This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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2.2. Liberalism and Liberty Worship

General remarks

Under this heading we intend to discuss liberty as a political ideal and not as a human reality. We have in mind the type of liberty exemplified by Enlightenment Liberalism, and the same which Pope Leo XIII was addressing when he said,

But many there are who follow in the footsteps of Lucifer, and adopt as their own his rebellious cry, ‘I will not serve’; and consequently substitute for true liberty what is sheer and most foolish license. Such, for instance, are the men belonging to that widely spread and powerful organization, who, usurping the name of liberty, style themselves Liberals.[1]

The distinction is important because what passes for ‘political liberty’ is mostly an illusion, while Pope Leo’s ‘true liberty’—liberty as a social or spiritual reality—is something quite different. The latter must be addressed in terms of self-knowledge, which we will deal with in a separate section. What, then, of the ideal of modern political liberty?

[1] Pope Leo XIII, Libertas.

A problem of definition

Regarding Liberalism, the first problem that confronts us regarding Liberalism is one of definition. Depending on where we are and to whom we are speaking, we will find that people attach different meanings to the term. Unfortunately, these meanings are often not entirely coherent, and they rarely take into consideration the historical development of the Liberal philosophical tradition, which is to say that the term ‘Liberal’ is too often applied in an entirely conventional way. When used in this manner, Liberalism typically means whatever the speaker or group wants it to mean, regardless of how confused or inappropriate this may be with respect to the historical meaning.

To explain, let us quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica’s entry on “Liberalism”:

In the United States, Liberalism is associated with the welfare-state policies of the New Deal program of the Democratic administration of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, whereas in Europe it is more commonly associated with a commitment to limited government and laissez-faire economic policies.[1]

What we see here is that the Atlantic Ocean has somehow divided the philosophy of Liberalism into two philosophies superficially opposing each other. Obviously this will not do for any precise discussion of our situation or the Liberal ideas that have formed it; and so, before we continue, we need to ask which of these understandings is correct, if either: the European or the American. To do this we need to go back to the origins of the Liberal creed.

As we have said, Liberalism as a philosophical tradition begins at the Enlightenment, and more specifically with a philosopher named John Locke (1632-1704), who has been called the father of Liberalism. The central principles of this school were, originally: individualism, democratic elections, free markets, insistence on free speech and various other civil rights, popular sovereignty, separation between church and state, and a high emphasis on equality and liberty.

In American politics, these values are presently divided out between both parties, whether ‘conservative’ or avowedly ‘Liberal’. Both parties insist on individualism, free speech, liberty, popular sovereignty, and democracy.  Each of them has a proprietary list of ‘rights’, which they believe to be owed to them by their fellows and by the government.

In this way they share Liberalism in the same way that King Solomon attempted to share the contested infant, which is to say, piecemeal. Overall, they agree on fundamentals, but they each interpret the fundamentals with their own (sometimes drastically varied) nuance. For example, the are both highly individualistic in emphasis, but the Right (the ‘conservatives’) emphasizes primarily an economic sort of individualism, and so market autonomy becomes their pet project, usually under the aegis of Capitalism. The Left (adopting the ‘Liberal’ label) emphasizes a more domestic sort of moral individualism, and so gay marriage, abortion, and secularism become their predominating values. Both parties are, at heart, thoroughgoing Liberals, but they differ on the area of application and the extent to which they are willing to remain consistent.

To return to the story of Solomon and the infant, we can say that in any case, much is lost. The Right is willing to sacrifice all values to their belief in the market, which is to say to Capitalism, since, after all, Capitalism is nothing but economic Liberalism. Yet they contradict themselves by their efforts to promote religion in the public sphere and by denying the sexual autonomy of certain individuals. In these latter cases, they betray their Liberalism and become hypocrites.

The Left, on the other hand, is willing to sacrifice all values to their belief in personal autonomy at the expense all traditional or religious norms, and here they are truly Liberal; but much like the Right, they also contradict themselves when they fight to protect the poor and the natural environment, because a coherent Liberalism has no room for such a liberty-limiting regulations. There is no common good in Lockean Liberalism.

In sum, when we speak of Liberalism in this study, we must step outside of the arbitrary usage that predominates in American speech, which is internally incoherent. From a historical standpoint, to use the term in this way is to render is completely meaningless. When we refer to Liberalism, then, we must be understood as referring to the continuous and wide-ranging tradition of Enlightenment thought, a tradition which has gone to form the political and social consensus of the modern world, for there is no developed nation that is not a child of this original Liberalism. It informs and dictates the positions and goals of both the American Right and the American Left. If the former seems by its rhetoric to despise it, we must simply remember Davila’s observation: “Today’s conservatives are nothing more than Liberals who have been ill-treated by democracy.”[2]

Odd as this all may seem, Oswald Spengler explained how this style of Liberal-conservatism comes about:

there arises the defensive figure of the Conservative party, copied from the Liberal, dominated completely by the latter’s forms, bourgeois-ized without being bourgeois, and obliged to fight with rules and methods that Liberalism has laid down. It has the choice of handling these means better than its adversary or of perishing.[3]

The Right calls itself conservative, but its conservatism is only a matter of temperament and not of philosophy. Its adherents are simply Liberals who prefer inertia.

[1] Encyclopedia Britannica, “Liberalism,” Girvetz, Harry K.

[2] Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Scholia to an Implicit Text, aphorism 1208. [Please note that there are two versions of Davila’s aphorisms. In this instance I have cited the 2001, Spanish edition, which contains numbered aphorisms. I will also cite from a 2013 English-Spanish “bilingual” edition which has the same title but different content and does not have numbered aphorisms. For the latter edition, page numbers will be referenced.]

