Secular Conservatism, Libertarians, Progressives, and Marriage

 

I take conservatism to be an appreciation and defense of what has been proven to work, and which benefits society and the individual in a balance.

If that seems overly-broad, let me provide an example.  Morality is effective in curbing largely destructive impulses and reactions, therefore morality is worth defending in principle, with some room for debate on many fronts.  Not all morality is the same, and it is not always helpful in the particulars.  But to hold that morality is not a necessary part of society is anti-conservative in my view, as morality is the most tested method for a society to control its own behavior with respect for the society and the individual in balance. 

Libertarianism is a radical extreme that places no value on society as a body, and progressivism is a radical extreme that places no value on the individual.  Conservatism is the compromise position arrived at through experience, and stored in our cultural traditions as the wisdom of the ages.  To a secular conservative, the Bible is one of many instruments to this end.  Just because there is a religious proscription against adultery doesn’t mean that only religious people can defend a belief that adultery is harmful to individuals and society.  Likewise with other religious proscriptions.

Religion is, of course, a large component of the conservative movement, but philosophically it is not a necessary component of a thoroughly conservative position.  Not even for marriage.  I view the partnership between religion and conservatism as a co-development from a common origin.  Shared predicates yield shared conclusions, and therefore common interest.  Where religion ascribes things to God, secular conservatism agrees to the extent that it is destructive of society and the individual for mankind to mess with certain things.  Progressivism on the other hand is the confidence that a small group of people in the present know better than (on the one hand) everybody else across time, and better than (on the Other hand) God in His infinite wisdom.  Secular conservatism and religion get along just fine as defenders of our culture.

I see value in describing much of libertarianism as allied with progressivism, because conservatism is where the middle is, and to pull us off that mark either this way or that is just as destructive.  If a movement seeks to abolish our traditions as proven over time, it is not conservatism.  Progressivism and libertarianism get along just fine as disruptors of our culture.

There is already a philosophical position consistent with conservatism which enshrines human rights and the liberty of the individual: it is called conservatism.

Now, not every tradition is valuable, and a slavish devotion to traditions which are not good is not conservatism; that’s mechanism, on the process level.  Radical opposition to a flawed and failing government is not anti-conservative, but radical opposition to the institutions of our culture, most definitely is.

For example, you could argue that big spending by government is now a tradition and that it is therefore conservative to defend it and radical to oppose it, but this is wrong for a number of reasons.  First, it may be a tradition, but empirically it has not been proven to be a useful one.  Some spending is necessary, some spending is excessive — making judgements is important, and at any rate, even if all projects were equally worthy, the sheer sum of spending which displaces other worthy but non-government projects must be taken into account and weighed for relative merit.  Big spending is anti-conservative because it is destructive.

Second, the dependencies come to play in that objects and policies are not the only subjects to be appreciated and defended.  The decision to spend less is no less valuable than the process by which we arrive at that decision, and its implications.  If we feel that the accumulated wisdom vouchsafed in our culture is probably more valuable as a guide for society (in the aggregate) than the intellect spawned in a few brilliant fellows, then a process which lends itself to operation gently over time by many rather than abruptly, once, by the few is an inherently conservative method of arriving at conclusions.  Big spending is anti-conservative because it operates through an anti-conservative process.

As the free market is operated gently by many, and government spending is operated forcefully by few, any problem not specifically recommended for government remedy is probably better handled outside of government.  So no matter how “traditional” big spending may have become, it is not conservative in itself, and it is not conservative to defend it merely because it is the status quo.

Marriage pre-dates any law.  It simply is, and it is between one man and one woman.  This may sound circular, or like a “no true Scot” defense, but I assert it as a foundational fact.   Marriage is not produced by law any more than our rights are.  Marriage is enshrined and defended by law in our culture, and if the law should fall, marriage would remain, just as our rights do.  The law does not trump marriage.

This should not be too alarming; conservatism is a platform, a set of positions.  Some planks rest upon others and not all must be as heavily pedigreed.  I hold that marriage is a foundational plank in the conservative platform.  I hold that marriage is an emergent cultural defense against various destructive impulses and reactions, including those of jealous males, engineering females, and hostile out-group sentiment.  Good manners are a defense against some offenses which can become lethal, and marriage is a defense against outrage.

Humans are sexual beings (as our grade-schoolers are reminded every minute by government busybodies), and many of our impulses and reactions are not rational in the way we would like, no matter how logical they may be from a chromosome’s point of view.  As manners are typically maintained by society itself, morality is often maintained by religion as a specific example of a philosophy operating in context.

