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.

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I am quoted extensively in Ms. Przybyla’s piece based on responses I made to inquiries she directed to me by email. So that readers can assess for themselves the fairness and integrity of Ms. Przybyla’s reporting, I will here post, in its entirety, the communications between us.
The primordial failing of the UN Declaration’s proponents was that they drank too deeply from the well of postwar optimism. While they were rightly horrified by the brutality of the Second World War, they rebuilt neither with a tragic sense nor with due attentiveness to human limitations. Instead, they rebuilt with comic ambitions.
To be sure, there remains an enormous cultural task to soften the hearts and minds of voters about the dignity of unborn human life and the need to accompany pregnant women in distress. But voters, especially those that consider themselves moderate on abortion, should acknowledge the full implications of the bargain they have struck. 
The war in Ukraine is tragically costly to the Ukrainian nation. And success has not been, and will not be, within easy reach for Kyiv. But there is no reason to think that this defensive war does not satisfy the principles of just war tradition, and, in particular, the complicated principle of reasonable success.
I am not sure a commitment to ideas or “ideologies” as such is at the root of our problem. If anything, public debate today has little patience with ideas, directed instead toward the very motives and character of the people one likes or dislikes.
By using such a broad understanding of disability, and therefore limiting conversation about other social, environmental, or economic factors, the state can both absolve itself of needing to provide real policy solutions and proclaim itself the protector of a victimized class.
Without supposing that politics will (or should) become a philosophy seminar, we can do better than this. And if our candidates wanted to think about how they might make a better impression this evening, or later in the general election campaign, they might consider turning to a small philosophical classic that is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. 
The analogy between individual and political constitutions illustrates the fact that no legal order can be fully encompassed by written instruments, and so it must be elaborated by reference to its underlying historical and philosophic dimensions.
Moore’s book reveals the precarious slope on which life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness rest: there needs to be a firm belief that a better life tomorrow is within our reach. If we lack that belief, the backsliding into mundane conformity and the demand for a government of autocratic direction can easily undo all that the past few centuries have bequeathed us.
All hyperbole aside, the underlying ethic is clear: a leader of men, a representative of our ethical ideals, must dress according to the dignity of his office. Anyone—officeholder, leader, and layman alike—must dress with great dignity when executing actions of moral importance.
The revolutionary priests bear more responsibility for the Church’s present hardship. They did not merely violate canon law; they did so for the sake of revolution. Now the Church is suffering under a dictator that that revolution produced. This should serve as a cautionary tale to would-be revolutionaries of all political stripes. To make revolution is to set in motion unpredictable and destructive forces from which one may not escape.
Surely one way of fending off the Right, a way that does not involve waiting for a charismatic savior, is to reject policies that are destroying American cities. There is not an iota of criticism of such tendencies of the contemporary Left in Brown’s book; yet she would like to assure us that the next leftist charismatic leader will be animated by an ethic of responsibility.
I’ll certainly offer advice—my best account of what seems reasonable in the situation. But it is only advice: everyone who writes needs to make an independent assessment about whether the guidance I offer is sound.
Government may be able to provide material assistance, but it has failed to address the deeper causes of poverty. Worse, it has discouraged the most important defenses against poverty in America—work and marriage.
It is a natural thing for southerners to be drawn to Lee’s memory and to look up in admiration at a statue in his likeness. But the fact remains: such statues say to black Americans, in the voice of the unreconstructed white majority, “We’re back in charge, and don’t you forget it.”
In the past fifteen years, we’ve published articles on the moral, cultural, religious, and political issues of our time, including the most controversial and sensitive; but we have done so in a manner of which we can be proud, respecting the intellect and personhood of our readers, interlocutors, and intellectual contestants.
The silent disappearance of the presidential bioethics council breaks fifty years of tradition. Sadly, this break came at a perilous time for bioethics.
Various trends in American religion and right-wing politics further indicate that as the political influence of Christian nationalism is waxing, that of religious conservatism is waning. This need not be a fixed situation, but it does mean religious conservatives will have ample need of God’s grace as they consider how to avoid moral and spiritual compromise while navigating a particularly treacherous political landscape.
These desires—freedom, virtue, and safety—were the underlying impulses of the libertarian, traditionalist, and national security elements of the “fusionist” conservative movement during the Cold War era. And, it seems to me that when you look at it this way, you will recognize that these yearnings persist on the Right to this day.
This book illuminates the path the modern conservative movement has taken heretofore and therefore will be an important aid to conservatism’s ongoing quest for self-definition.
The liberal tradition is an ongoing conversation in which participants speak in a wide range of accents, reflecting the various “nouns” to which speakers are committed: liberal individualists and liberal communitarians, liberal nationalists and liberal internationalists, liberal believers and liberal skeptics, liberal socialists and—yes—liberal free marketeers.
We do not need more self-conscious crusaders for the nation or even for Western Civilization, but instead more priests, teachers, businessmen, artists, writers, and parents who perform their own activities faithfully, serving—to borrow a phrase from Russell Kirk—as “leaven for the whole lump.”
As 2024 approaches, there will be tremendous temptations to go still further in taking the gloves off in an attempt to prevail by any means necessary. There will be power at stake, but also tremendous profit as the purveyors of opinion seek to build audiences and sell advertisements. But we are not helpless. We can be more fair to each other and thus create the conditions for a more fruitful discourse.
Such a substantial proportion of this book is devoted to textualism, originalism, and traditionalism that it is hard to escape the sense that Sunstein protests too much by repeatedly claiming that his moral-philosophizing “reflective equilibrium” is “the only game in town.” And in truth, he leaves his own preferred approach woefully underdeveloped.

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