[3] Spengler, op. cit., p. 450.

The discovery of the self

When approaching our difficult subject, which is the modern fixation on political liberty, it is useful to identify certain causes and how they might contribute to our present way of thinking. When we do this, the first thing we notice is that we are inescapably self-centered beings. As Colin Morris put it:

The student of the Greek Fathers or of Hellenistic philosophy is likely to be made painfully aware of the difference between their starting-point and ours. Our difficulty in understanding them is largely due to the fact that they had no equivalent to our concept of ‘person,’ while their vocabulary was rich in words which express community of being…Whereas Aristotle began from the polis, the city which to him was the natural unit of society, the ‘classical’ Western political philosophers (among whom one must count Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau) assumed that the individual person and his rights pre-existed any form of society.[1]

Of course, man has always been taught by world religions that he has a tendency toward egoism, from Buddhism to Christianity, but at the same time man did not completely sever himself from his fellow, dead or alive, thanks to the supra-individual emphasis of traditional cultures. We can even say that traditionally men were more naturally aware of their super-nature, hence the respect for ancestors and those already in the next life, a ‘superstition’ foreign to the modern mentality.[2] We differ in that it is no longer possible to make such an assumption: our self-centeredness is almost complete. Nothing that exceeds the individual level has any reality for us. Because the growth of this new, more comprehensive self-centeredness immediately preceded the birth of Liberalism, and in a way prepared the cultural soil for its establishment, it is useful to pause on it before tackling Liberalism specifically.

Roughly speaking, the process in question—the ‘discovery of the self’—has its origins in the European Middle Ages, specifically the 11th and 12th centuries. It was expressed in every area of life, not only in politics, but also in art and literature as well.

Take, for example, the fact that our modern literature is always based on the individual and his relationships, whereas the Greek forms seem to care very little for these aspects of narrative. As Morris explains in his excellent work, The Discovery of the Individual: “Greek tragedy was a drama of circumstance, whereas the Western tragedy is essentially a drama of character.”[3]

Compare the style and development of the plot in Oedipus with that of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello. In the latter we hear constantly of inner and relational turmoil; in the former, the concern is mainly with destiny and cosmic irony. The ancient themes were universal rather than personal.

During the same period, we see the rise of autobiography.[4] We see also, in the church, new developments in the practice of confession. Until the 11th century we did not see the emphasis on self-examination and sincere contrition that would come to predominate during that period. Confession had been a more external and public sacrament. During the Middle Ages, it was to transform from a public exercise to a more private and internal affair, which is to say, its focus migrated from the collective aspects of sin to the individual. This transition can be clearly marked by observing the attacks of Peter Abelard on the system of public confession. He does not complain that the practice was too severe or embarrassing to the penitent, as we might imagine, but that it was not deep enough, it was too ceremonial and neglected the sincerity of the individual in his remorse. Intimately connected to this development, we see the first interests in what would become the field of psychology.

So thoroughgoing was this transition that a theological giant such as Abelard could title one of his most original works: Ethics: or, Know Thyself (1135). The title reflects the transforming emphasis on the self, and it inevitably led its author to try and make intention the foundation of morality. For Abelard, and for many after him, it was a man’s intent that mattered when it came to moral culpability, even going so far as to suggest that the men who crucified Christ were not sinning, since they believed that what they were doing was just, even though, were this true, it would render Christ’s words at that moment pointless: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” has no meaning if their ignorance in itself absolves them.

In this way, man’s perception of life was slouching toward the subjective. In fact, it was not until Pope St. John Paul II condemned this sort of morality, labeling it ‘consequentialism’ in the 1993 document Veritatis Splendor, that the Church officially and decisively rejected intention as the sole criterion of moral culpability.

This is not to say that the Church of the Middle Ages followed Abelard on this point. We only mention his error because it manifests the tendency we are studying; his ideas were in fact opposed in his own time. For it was at this point in history that the tide of the self crashed against the philosophical mountain that was St. Thomas Aquinas.

The philosophical weaponry that Aquinas contributed to the West may never be appreciated in its magnitude, even considering its weaknesses.[5] By synthesizing Aristotle’s objectivity with Christian subjectivity, he successfully fused and harmonized what at that moment threatened to dismantle Christian philosophy altogether. His fusion enabled man to be both subject and object, in the proper relationships and at the proper time, to be vincibly or invincibly ignorant of acts which were right or wrong. He reconciled Abelard’s insistence that intention counts with the objective nature of good and evil. In St. Thomas we find man and Man, we find the individual both as person and as member of a human community. Finally, he showed us through his development of law—eternal, natural, and human—how man could be both material and spiritual, natural and supernatural.

For all this, it was still a highly rationalistic approach, and in the end the Thomistic synthesis decomposed back into its constituent elements and became a dichotomy: man is either individual or collective, animal or angel. When Thomism fell, the possibility of a ‘religious life’ separate from ‘ordinary life’, a harbinger of materialism, first became possible in the minds of political philosophers, and with this conception was born the possibility of a secular state—the first seeds of the ‘wall of separation’, a wall which even contemporary Catholic authors attempt to straddle.

Let us now step back to observe the long-term results of the process in its two extremes, which can be identified as egoism (man’s personal aspect) and nationalism (man’s collective aspect):

On a personal level, the victory of the self has led to acute self-consciousness of a negative sort. In the words of John Updike, writing of Franz Kafka, who exemplified this condition through his writing and life:

The century…has been marked by the idea of ‘modernism’—a self-consciousness new among centuries, a consciousness of being new…a sensation of anxiety and shame whose center cannot be located and therefore cannot be placated; a sense of an infinite difficulty within things, impeding every step; a sensitivity acute beyond usefulness, as if the nervous system, flayed of its old hide of social usage and religious belief, must record every touch as pain.[6]

The experience of life as a social affair had its comforts. If a man lived in a healthy community that acknowledged its bonds, then he was never existentially alone. Even in his religious life, his sin was in part a social sin—he was fallen but the world was fallen with him—and his relationship with Christ was not a 1-to-1 exchange but an intermingling of cosmic degrees in such a way that the individual disappeared and the two were “one body.”