As the male-female pairing is not up for debate in conservatism (I challenge you to convince me that it is not what has been proven to work), so the societal adaptation which defends it is a necessary component of conservatism.  I realize that many “conservatives” disagree with this, but they are mistaken about either their conservatism or their conclusions.

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  1. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Asquared: So, you agree that they want to violate other people’s rights to choose their own values.

     The left? Absolutely! It is their default position on every question, and especially concerning marriage. This is where the mask has truly come off. They do not want equality. They want dominance.

    • #61
  2. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Misthiocracy:

    Libertarianism is a radical extreme that places no value on society as a body…

    “Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.” – Frederic Bastiat

    I agree with this and it is actually a plank in my own conception of conservatism. So I am puzzled by the accusation that I have conflated the two (by way of a third term, “nation” which I assume means ”state” in this context).

     I think the confusion is that you’ve claimed that libertarianism places no value on society. Frederic Bastiat is one of the intellectual founding fathers of libertarianism and throughout his works emphasizes the importance of protecting society from the state.

    • #62
  3. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Majestyk: I’m just saying that whatever the reasons, civil society already contains those elements who will perform that exact service for gays.

    The problem is that the left will use the power of government (the violent enforcement arm of society) to compel all to perform the services. 

    • #63
  4. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Salvatore Padula: I think the confusion is that you’ve claimed that libertarianism places no value on society.

     He made the equation binary, possibly for the sake of simplicity, but I do not pressume to speak to his motive. In that framework the description of libertarianism and progressivism are spot on.

    • #64
  5. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Fred Cole:

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Libertarianism is a radical extreme that places no value on society as a body,

    Can you define “society” for us? Additionally: Who makes up “society”?

    Hmmm, good question. Try this: Society is those people who have instituted a government among themsleves to guard their persons and their culture from invasions and impositions of foreign ways of life. Oh, and borders.

     How is that different from the state?

    • #65
  6. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Majestyk:

    Frank Soto:

    You don’t have a right to another person’s services or approval. Refusal to perform someone’s marriage isn’t harm by any reasonable definition.

    While I agree with you, what is the limiting principle there – what if you refuse on the basis of that person’s race? Does that right of refusal (under the reasonable heading of freedom of association) extend to your Lunch Counter?

     It should (with the possible exception of common carriers).

    • #66
  7. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    The King Prawn:

    Salvatore Padula: It’s about the extent of the obligations society imposes on an individual.

    The realistic difficulty of selecting a different society or polity makes the obligations imposed by society rather absolute, no?

    Without government and its monopoly on the use of force, society has no ability to impose obligations on the individual. It can only persuade the individual that these obligations exist and are in the individual’s best interest.

    • #67
  8. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Asquared:

     

    Why is race any different?

    The problem with Jim Crow laws wasn’t freedom of association, it was that governments enforced laws that objectively did violate people’s individual liberties.

    I have zero problem with a restaurant owner not wanting to serve anybody for any reason. I have a lot of problems with the government telling that restaurant owner that must or must not serve people based on the color of their skin.

     Well, for starters it’s an immutable characteristic.  Homosexuality is different from race in that it is defined by a behavior.

    I think we should be comfortable with drawing that distinction.

    • #68
  9. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Majestyk

    Well, for starters it’s an immutable characteristic. Homosexuality is different from race in that it is defined by a behavior.

    I think we should be comfortable with drawing that distinction.

    For a lot of people, homosexuality is an immutable characteristic.

    • #69
  10. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Fred Cole:

    Come on. Be real. Conservatives want dominance too.


    Can you give me an example?

    Fred Cole:
    You mean like a draft?

     Your personal liberty is not absolute.  During times of extreme national duress it seems entirely justifiable to make people take up arms to defend the nation.

    I need a better example of the sort of “dominance” that conservatives seek.

    • #70
  11. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Fred Cole:

    Majestyk

    Well, for starters it’s an immutable characteristic. Homosexuality is different from race in that it is defined by a behavior.

    I think we should be comfortable with drawing that distinction.

    For a lot of people, homosexuality is an immutable characteristic.

     How so?  Do you have a special Gaydar that tells you who has feelings for what or whom?

    The only way that we would ever know that person is gay is their demonstration of that behavior or their announcement of such.  It’s a thing that is concealed within the mind of the beholder – not a characteristic painted on their very skin.

    • #71
  12. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Misthiocracy: Without government and its monopoly on the use of force, society has no ability to impose obligations on the individual. It can only persuade the individual that these obligations exist and are in the individual’s best interest.

    Technically true, but not very realistic. I suppose one could live entirely off the grid and apart from society. Some hermits fare well, but I doubt if many people would be capable of the lifestyle.  

    • #72
  13. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Majestyk:

     

    Fred Cole: You mean like a draft?

