Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ron Chusid: Let's Talk Classical Liberal Values

by Smitty

Ron Chusid at Liberal Values, "Defending Liberty and Enlightened Thought", condescended to notice the 21Mar09 FMJRA post, wherein this blog appended three words to LV's description of the Democratic Party to read:
People with a wide variety of beliefs who oppose the authoritarianism and incompetence of recent Republican rule, opting for worse.

LV notes: This phrasing does seem to sound like an acceptance of the description of Republicans.
In today's FMJRA post, this blog briefly drew a distinction between RINOs and CPAC attendees. People who consider themselves conservative very often have little trouble criticizing recent Republican rule. It sucked much pondwater in many important ways. Whoopee.
Then LV gets into the heart of an interesting discussion of values as such:
Many conservatives show their lack of understanding of both politics and morality (or values) as they believe that only they have values. In the case of conservatives such as Robert Stacy McCain, holding values comes down to following what they believe is the word of God as I discussed here. Only such conservatives would fail to recognize these liberal values as values (regardless of whether they agree with them):
Couldn't agree less with the choice of the word "many". I might give you "some", but really think it's closer to "darn few".
  1. In the first place, many conservatives of the more geeky bent will quickly acknowledge the ideas of classical liberalism as foundational. To quote Wikipedia:
    Friedrich Hayek identified two different traditions within classical liberalism: the "British tradition" and the "French tradition". Hayek saw the British philosophers David Hume, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Josiah Tucker, Edmund Burke and William Paley as representative of a tradition that articulated beliefs in empiricism, the common law, and in traditions and institutions which had spontaneously evolved but were imperfectly understood. The French tradition included Rousseau, Condorcet, the Encyclopedists and the Physiocrats. This tradition believed in rationalism and the unlimited powers of reason, and sometimes showed hostility to tradition and religion. Hayek conceded that the national labels did not exactly correspond to those belonging to each tradition: Hayek saw the Frenchmen Montesquieu, Constant and Tocqueville as belonging to the "British tradition" and the British Thomas Hobbes, Godwin, Priestley, Richard Price and Thomas Paine as belonging to the "French tradition". Hayek also rejected the label "laissez faire" as originating from the French tradition and alien to the beliefs of Hume, Smith and Burke.
    The reason conservatives shun the term "liberal" to describe these values is that the term has been hijacked by a pack of crypto-Marxist twits. Which brings us to point two:
  2. In Classic Robert Bork, this blog reviewed a mid-90s essay that discussed two modern liberal values in some detail: radical individualism and radical egalitarianism. These values inform much of the wrongheadedness currently on display. Worth your time.
But let's return to the LV post for a thorough examination of the values that many conservatives are purported to abhor:
  • Support for individual liberty
<sarcasm>Absolutely. Our contempt for the Bill of Rights in general, and the Second Amendment in particular, is legendary. Sharia for me-uh!</sarcasm>
  • Support for a free market economy in which everyone has the opportunity to succeed based upon their own actions
<sarcasm>Indeed. Centralized planning, and state control are historical winners.</sarcasm>
  • Tolerance of others living a life style different from your own
This blog, for example, has a downright libertarian outlook on behavior.
  • Support for a sensible foreign policy which defends the country while respecting principles such as the Geneva Convention and follows international law opposing the use of torture
Who are these endorsers of torture, again?
  • Making health care accessible to all, as is the case in every other industrialized nation
Who is denying you health care? Who is saying that it is reasonably "accessible" elsewhere? My German wife can offer interesting anecdotal counter-evidence. Even if you cheerfully ignore the 10th Amendment and allow the Federal government the chance to sodomizefix health care, the Faustian nature of the bargain is unlikely to please.
  • Taking care of the environment which we all depend upon
<sarcasm>You have me here. Compulsive pyromaniac that I am, I hop in my SUV and drive at high speeds to forests, and burn them. The concept of ecological stewardship is utterly lost on me.</sarcasm>
  • Support for basing political decisions based upon empiric data as opposed to religious belief
<sarcasm>It is our responsibility to set up these straw men for you to topple. Why do you hate our teamwork arrangement?</sarcasm>
  • Respecting the rights of all to worship or not worship as they choose, which can only be guaranteed by respecting the goal of the Founding Fathers to establish a secular government
<sarcasm>You will worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster or else I will continue to repeat myself, unbeliever! FSM: now comes with wiki. Some assembly and a little bit of C coding required, works with GCC, except where it doesn't.</sarcasm>
  • Respect for science as the best way to understand the universe
<sarcasm>I, for one, admire the use of science as a source of propaganda, in particular, the Anthropogenic Global Warming clowns.</sarcasm>
Less sarcastically, my first job out of High School was as a AN/UYK-7 ('yuck 7') technician. Working hard, I earned an appointment to a service academy and pursued and engineering degree. I've also taken and failed some Master's level Biochemistry.
Why do you care?
Listen: fixing broken things, engineering new things, and deriving the scientific underpinnings of things are merely variations on the theme of common sense. Attempting to treat the scientific method as an existential answer to the meaning of life is absurd. Science explains the 'what' of existence; it is impotent at explaining the 'why'. I happen to personally hold the Bible account of creation as received truth, a beautiful and poetic abstract as to 'why'. When we meet the Creator, and have the intellectual capacity to grasp the nuances of How It Was All Done, we're going to discover that the current vast amount of knowledge we possess is but a grain of sand on the divine beach of knowledge. That's no reason to be any less inquisitive, but every reason to remain humble while so doing. I shan't waste your time attempting to argue a strict Creationism, if you'll forgive my amusement at the Theory of the Week Club, with its constant revisions of estimates of literally everything. You don't know; I don't know (at a scientifically provable level) anything more than
Psalm 90:4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
You could argue that the Psalmist contradicts himself in the space of a single sentence, or you could view it as an intellectual get-out-of-jail-free card.
Painting conservatives as disrespectful of science is off base.