With the onset of selfhood, this supra-individual (and thus properly ‘social’) perception of reality could not persist. Today, the best the Christian can hope for is the “personal savior.” He takes the full weight of life on himself, stripping himself of the insulation that a co-experience of life could have offered, and he suffers for it.

In the opposite extreme, this cocooning led to the envelopment of the collective aspect of man’s psyche. Whatever remained of his social awareness became prone to an insecure self-consciousness. Once this happened, a new hypersensitivity of one’s separateness was made manifest in what, on the political level, would become nationalism.

As the formation of the national self proceeded, the unity of Christendom fractured and gave way to ‘nation-states’, each attempting to satisfy a pandemic lust for self-consciousness in the collective sphere, a need that previous societies had apparently never felt. Just as the self-conscious man becomes automatically insecure, and therefore combative in the presence of his peers, so the self-conscious nation becomes suspicious of everyone around it. In this way, the seeds of alienation and strife were planted in the soil of the West. They had only to germinate and flourish.

[1] Colin Morris, The Discovery of the Individual: 1050-1200 (New York: Harper, 1972), pp. 2-3.

[2] This is why Paul could speak so easily of a “cloud of witnesses” while contemporary Protestantism has absolutely no idea what to do with this notion.

[3] Morris, op. cit., p. 4.

[4] There were older works, such as Augustine’s Confessions, which are undoubtedly ‘autobiographical’, but they are exceptions that prove the rule, and the form of the autobiography did not become ‘popular’ until the modern era.

[5] We will at various points in this manual explain problems of Thomistic thought, not to diminish its value but to put it in perspective and avoid the problematic tendency of some Catholics to grant it a virtual monopoly on Catholic theological expression.

[6] John Updike, Foreword to Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories (New York: Schocken Books, 1971), ix.

Secularism and the invention of religion

Without anticipating what we will have to say in a later section devoted exclusively to the relationship between Church and State, we cannot avoid mentioning that subject here because it is central to Liberal theory. Here we will cite Cortés:

As regards the Liberal school, I will merely say of it, that in its profound ignorance it despises theology, and not because it is not theological in its way, but because, though it is, it does not know it. This school has not yet comprehended, and probably will never comprehend, the close link that unites divine and human things, the great relationship which political things have with social and religious questions, and the dependence which all problems relative to government have on those others which refer to God, the Supreme Legislator of all human associations.[1]

As the natural-supernatural dichotomy became prevalent, so also did the notion that religious life could be separated from so-called “ordinary life.” As difficult as it is for us to understand, being educated from the cradle in the mold of Liberalism, the concept of religion as we understand it had at a certain point to be invented.

In previous ages, there was simply life, and life had its intermingling degrees including a mundane material aspect as well as a transcendent or spiritual aspect. The religious dimension was mysterious but omnipresent and it has experiential weight. It was not some superadded belief of which a person became convinced, a kind of philosophical afterthought, but was a premise that ran through everything else as the superstructure of reality: all questions were in some way religious questions. If you followed any line of thought far enough, it terminated in the divine. There was no purely economic life, for every craft had its own patron saint. There was a theology of work through which every industrious activity from saddle-making to glassblowing could be seen as an expression of the true, and on that basis could be judged as either good or bad, human or inhuman.

Liberalism, having attempted to rationalize and naturalize itself, severed this tie and from that moment on the sacred became excluded from all areas of life beyond that which was officially labeled religious, and this religious partition was inevitably very small in proportion to that claimed by ‘ordinary life’, and which fell conveniently under the purview of the secular authorities of the new nation-states.

But as Cortés observed above, the exclusion of the sacred from public life proved impossible even for those who willed it. Rather than accept banishment, the impulse to worship simply migrated to secular arenas and secular objects, and these became the temples and idols of the pseudo-religion of the Liberal state.

It could not happen overnight. The foundations of a new mythology with a new pantheon had to be laid out, replacing Abraham with Thomas Jefferson, St. Paul with Galileo. Then a new set of rigid ideologies were brought forward to catechize the people in this new way of life. Ideologies like democracy, capitalism, socialism, nationalism, etc. Their sacraments are the vote and the pledge of allegiance. These all promoted new ‘doctrines’ with new rituals, new dogmas, and new answers to the perennial problems of life, no less demanding than the old, only less satisfying to the pilgrim.

[1] Juan Donoso Cortés, Essays, 60.

Liberalism and myth

We have mentioned that in addition to the gradual discovery of the self, a new mythology also had to be built up which would more firmly plant Liberalism in the Western soul. This new mythology which would form the unconscious faith of the new order. Yet a distinction is in order. The mythology in question here is not the traditional type, which is alien to the modern man and has no meaning for him. Instead, we are dealing with a ‘wordly myth’, one that has its basis in psychology more than divine revelation. It is the ‘national myth’, myth on the social level. This type of myth was described well by Jacques Ellul:

The myth expresses the deep inclinations of a society. Without it, the masses would not cling to a certain civilization or its process of development and crisis. It is a vigorous impulse, strongly colored, irrational, and charged with all of man’s power to believe. It contains a religious element. In our society the two great fundamental myths on which all other myths rest are Science and History.[1]

Although traditional mythology, which conveys metaphysical truth in a narrative and symbolic form, is only found in the ancient world, we can say that every civilization has a mythology in Ellul’s sense, even, and perhaps especially, our own; we differ from the ancients only in the style of the presentation and the metaphysical level of the meanings conveyed. Traditional cultures, being personalist in outlook, chose gods and demigods, and they provided detailed narratives in order to explain themselves to themselves (for this is the function of the myth). We moderns, however, prefer abstractions, and so we turn to ideas and processes rather than divine beings. As Jacques Ellul remarked, our foundational ideas—our guiding myths—may be reduced to two: Science and History.