    Your personal liberty is not absolute. During times of extreme national duress it seems entirely justifiable to make people take up arms to defend the nation.

    They’re based on the same principle.  Dr. Walter Williams was drafted as a young man.  He refers to it as “having my labor services confiscated.”

    How is having one’s labor services confiscated during an alleged “extreme national duress” (that “duress” meaning that a war isn’t popular enough to get the number of volunteers the government deems necessary) different from having one’s labor services confiscated to bake a gay couple a cake?

    • #73
  14. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    The King Prawn:

    Salvatore Padula: It’s about the extent of the obligations society imposes on an individual.

    The realistic difficulty of selecting a different society or polity makes the obligations imposed by society rather absolute, no?

     Sure, whatever obligations a society imposes are absolute within that society, but you’re sidestepping the question of exactly what obligations society imposes on the individual. Libertarians take the view that the obligations imposed by society are quite narrowly limited. Conservatives and progressives subscribe to a much broader view of the extent of societal obligations (though they differ as to the nature of those obligations).

    • #74
  15. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    The King Prawn:

    Misthiocracy: Without government and its monopoly on the use of force, society has no ability to impose obligations on the individual. It can only persuade the individual that these obligations exist and are in the individual’s best interest.

    Technically true, but not very realistic. I suppose one could live entirely off the grid and apart from society. Some hermits fare well, but I doubt if many people would be capable of the lifestyle.

    Especially since government does its utmost to deny anybody this choice, by imposing onerous regulations and taxes on all property rather than limiting regulation and taxation to public property.

    • #75
  16. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Salvatore Padula: Libertarians take the view that the obligations imposed by society are quite narrowly limited.

     I hear this often without examples. Can you please provide some?

    • #76
  17. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Misthiocracy:

    The King Prawn:

    Salvatore Padula: It’s about the extent of the obligations society imposes on an individual.

    The realistic difficulty of selecting a different society or polity makes the obligations imposed by society rather absolute, no?

    Without government and its monopoly on the use of force, society has no ability to impose obligations on the individual. It can only persuade the individual that these obligations exist and are in the individual’s best interest.

     That’s a very good point and I’ve been meaning to mention it, but in the context of this discussion it seems as though the conservative side is using the term “society” in a sense very close to that of “state.”

    • #77
  18. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    The King Prawn: And when society becomes abusive to the individual and liberty then what? It’s not like pulling up stakes and leaving the western society is really an option.

     “Society” doesn’t become abusive to individual liberty, individuals or government do. Can you elucidate further on this because I must be missing something.

    • #78
  19. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    The King Prawn:

    Salvatore Padula: Libertarians take the view that the obligations imposed by society are quite narrowly limited.

    I hear this often without examples. Can you please provide some?

     Basically I think an individual’s responsibility to society is not to commit acts of aggression or fraud, and to refrain from creating public nuisances. If you take a broader definition of society as being synonymous with the polity I would add the obligations to follow the law.

    • #79
  20. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Jamie Lockett:

    The King Prawn: And when society becomes abusive to the individual and liberty then what? It’s not like pulling up stakes and leaving the western society is really an option.

    ”Society” doesn’t become abusive to individual liberty, individuals or government do

    Not necessarily true. Even without the government’s monopoly on the use of force, society can use persuasion tactics that many could describe as “abusive”.

    Shunning, shaming, ostracizing, slander, libel, and fraud, for example. These are non-violent persuasion tactics that many nonetheless consider “abusive”.

    • #80
  21. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Salvatore Padula:

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Misthiocracy:

    …..Frederic Bastiat

    I agree with this and it is actually a plank in my own conception of conservatism. So I am puzzled by the accusation that I have conflated the two…..

    I think the confusion is that you’ve claimed that libertarianism places no value on society. Frederic Bastiat is one of the intellectual founding fathers of libertarianism and throughout his works emphasizes the importance of protecting society from the state.

     And that may have been an overriding concern in Bastiat’s France with its political turmoil and recent intimate memory of monarchy where government was largely imposed onto society. That’s still a valid concern today too, but my impression (despite the unfortunate wording in the original post) is that BDB is asserting a libertarian over-emphasis on protecting society from government as if the two were entirely distinct and at odds, as if government were being imposed onto society rather than government in our system being an outgrowth and tool of society and community.

    • #81
  22. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Jamie Lockett: ”Society” doesn’t become abusive to individual liberty, individuals or government do. Can you elucidate further on this because I must be missing something.

