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Pillar: Politics & Law

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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The Supreme Court’s Mistaken and Misguided Sex Discrimination Ruling

Justice Gorsuch’s position would either require the elimination of all sex-specific programs and facilities or allow access based on an individual’s subjective identity rather than his or her objective biology. When Gorsuch claims that “transgender status [is] inextricably bound up with sex” because “transgender status” is defined precisely in opposition to sex, he presumes the very sex binary his opinion will help to further erode.

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Was It All for This? The Failure of the Conservative Legal Movement

The bargain has never been explicitly articulated, but religious conservatives know what it is. The bargain is that you go along with the party establishment, you support their policies and priorities—or at least keep your mouth shut about it—and, in return, the establishment will put some judges on the bench who supposedly will protect your constitutional rights to freedom of worship, to freedom of exercise. How has that worked out for us?

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Where (Not) to Begin with the Common Good

The common good is the flourishing of a community qua community. Every community is built around a common end, which is simply that it excel, in justice, as whatever kind of emergently real community it is. The common good is primarily a practical idea, but if our starting point is too practical we are apt to miss the challenge that the common good poses to the modern political imaginary. On the other hand, a starting point that is too metaphysical will fail to engage the real questions of common life.

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On the Unjust Death of George Floyd and Racism in America

The fact is, many in positions of power and influence are oblivious or unaware of the unique challenges disproportionately facing African American communities across this country. We must now acknowledge these challenges and address these disparities that they create. The only way forward is to treat each other with the empathy and respect required of a people who have decided to share a nation—and a future.

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The Problem of Human Rights

For the considerable body of people in the western world who still believe in self-government, and in the preservation of their nations’ traditional moral identities, the overreaching of the contemporary human rights project will perhaps lead them to reconsider natural law, presented in a prudently modest formulation. This is a crucial undertaking to which Pierre Manent’s new book is a worthy contribution.

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Reclaiming Social Justice

The term “social justice” is typically associated with an aggressively progressive political agenda led by a muscular Uncle Sam. But there is an alternative understanding of social justice—one that is especially well-suited to helping the nation address many of today’s most troubling challenges. It’s time for conservatives to explain this approach and articulate an agenda for the future based on it.

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Christopher Caldwell Is Not Here to Give You Hope

In The Age of Entitlement, Christopher Caldwell chronicles our increased willingness to eat our seed corn and inability to propagate the future. But the questions he raises require a treatment other than borrowing the frameworks of progressive theorists and drawing different conclusions that suggest an inescapable logic of racial resentment.

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Bullish on the Common Good?

The common good is the final cause of political association, not least because practical decisions are always decisions about achieving what is good and avoiding what is bad. But invoking the common good under the influence of De Koninck, Maritain, or even Aquinas doesn’t on its own advance the political conversation that characterizes a healthy polity.

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Is It Ethically Defensible for the Church to Suspend Public Masses?

One can certainly debate the scientific warrant of a quarantine, its effectiveness in a given region or country, its proportionate value in the face of its economic consequences, and its psychological effects on citizens. Still, in principle, the state may legitimately request Catholic Christians to undertake such a quarantine, in accord with the natural law. There is nothing illegitimate about such a request, if it falls within certain parameters of temporary and just use, nor is it historically unprecedented.

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Information Can Do What Lockdowns Can’t

In the effort to combat COVID-19, making the public aware about the truth of the pandemic has been more effective than government lockdowns. China’s suppression of information, the WHO’s dilly-dallying with declaring a pandemic, and President Trump’s refusal to take COVID seriously enough from an early date all cost lives. Once Americans understood the gravity of the problem, they began social distancing on their own, before government-mandated lockdowns began. That has been the most effective measure in controlling the virus’s spread.

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Lockdowns Don’t Work

Many policies provide public-health benefits in pandemics, such as making facemasks mandatory, cancelling school, and banning large assemblies and long-distance travel. But ordering people to cower in their homes, harassing people for having playdates in the park, and ordering small businesses to close regardless of their hygienic procedures has no demonstrated effectiveness.

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A Tale of Two Nations? Populism, Plutocrats, and the Managerial State

Michael Lind’s The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite addresses the growing gap between the successful and those left behind in the United States and in other developed Western societies. Contemporary “demagogic populism,” he argues, is a symptom of the disease of technocratic, neoliberal elitism, the cure for which is a return to democratic pluralism.

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Progress Revisited

Bradley C. S. Watson’s new book Progressivism: The Strange History of a Radical Idea points scholars in new and productive directions regarding the political thought of the Progressive Era. Watson writes with vigor and verve, making the book of great appeal to anyone trying to take the true measure of the legacy of Progressive political thought in American history.

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Conservative Liberalism, Liberal Despotism: Part 2

Liberal doctrines necessarily require disenfranchising and punishing those who hold rival beliefs. Liberal ideology is jealous, and will have no other gods before it. American conservatives should reject this revolutionary liberalism and the attempts to make it the central principle of our national heritage. We need not deny that liberal ideas influenced the Founding, but we ought to follow our forefathers in tempering them.

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Conservative Liberalism, Liberal Despotism: Part 1

An oddity about our current debates over liberalism and America is that both sides view the American Founding, and thus America, as fundamentally influenced by classical liberal ideology. They only disagree over whether classical liberalism is good or bad. But the historical record shows that liberal ideology was one influence among many, not that it was the definitive one.

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