Science, because we look to it as the guardian of and guide to the truth, the director of all our endeavors. If something is not scientific, it has no business claiming to be true. This development can be attributed in part to the scientific developments of the 18th century. These, combined with the material progress they enabled, fostered an unprecedented degree of optimism about man and his earthly destiny. Hence, along with a materialistic scientism there came a reversal of the old view of history.

No age before our own looked forward to a Golden Age and backward to a Dark Age. Every people previous to us looked backward to Eden and forward to Apocalypse—the Golden Age was the first, and the Dark Age was the last. In this sense, we represent the reversal of all traditional wisdom regarding historical development.[2] And so, whatever the causes that led to this reversal, we now firmly accept the myths of Science and History, which is to say, Materialism and Progress. But these only form a basis, and in the style of the Greeks, we build many sub-myths on this foundation. Ellul continues:

And based on [the myths of Science and History] are the collective myths that are man’s principal orientations: the myth of Work, the myth of Happiness (which is not the same thing as the presupposition of happiness), the myth of the Nation, the myth of Youth, the myth of the Hero.[3]

The myth of Work is that through which productive work of any kind is an unquestionable good. This should be seen as a natural outgrowth of the primary belief in Materialistic Progress. The myth of the Nation, likewise, is but the materialization of social consciousness. In various ways, each separate myth combines in the self-centered man to become an,

all-encompassing, activating image: a sort of vision of desirable objectives that have lost their material, practical character and have become strongly colored, over-whelming, all-encompassing, and which displace from the conscious all that is not related to it. Such an image pushes man to action precisely because it includes all that he feels is good, just, and true…Eventually the myth takes possession of a man’s mind so completely that his life is consecrated to it.[4]

Ellul does not exaggerate when he says that the modern man is religiously consecrated to his mythology. Secularism is, as we have already said, a new kind of faith. There can only be migrations of the scared—never an elimination of it. And for us the sacred has migrated to these material and ideological myths, and these are further interpreted within the framework of Progress, a view of history that promises future Utopia, if only we keep treading blindly forward, because in a pure materialism more is always better.

[1] Jacques Ellul, Propaganda, p. 40. See also pages 116-117 of the same work.

[2] It is interesting that the Hindu scriptures predict just such a reversal of views as an indicator of the Dark Age.

[3] Jacques Ellul, Propaganda, p. 40. See also pages 116-117 of the same work.

[4] Jacques Ellul, Propaganda, p. 31.

Liberalism and ideology

By the time that all these subtle elements congeal to form a social consciousness, they have settled into a collection of premises—certain patterns of thought—which go to form the preconceptions of the modern man. These prejudices, because they are so deep-seated and because they are shared with everyone around us, take on a guise of false obviousness. We call them ‘common sense’, even though they would have seemed utterly alien and probably absurd to our ancestors.

These prejudices are uniform across a given society, which is a necessary result of the atomization that follows individualism. The atomized man becomes at the same time simpler in his thought and more open to suggestion. Today everyone in modern society takes it for granted that he thinks for himself, while nonetheless and without noticing it, he always thinks exactly like the man next to him, even if he is vehemently arguing with him over some political talking point. It seems, in fact, that these talking points are provided to a mentally homogenous people to allow them to disagree about things while never diverging from the implicit script.

Modern man is an island, in a historical sense. Every society born of revolution is an island, and it is an island that floats, like a thin film, on the surface of history. Such people are always moving, disconnected from all that came before them, unable to put down the roots necessary to pass something on to those who will come after. Every generation has the sense of not belonging, because the island is not in the same place as it was the generate before and so the rules built up by the elders make no sense to the youth. All mechanisms of cultural inheritance are void. Generations are equal only in being left to their own devices.

In this context the average person becomes incapable of appreciating supra-individual institutions, much less the supra-individual forms of knowledge, which is to say he becomes incapable of utilizing Tradition. His tie to the wisdom of the ages is severed, and he must cope with even the most commonplace things of life, from marriage to childrearing to prayer, as if he were the first man on Earth. Tocqueville observed this in America:

Amid the continuous shifts which prevail in the heart of a democratic society, the bond which unites generations to each other becomes slack or breaks down; each person easily loses the trail of ideas coming from his forbears or hardly bothers himself about them…As for the effect which one man’s intelligence can have upon another’s, it is of necessity much curtailed in a country where its citizens, having become almost like each other, scrutinize each other carefully and, perceiving in not a single person in their midst any signs of undeniable greatness or superiority, constantly return to their own rationality as to the most obvious and immediate source of truth. So, it is not merely trust in any particular individual which is destroyed, but also the predilection to take the word of any man at all. Each man thus retreats into himself from where he claims to judge the world.[1]

What a sorry state indeed! And so, in this wretched position, he adopts a new way of dealing with the problems of life: He begins to turn to general ideas. Again, Tocqueville can teach us about the process. He begins by discussing the nature of omniscience, which is perfect knowledge:

God gives no thought at all to human kind in general. He casts a single and separate glance upon all the beings that form the human race, observing in each of them similarities which link him to them and differences which separate him from them. So God has no need for general ideas; that is to say, he never experiences the necessity of grouping a great number of similar objects under one heading so as to think more comfortably.[2]