Dear Mr. Chusid sir,
Your parade of "many" strawmen looks impressive from a distance. You might find small numbers of actual examples of people adhering to these absurdities, for example a Fred Phelps. I submit though, that the bulk of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy conforming to this silliness you decry exists in the imaginations of some propaganda flaks. Did you attend CPAC, or any of the Tea Party protests? Let me buy you your beverage of choice on 15April at a protest meeting. I usually wear a USS Constitution ballcap, because that's what's on my mind.


  1. Ummnnnhhhh...

    One could hardly combox the detailed analysis, but in essence, "classical Liberalism" is the politics informed by the Catholic faith.

    It combines a high awareness of "community" with property rights; an understanding that there IS such a thing as sin, thus there is NO Utopia available here; and preaches self-restraint (prudence in self- and political governance.)

    It certainly is what Burke based his thoughts on. Also recall that Aquinas made a few tweaks to Aristotle (the obvious ones)--so classical Liberalism is both Athens AND Jerusalem.

  2. RMS, it took a few readings for it to sink in but you are one of best writers of our time. The fact you also "get" the essence of conservatism -- or "classic liberalism" in a personal weak moment -- makes you a very rare gem.

    I put you in the grand company of Iowahawk.

    Why do some of us go looking for a "good" read about the issues facing conservatism and are less inclined to waste time on the squishy "moderate" blogs? Where else can we get this sort of stuff? Rest assured we aren't going to be able to read it in Time. I can get all the wishy-washy or liberal crapola I want by clicking for blogs randomly. This is a point some fail to get and they do so at the risk of their future survival.

    More conservatives need to read you.

  3. @Prairiemain,
    High praise indeed, and certainly appropriate of the blog as a whole, but this particular contribution was a "Smitty" effort.
    Heaven forbid it ever be about me. Just read any three of the books RSM has on offer on the blog. This post is just slightly original variations on a theme.

  4. I wasn't entirely sure who "Smitty" was but I assumed he was not RMS. Smitty writes extremely well, too.
    My remarks were to the blog as a whole and not to a specific post.

    I'm liking Rule 5.

  5. It would help if Chusid actually used, you know, history, to define classical Liberalism instead of whatever handful of values he thinks it ought to have. Not coindicentally, the attributes he chooses also happen to merge with his values exactly. Convenient, that.

    I suggest he start with the birth of Progressivism, which was formed to directly oppose what we know as classical Liberalism in Europe.

    Education, it's not a big word!

  6. "The reason conservatives shun the term "liberal" to describe these values is that the term has been [allowed to be] hijacked by a pack of crypto-Marxist twits."

    It was US conservatives and (classical) liberals who let the term be hijacked. Only in the US does "liberal" mean "leftist". The conservative party in Australia (John Howard's party) is The Liberal Party.

  7. @Brett,
    Excellent point. Eternal vigilance, and all that.

  8. suggest he start with the birth of Progressivism, which was formed to directly oppose what we know as classical Liberalism in Europe

    And has a very nasty history in Wisconsin, where "progressives" (inter alia) suggested castration for 'feeble minded' folks. That's not all that far from the Planned Parenthood model (nor from Hitler's).

    At one point in time, the "progressives" were associated with the Republicans in Wisconsin. That accounts for the predominant-(D) voting up here.

    Oddly, the 'kill-the-inconvenient' folk are now (D).

  9. "Support for basing political decisions based upon empiric data as opposed to religious beliefs"

    In case of health care reform, LV is about as close minded as they come, i.e., just about anyone who doesn't pariot the Democratic party line is NOT welcome to comment on "Liberal Values." Check out the URL in header of this comment.