and military evaluation) of Robert E. Lee that is alert to the many contradictions that seem to pepper his life. What emerges is a portrait not unlike the one peering off the dust jacket: thoughtful and appealing, yet facing two directions at once.
Conservatives may hope that liberalism’s better angels prevail. But the ravages of ideological liberalism, especially the damage done by the sexual revolution to family and community, require active redress. Conservatives, drawing on the wisdom and traditions we have sustained (and which have sustained us), must help our culture relearn essential parts of being human.
Did Lincoln regard the Constitution as “broken” and therefore in need of replacement? Or did he believe that the Declaration of Independence represented America’s aspiration to end slavery, and infused the Constitution with this same aspiration?
We are increasingly becoming afflicted by the who/whom logic of Lenin. For Lenin, when it comes to political aggression, what matters is who performs the action and upon whom it is performed. But, in reality, the whom you attack is a who in reality. Just as you are a self, so too are they a self.
Where there is a mutual commitment to truth and truth-seeking, relationships can be built between religious believers and secularists, and they can indeed reason together. The minimum condition is this: interlocutors, however wide and deep their substantive philosophical or other differences, need to share the conviction that business between them is to be conducted in the proper currency of intellectual discourse—namely, reasons, evidence, and arguments.
“Much American (and British) media depiction of faith—sadly, but perhaps inevitably – tends to be primary colored, inadequately nuanced, and at odds with what I have found to be the case from my fifty years’ engagement with the United States.” An interview with the British historian of America, Richard Carwardine.