Man does not have this power. He is profoundly limited in his reach and where his reach was once supplemented by thousands of years of authentic tradition, he must now find a different means of arriving at judgments about the world. To do this he haphazardly gathers a few similarities between events and circumstances as they occur, and on these loose correspondences he formulates general rules which, although not very accurate, serve his purpose and allow him to “get by.” This way of reasoning becomes his habit, and he mistakes for mental progress what is actually a progressive decay of knowledge:

General ideas do not bear witness to the strength of human intelligence but rather to its inadequacy for, in nature, beings are not exactly alike; there are no identical facts, no rules which can be applied loosely and in a similar manner to several objects at the same time. General ideas have the wondrous attribute of allowing the human mind to reach swift judgments on a great number of ideas at the same time. On the other hand, they only ever provide the mind with half-baked notions which lose as much in accuracy as they gain in range.[3]

This collection of ‘half-baked notions’ is called an ideology. An ideology is an assortment of ‘commonsense’ answers to complex problems, forcibly pressed into a contradictory reality. As Davila put it: “Ideologies were invented so that men who do not think can give their opinions.”[4]

Liberalism, clearly, is the arch-ideology of the modern world. Its precepts, each of them bursting with pre-packaged rhetorical justifications, each requiring no study and no actual experience of life, are knowns as equality, freedom, free markets, progress, productivity, growth, universal education, democracy, universal suffrage, patriotism, free speech, etc. This list is obviously not exhaustive, but it hangs together by the fact that each element is distilled from the underlying mythology of the modern era, and where the myth impels man to action, the Liberal ideology channels it into those pursuits that accord with its values. All of these values are accepted and pursued without question and without any real study of the relevant subjects—and most certainly without reference to history.

This leads us to a final observation about the formation of ideology in Liberal regimes, which is that it reinforces man’s inherent mental laziness. By providing him the pre-packaged answers to the mysteries of the universe, it convinces him that he can become wise without the effort traditionally needed to acquire wisdom:

One of the distinctive features of democratic ages is the taste shared by every man for easy success and immediate enjoyment—a trait evident as much in the pursuits of the intellect as in any other. The majority of those who live in times of equality are filled with ambition both vigorous and mild. They wish for immediate success without expending great effort. These contradictory elements lead them to search for general ideas with whose help they congratulate themselves on being able to depict huge objects at little expense and drawing the public’s attention with no effort.[5]

Ideology has, from the beginning, been a characteristic of Liberal democratic societies. Just as gravity is imbedded as a law in our physical reality, so the tendency toward this peculiar flavor of ignorance is imbedded in the mental physics of the modern condition.

[1] Tocqueville, Democracy, p. 494.

[2] Ibid., p. 503.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Dávila, 2001 edition, aphorism 1219.

[5] Tocqueville, Democracy, p. 507.

Lost correlation between right and duty

If we created a timeline to mark out the evolving relationship between rights and duties, we would see that, for ancient man, duties were predominant, with rights only coming into play in a subordinate or derived sense. In many cases we struggle to find any concept of rights whatsoever.

Recognizing the immanence of the divine order, an order which is essentially supra-individual, traditional societies always stressed the obligations (duties) implied by this recognition.

We can also recall what we said above regarding the discovery of the self, and point out that it is very difficult to accentuate rights over duties when you have not yet emphasized the individual to whom the rights supposedly belong. It requires a mentality of individualism, out of touch with the transcendent in order, for the illusion of rights to take conceptual form.

Thus, we find that in the modern world, rights are always ‘individual rights’. This is conspicuous and indicates a certain anti-communitarian frame of mind, since even if we allowed the existence of rights, would it not follow that there are also collective rights, rights belonging to the community, and that these could not be ignored? And yet they are ignored and even denied.

The ancient world, dominated by a sense of the transcendent, was not dominated so much by a search for special ‘prerogatives’ as much as it was interested in acquiring the knowledge of the divine and in conforming to the Divine Will insofar as it was known. This implies a concern for justice first and foremost, since justice is the imprint of the divine will on the structure of things. We see more discussion about the nature of justice in ancient literature and little to none about the individual and his liberties.

Traditional man spoke of obligations owed first to God, and then, by proxy or derivation, to king, community, and neighbor. It is this relationship between rights and duties which St. John XXIII tried to emphasize in the modern context, to no avail:

The natural rights of which We have so far been speaking are inextricably bound up with as many duties, all applying to one and the same person. These rights and duties derive their origin, their sustenance, and their indestructibility from the natural law, which in conferring the one imposes the other…it follows that in human society one man’s natural right gives rise to a corresponding duty in other men; the duty, that is, of recognizing and respecting that right. Every basic human right draws its authoritative force from the natural law, which confers it and attaches to it its respective duty. Hence, to claim one’s rights and ignore one’s duties, or only half fulfill them, is like building a house with one hand and tearing it down with the other.[1]

If the balance was once in favor of duties over rights, we can say that during the phase of the discovery of the self and the rising tide of egoism, this balance was reversed. We will recall how this tide was temporarily stalled by St. Thomas, who, through his synthesis, tried to create a harmonious fusion of right and duty, acknowledging both the outward and inward demands of divine justice. In Thomism there is a hierarchy of the demands of justice, each taking care to acknowledge the various aspects of reality.

On this subject, we must be extremely careful not to read contemporary concepts into medieval philosophy. St. Thomas spoke of right (singular) but his meaning was very far from what people have in mind today when they use the same term. The Thomistic right is “the object of justice”.[2] Such a right is not demanded for oneself but is always “a work that is adjusted to another person.”[3] In short, the rights of Thomism (if it is even legitimate to speak of them in the plural) were social and although they implied an aspect of individuality they were not characteristically individualistic.

