By now readers who have stuck with me may be wondering exactly where I fall in the liberal-conservative continuum.
Well, if I were the kind of person who can be content to fall on a point in any continuum, I wouldn’t have leapt off the Protestant-Catholic seesaw to join the exotic and fairly inconvenient Orthodox Church.
Let’s talk about conservatism, which draws its values from the common man, and its relationship to the uncommon man – to the man with the crown on his head.
First of all, as I noted in the previous two discussions, conservatism means “holding the values that are so basic to human nature you don’t need to be especially sophisticated to get them.” When you are a conservative, you value what you value because it works so well with human nature, and the healthier you are as a human the more you see that, because the more you experience it. You don’t need to be argued or educated into it – although every human being requires cultivation because every human is communional in nature.
In this way, you experience a natural alignment with the concerns of the common man, even if you yourself are highly cultivated, educated, and unusually well-constituted so as to avoid the common foibles of the ordinary conservative.
All this puts American conservatives and liberals in a funny position. Democrats are ostensibly aligned with the common man and his rights, but as liberals are themselves sophisticated people who detest the values of the common man and want to separate him from them.
Where does this leave conservatives? In America, conservatives are mostly Republicans. Republicans are ostensibly aligned against the rights of crowned heads, and with the rights of the nation to organize its government based on the individual merits of candidates rather than on their birthrights and heritages. In the absence of any crowned heads to rebel against, Republicanism has become the stomping grounds of people who revere merit, which often includes conservative virtues, and individuality, which is a lot more iffy in terms of basic values.
(To sum up, individuality cannot exist without Christian personhood, which is a conservative value since the Christian era. However, individualism is individuality set free from the more basic communionality that humans experienced before Christ. Like liberalism, individualism is an attempt to gain a kind of perfection by going unmoored from the foundation that perfection requires.)
Why, in the U.S.A. are conservatives generally Republicans? I think it’s for a pretty simple reason. To wit, our government was organized as a Republic, and conservatives want to hold on to that while liberals are more interested in keeping up with political fashions.
Conservatives are very interested in stability. They are also interested in general prosperity, which arises from stability and reduces human misery. In fact, most conservatives consider it a moral imperative for the government to encourage general prosperity. If the government fails effectively to do this, then the widespread human misery which results is the fault of the people running that government. Conservatives consider this morally detestable and personally contemptible. Most poignantly they feel this because, since they include in their numbers more “common” people, they feel the misery more keenly.
In short, it is not in the conservative nature to want to overthrow, destroy, push restart buttons on culture, and destabilize things in order to more easily introduce new ideas. When you have to choose between new ideas and alleviating human misery, conservatism chooses the latter – because, as we have noted, that is human nature and conservatism reveres human nature. You have to acquire a lot of sophistication and be subjected to a lot of intellectual bullying before you can really feel that widespread human misery is worth it, if you can just get a chance to force your ideas on people.
But how conservative is republicanism, really? After all, every Republic arose from a revolution, in which a crowned head was deprived of his function and honor, and new assertions of individual claims wrought vast alterations in culture and government.
So really, American conservatives are in nearly as funny a position as American liberals. Here, the usual conservative pushes the claim of conservative values, while bitterly defending a form of government produced by the most violent and revolutionary ideas.
Additionally, American conservatives preach several political doctrines which do require a lot of sophistication to understand, because they are the product of a revolutionary time and revolutionary thought – in other words, of liberal thought.
An example of this would be the doctrine of checks and balances. According to this idea, a good government involves lateral checks of power, in which different branches of government keep one another from gaining too many powers.
(Note that ‘powers’ is plural here. What this means is that the founding fathers envisioned power as something that came in units, to be distributed amongst various parties. They did not seem to envision the endless intensification of those powers, so that what began, for instance, as the right to tax certain articles in order to raise an army later became the right to systematically deprive citizens of a third to a half of their incomes.)
Many conservatives have convinced themselves that this doctrine is self-evident. In fact, it’s the opposite. Through most of history and in most places, men have lived with vertical, rather than lateral, checks and balances. This is easy and commonsense – it is, in a word, hierarchy.
In hierarchy, the fellow at the top can only run top-level things. He can’t interfere in the workings of the next level down. The guy at the bottom has his own little realm in which those above him can’t interfere. He only has to obey those laws which regulate his public behavior (which includes ensuring the peaceability and regularity of his household.) In short, not only the quantity of powers, but the extent of power, is moderated, in a hierarchy, by the levels above and below. The aristocrats limit the power of the king, and the king limits the power of the aristocrats (mutually, but in different ways.) The households limit the power of the mayor, and the mayor limits the power of the householders.
The way this works is that there must be a lot more people in the level below you, because they are in an inherently inferior position to you, for them to truly keep you in check.
This system is called monarchy, because only one person is allowed to be at the top. Any more people at the top would be an insane threat to liberty – it would bode the accumulation of immense and unstoppable power.
You see, the common man realizes that one man can only interfere so much. No king ever laid such a heavy burden on his subjects, and got away with it, as our bureaucracy lays on us. And no king was ever so untouchable as our bureaucracy is.
Jesus preceded him, saying, “What thinkest thou, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? From their own children, or from foreigners?”
Peter said unto Him, “From foreigners.” Jesus said unto him, “Then are the children free.”
In other words, the common man, in all times and places, is a monarchist.
Put another way, the common man wants to be governed by someone like himself. This is his most deeply felt value in regard to government. He does not really care about organization of government, because that is the purview of politicians, whom he usually despises. But he wants to be governed by a king because he feels that his own nature is kingly. He is Man, the king of creation (under the Emperor, let us say, who is God.)
Just as only a god is worthy of his worship, so only a king is worthy of the common man’s loyalty. And he does want to be loyal to someone. It is a passion with him. Unless he is the pioneering sort who wants nothing to do with civilization at all, he wants to be governed by a king because he, himself, wants to be a king in his own home. He wants to be governed by his own king because that king is related to him by a familial relationship, however distant – just as he is related to his own household. No one naturally desires to be governed by strangers – there is no protection in that. He wants to be governed by a king because even if he himself owns nothing and is a slave to another person, he feels the inalienable presence of a kingdom within his own soul, to which God has given him the crown.
People of dignity do not need to be sophisticated. They only need to govern themselves – both their internal kingdoms and their external affairs.
Wonderfully, it appears that democracy is actually compatible with monarchy. Only in a monarchy, in which the king rules the kingdom but has no place dictating the workings of an individual city or home, can the common man really rule himself and his own affairs.
Since it follows, then, that the common man is a monarchist, it also follows that there are no true conservatives in the United States of America. Everyone here is either a liberal, or a conservative-liberal hybrid.
That, and that alone, is the reason why our nation goes in an unstoppable liberal decline from which we experience only momentary arrests (as we are experiencing now.)
I am a Conservative. Democratic. Monarchist.
My true beliefs will never be on the ballot here. But once in a while a man sits on a seat in the Oval Office and he sits on it like a throne.
Suck it, you lot.