     Government does not exist apart from society. It is merely one facet of society. Granted, it is the facet with a monopoly on violence, but it still remains under the broad spectrum of society. Society often uses government to abuse individual rights, but legal sanctions are not the only way individual behaviors are coerced by the collective. It is becoming harder to see in this day and age because everything is being codified in law, but that was not always the case. There are still things that are stupid but not illegal which are refrained from because of social pressure even though the number of them is decreasing because society has (for some asinine reason) determined to elect those who will outlaw everything.

    • #82
  23. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Misthiocracy:

    Jamie Lockett:

    The King Prawn: And when society becomes abusive to the individual and liberty then what? It’s not like pulling up stakes and leaving the western society is really an option.

    ”Society” doesn’t become abusive to individual liberty, individuals or government do

    Not necessarily true. Even without the government’s monopoly on the use of force, society can use persuasion tactics that many could describe as “abusive”.

    Shunning, shaming, ostracizing, slander, libel, and fraud, for example. These are non-violent persuasion tactics that many nonetheless consider “abusive”.

     I’d consider fraud to be a form of theft, and therefore coercive.

    • #83
  24. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Salvatore Padula: Basically I think an individual’s responsibility to society is not to commit acts of aggression or fraud, and to refrain from creating public nuisances. If you take a broader definition of society as being synonymous with the polity I would add the obligations to follow the law.

    But society doesn’t (or at least it hasn’t always) callled the cops at the first sign of acts of aggression, fraud, or nuisance.  

    • #84
  25. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    The King Prawn:

    Government does not exist apart from society. It is merely one facet of society. 

    Can you define “society” for us?
    Additionally: Who makes up “society”?

    • #85
  26. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Fred Cole:

    Misthiocracy:

    Jamie Lockett:

    The King Prawn: And when society becomes abusive to the individual and liberty then what? It’s not like pulling up stakes and leaving the western society is really an option.

    ”Society” doesn’t become abusive to individual liberty, individuals or government do

    Not necessarily true. Even without the government’s monopoly on the use of force, society can use persuasion tactics that many could describe as “abusive”.

    Shunning, shaming, ostracizing, slander, libel, and fraud, for example. These are non-violent persuasion tactics that many nonetheless consider “abusive”.

    I’d consider fraud to be a form of theft, and therefore coercive.

    I never wrote that fraud is not coercive. I wrote that it is non-violent.

    The hypothesis put forward was that without the use of force society cannot be “abusive”.  I put forward that fraud is non-violent and also abusive, therefore proving the hypothesis wrong.

    If you are suggesting that there is a substantive difference between “abusive” and “coercive” then I humbly suggest that you are splitting hairs.

    • #86
  27. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Fred Cole: Can you define “society” for us? Additionally: Who makes up “society”?

     Surely your google works too. Society: an organized group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes.

    (Please forgive the curtness of my remarks today. I’ve had a knot in my tail for days and now have no sleep to aggravate the condition.)

    • #87
  28. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Misthiocracy: Not necessarily true. Even without the government’s monopoly on the use of force, society can use persuasion tactics that many could describe as “abusive”. Shunning, shaming, ostracizing, slander, libel, and fraud, for example. These are non-violent persuasion tactics that many nonetheless consider “abusive”.

    No one has a right to be free from shame or ostracization. Slander, Libel and Fraud are against the law. And in all of these cases it is not “society” that is acting. It is an individual or group of individuals. Don’t like being shunned for wanting to stone gays? Go hang out with the Westboro Baptist Church or Al Queda. (An example only, I’m not acusing anyone here of advocating such a position)

    • #88
  29. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    The King Prawn: Government does not exist apart from society. It is merely one facet of society.

     Government is merely the name we give to things we do together?

    Government is a product of society, it is not part of society. It is a seperate entity we grant special limited powers to in order to protect certain rights.

    • #89
  30. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Jamie Lockett:

    Misthiocracy: Not necessarily true. Even without the government’s monopoly on the use of force, society can use persuasion tactics that many could describe as “abusive”. Shunning, shaming, ostracizing, slander, libel, and fraud, for example. These are non-violent persuasion tactics that many nonetheless consider “abusive”.

    No one has a right to be free from shame or ostracization.

    I agree.

    Slander, Libel and Fraud are against the law.

    Laws are enacted by governments who enforce them via the threat and/or the use of force.

    And in all of these cases it is not “society” that is acting. It is an individual or group of individuals.

    What is “society” if not “a group of individuals”?

    Don’t like being shunned for wanting to stone gays? Go hang out with the Westboro Baptist Church or Al Queda. (An example only, I’m not acusing anyone here of advocating such a position)

    And I’m not arguing otherwise. My argument, put very simply, is that society has at its disposal persuasion tactics which can be classified as “abusive” (or “coercive” if you prefer) that do not require the use of force.

    • #90
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