Unfortunately, Thomism proved unflattering in comparison to the humanism of the Enlightenment, with its naïve optimism about political systems and its denial of fallen nature. It could not last.

There is also the problem of popular psychology. ‘The man in the street’ is mostly untouched by subtle philosophizing, however precise and true it may be. If a movement captures the popular mind and can influence it sufficiently, it matters little what the Church teaches or what the academics debate. Ideas, over time, trickle down, but only in part and academic terminology in pop culture is more a result of pseudo-adoption and conversion than it is proof of public understanding of some theory.

During the period of the Enlightenment, the average European came to perceive any form of subordination to any authority as a species of injustice, and the old rhetoric about duty and hierarchy became distasteful in comparison to the security and respect promised by the new theory of rights. And so, as the goal of justice fell out of favor, Europe turned away from the old authorities. First, it turned from religious authorities, namely the Church (via the Reformation), and then from the traditional political authorities as a whole (via the Revolutions), and eventually turned away from the concept of objective law altogether, in favor of the ambulatory law of democratic regimes (political and economic Liberalism).

We could say that the history of the concept of right is a story of the revolt against objectivity, for duty is the objective expression of that which the right attempts to achieve from a subjective point of view. When duty fell out of favor and rights rose victorious, it should not have been surprising that this came hand-in-hand with a disdain for all external authorities that claimed to possess objective truth, anyone that dared make claims to universality, any philosophy that promoted awareness of the supra-individual order of things, religion most of all, since religion pursues and promotes the most rigorous objectivity.

The traditional world saw hierarchies everywhere, including within the good itself. There were higher and lower goods, and then there was the Absolute Good, which was God. This is the result of seeing all things in their proper relations. Such a view instills a sense of intentional ordering to reality. To nature, by God, and to society, by man, in imitation of God and in accordance with His precepts.

When hierarchy is denied, what follows is not a levelling (as egalitarian rhetoric would have us believe), but more often a reversal of the proper relationships between things. Thus, when it is pretended that the lower good is not subordinate to the higher, the two do not suddenly become equal, but instead the lower overthrows the higher, and the higher becomes the new subordinate.

It had always been said that man had duties, and it was from these duties that he drew his rights. Aquinas had considered right as a thing oriented outward, which was therefore social and relational, not something claimed for oneself. He would have agreed with Dávila’s saying that a man “has no more right than that which he derives from another’s duty.”[4]

When Liberalism denied the correlation between right and duty, it ended by emphasizing right to the exclusion of duty. This led inevitably to the present situation, where no one can coherently speak of duties at all, for the only duty left is to respect another man’s rights. The argument is circular, and it is a very small circle.

[1] Pacem in Terris, sections 28 and 30.

[2] Summa, II-II, q. 57, a. 1.

[3] Summa, II-II, q. 57, a. 2.

[4] Dávila, 2001 edition, aphorism 2979.

Undermining the concept of right

We should notice now that the reversal in priority between right and duty is closely linked with the rejection of hierarchy in favor of equality. Liberalism’s inherent egalitarianism renders it incapable of treating properly of the right as an expression of justice.

Rights are not a part of human nature, nor are they divinely gifted to man in a pre-packaged list, nor are they some kind of byproduct of ‘all men being created equal’ (whatever that might mean). Rights must always be derived from duties. If this is taken as a starting point, it becomes immediately clear that my particular range of duties is my own and no one else’s. That is to say, one man’s duties are not identical to another’s. Responsibilities vary widely depending on one’s station in life (family, vocation, etc.). This means that a valid concept of ‘right’ can never be universal and that the same set of rights cannot be equally distributed to all without distinction. Liberty, conformed to justice and adjusted to duty, is not homogenous with each and every man sharing the exact same prerogatives in the same way and to the same degree.

This is why we’ve gone to such great length to emphasize the problem of justice in relation to other beings, and within the context of community. Man always exists in communion with other men. The problem with individualistic Liberalism is that it always seems to start with Man as an abstract concept, treated as a completely self-sustaining and autonomous molecule. This Man (who only exists in the imagination) then becomes the subject of political philosophy, and we end up with a political philosophy that could only ever make sense in a void.

Now we can see why traditional civilization was not at all concerned about an egalitarian approach to individual liberty. If in the traditional context men varied in their liberties (in their possession of what we would call ‘rights’), it was as a normal consequence of their varying duties, and it could not have been any other way.

A man with a family would naturally and logically have more rights, or rights of a different kind, than a bachelor, for the simple reason that the two men had very different obligations. Married people always had more rights than unmarried people due to the fact that they were responsibility for the care and education of children. Rights were not possessed by these people due to their status as generic individuals. These were simply the specific prerogatives resulting from the specific obligations these individuals had taken upon themselves. These rights varied not so much because of prejudice or ignorance, but for the plain and obvious reason that vocational obligations can be so diverse as to require widely varying degrees of latitude.

This is why the traditional wisdom abhors Liberal equality: it has nothing to do with tradition disdaining the dignity of the person, but stems from an insistence on realism—an actual taking into account of the demands of circumstance. When the connection between right and duty is destroyed, and rights become the theoretical properties of a theoretically homogenous mass of individuals, there will immediately arise the situation where some men do not have the proper rights to meet their obligations, while at the same time other persons have prerogatives that are not justified by their station. The former are then underprivileged and placed at a social disadvantage, being denied the power to fulfill their obligations, while the latter group (those who have prerogatives they do not need) are overprivileged and placed at a social advantage, since they exercise a disproportionate liberty not adjusted to their circumstances.

Such is the result of the modern abstracted theory of ‘individual rights’, and all of this plays out in a context where, legally, everyone is supposedly ‘equal’. It makes for an excellent demonstration of how generic egalitarianism produces situational injustice and exacerbates inequality.

Returning again to the example of marriage and its so-called ‘benefits’, we can address the demand by same-sex couples to receive those same benefits by assuming the title of marriage for their partnerships. It is obvious from the point of view of natural fertility that any so-called ‘benefits’ bestowed on married couples are in place due to the tendency of such unions to produce children, and all of the obligations that follow. Thus, we can say that ‘marriage benefits’ were designed on the basis of centuries of experience to offset certain disadvantages faced by the procreative family, since they render a necessary service to the community by continuing the existence of mankind. Marital ‘benefits’ are not sentimental rewards offered to two adults ‘because they love each other’, although this is, in fact, what they would become if they were offered to same-sex couples. The legal measures in question do not so much elevate married couples above everyone else as keep them from falling below everyone else. When granted to homosexual couples, they would become gratuitous privileges allowed to relations of completely different order.

Nor is it always a question of unnecessary prerogatives. We have in mind here a related problem, that of divorce, which is promoted under the guise of freedom but amounts to a violation of the duties owed to children, spouses, and to the community at large. Davila’s warning was not vain condescension when he said: “It has become customary to proclaim rights in order to be able to violate duties.”

Liberals seem to have little to contribute to political discourse except to complain of ‘violated rights’, rights for which they never provided any real concrete justification in the first place. Nietzsche himself may have been hitting on man’s best interests when said “never to think of lowering our duties to the rank of duties for everybody; to be unwilling to renounce or to share our responsibilities; to count our prerogatives, and the exercise of them, among our duties.” Davila again agreed, observing that the “tissues of society become cancerous when the duties of some are transformed into the rights of others.”[1]

The refusal to see a right—a specific prerogative—as something separate from and subordinate to one’s duty is a hallmark of the traditional mind; the inability to see anything but the prerogative, absolute and ‘inalienable’, is a hallmark of Liberalism.

[1] Dávila, 2001 edition, aphorism 1190.

Egoism and the loss of political purpose

We’ve already spoken of Abelard’s moral ego-centrism through which the discovery of the self almost became the discovery of the self to the exclusion of all other realities. We also acknowledged that the discovery of the self did not necessarily have to become an exclusively negative development, and that through men like Aquinas it was accepted and transfigured, becoming in Thomism what could be considered the apotheosis of Western philosophy. But through the Enlightenment, and with the downfall of Christendom, the Catholic anthropology was cast aside and with it the Thomist fusion of self and other. Ego-centrism was then released from all constraints. Finally, we acknowledged that this development undermined the relationship between right and duty, emphasizing rights above all else. Of this, Leo Strauss wrote:

“Through the shift of emphasis from natural duties or obligations to natural rights, the individual, the ego, had become the center and origin of the moral world, since man—as distinguished from man’s end—had become that center or origin.”[1]

Here we come to the two fundamentals of the Liberal mentality: egoism (man as the center of reality), and humanism. And the natural consequence of these two ideas is a total loss of teleology (a purposeful orientation toward an end). This is a point that is not adequately acknowledged in many criticisms of modernist and liberal regimes.

When man becomes the origin of morality, the external moral imperative, which traditionally tethered his actions to a standard outside himself and even beyond the created order, giving him an external and objective aim—all of this evaporates into thin air. The contemporary human actor has freedom, yes, but it is like being liberated from one’s natural atmosphere, like being flung into space, or into a desert. You are free! You have become the autonomous source and measure of the good, and you may go whatever direction you like—but you find yourself in empty space, in a desolate vacuum. You can go anywhere, but there is nowhere to go. What damnable freedom, and who would want it?

[1] Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (University of Chicago, 1953), p. 248.

Theoretical liberty permits actual tyranny

Universal suffrage (the extension of the right to vote to all classes) is a very educational subject of study because it illustrates so well the Liberal sleight-of-hand.

By holding out to the people a new privilege—the right to vote—it becomes possible, in the background and without anyone noticing, to put in place a radical new responsibility, one that no peasant population would have so readily accepted…the duty to wage war. This was originally called conscription, but today it is called the draft.

To quote Hippolyte Taine:

As war has followed war, the burden of conscription has grown heavier. Like a slow contagion it has spread from State to State until now the whole of continental Europe is in its grip. There it holds court along with the friend of its youth, its twin brother, that comes always just before or after it—with universal suffrage; both of them brought to birth at about the same time, the one bringing in its train, more or less openly and completely, the other, both of them the blind and terrible guides or masters of the future, the one placing in the hands of every adult person a voting paper, the other putting on his back a soldier’s knapsack. The promise which they hold for the twentieth century of slaughter and bankruptcy, the exacerbation of hatred and suspicion between nations, the wastage of the work of men’s hands, the perversion to base uses of the beneficent discoveries of science, the return to the low and debased shapes of primitive societies on the warpath, the retrograde movement towards a barbarous and instinctual egotism, towards the feelings, manners and morals of ancient cities and savage tribes—all this we know too well![1]

In traditional civilization, the ‘privileges’ of the nobility were linked to the fact that war was their responsibility: they ruled because they fought, and they fought because they ruled. With the rise of democracy, the people were told that they too could rule like the nobility of old. And so flattered were they at the idea of participating in government that they hardly noticed the cost.

Men of today, insofar as they are sufficiently patriotic, go to war when their government calls them, kill whom it calls them to kill, and die in whatever country happens to have warranted their ‘deployment’. But if we are to judge by the words and actions of the common voter in today’s democracy, we would have to say that he is becoming resentful. Perhaps he is beginning to see how he was swindled, perceiving that the promise of ‘self-government’ is yet unfulfilled. He votes, but he still feels powerless. He is assured that he calls the shots, but at every turn he feels commanded by them. They tell him what to do, they demand his taxes, they start wars, they make laws he cannot understand or condone.

It is becoming blatantly clear to the voter that the ballot sheet he is allowed to sign every four years was perhaps not worth the knapsack on his back. He wonders if perhaps the state, in permitting him to vote, came out far better in the deal. He is skeptical that, in the end, his vote even matters. He does not feel very empowered, but he certainly feels the bullet in his belly.

Universal suffrage was a devil’s bargain and has always signaled the establishment of conscription. In the days of kingship, it is true that men could not vote, but neither could they be pressed into any kind of extensive military service. They could be pressed into something resembling a militia, for campaigns lasting thirty days at a time, but this is of an entirely different order than today, when men can be drawn up via lottery, by the millions, from land masses the size of the United States, for years at a time, to fight on the far side of the globe.

I say to a peasant: You may have a hand in governing your fellows and yourself, like the aristocrat, but you must therefore also fight, like the aristocrat. The offer is accepted, but before long, the deception becomes clear. The new peasant-noble is allowed to fight and to die, like the aristocrat of old—but he dies wondering whether or not he ever really got to govern himself, much less anyone else. He fulfilled his end of the bargain, giving himself up to Power: did power ever give any of itself up to him?

All the talk of rights and shared power is rhetoric. The truth is that it is impossible to bestow a right. Only duties can be bestowed on a man, and anyone pretending to offer you a right is probably smuggling a duty in the fine print. In the case of modern regimes, it was conscription, an institution which Jefferson called ‘the last of all oppressions’.[2] But this is how it has always gone, for Liberalism succeeds by flattery.

[1] Hippolyte Taine, The Origins of Contemporary France.

[2] Thomas Jefferson’s phrase when speaking of conscription.

Three forms of Liberalism

We’ve already hinted that Liberalism universalizes itself, encroaching on all areas of life and thought. Thus, it is alarmingly naïve to entertain a view of Liberalism that recognizes it only as a limited set of political ideas. The Liberal movement invaded political philosophy, to be sure, but it reached both above and below that level, disturbing the mind of man not only in the voting booth, but also in the marketplace, at work, and in the church pew. With its withering touch, this new life outlook dictated not only how he would earn his daily bread, but even how he would relate to the sacred.

As Pope Paul VI was to say, “at the very root of philosophical liberalism is an erroneous affirmation of the autonomy of the individual in his activity, his motivation and the exercise of his liberty,”[1] which always carries with it, usually unconsciously, an unprecedented optimism about the mental aptitudes of the individual.

If we pause and survey the last several centuries, do we not find movements within the religious, economic, and political spheres that clearly manifest the same mentality?

Tocqueville thought he saw correspondences between the most significant personalities of the preceding period: “Who cannot see that Luther, Descartes, and Voltaire used the same method and that they differed from each other only in the greater and lesser use they claimed to make of it?”[2]

This “shared method” is Liberalism, and it is evident even in the broad social transformations that took place. We will mention three of these transformations specifically: Protestantism, Capitalism, and, although we’ve driven it home already, the Enlightenment.

The Reformation was nothing more than the liberalization of religion, destroying hierarchy, insisting on equality, showing a naïve optimism about human aptitudes, transferring to the judgment of the individual the weightiest of all tasks—the interpretation of both Scripture and Tradition. In the economic sphere, it is obviously Capitalism that represents an unrestrained embrace of individualism and liberty through the doctrines of sanctioned self-interest and ‘free markets’. And we have just finished describing precepts which, through the Enlightenment, expressed the same symptoms in the political realm: free speech, absolute rights, and secularism.

[1] Pope Paul VI, Octogesima Adveniens, 35.

[2] Tocqueville, op. cit., p. 495.

Reformation: or religious Liberalism

That Liberalism is anti-authoritarian and individualistic we take as obvious. If we understand it to be also an error of reductio ad absurdum, severing branch from vine, then it does not take extensive argument to show that Luther’s three solas unquestionably fit the bill. How else can we interpret sola fide (“faith alone”), sola scriptura (“scripture alone”), and sola gratia (“grace alone”) than as partial selections of a pre-existent whole? The atomized nature of these doctrines is itself implicit in the term, sola. They are the tenets of nothing-but-ness. A partial nihilism, but a nihilism all the same. Add to this doctrinal oversimplification the principle of private interpretation, and the concept of a unifying authority evaporates altogether, taking all hopes of traditional unity along with it.

Here we may benefit from a small work by Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany, published in 1886 under the title El Liberalismo es Pecado, or “Liberalism is a Sin.” This thin volume meticulously refutes the errors associated with religious Liberalism, and it is worth noting that he has in mind not only the Reformation but also the Catholic Church, which was being invaded by the same mentality. Many were seeking to ‘reconcile’ the Church with the modern world, a reconciliation that could not occur without the essence of the former being extinguished:

Liberalism is the dogmatic affirmation of the absolute independence of the individual and of the social reason. Catholicity is the dogma of absolute subjection of the individual and of the social order to the revealed law of God. One doctrine is the exact antithesis of the other.[1]

As for the book itself, in case the bluntness of its title and the relative obscurity of its author give pause to the cautious reader, making him suspicious that these are the ramblings of a radical, unsupported by the Catholic Church itself, we should mention that it was initially intercepted by a Bishop of Liberal persuasion on its way to publication. This bishop submitted it to the Sacred Congregation of the Index, in hopes that the work would be put under ban. The Sacred Congregation reviewed the submission and responded on January 10, 1887 as follows:

…not only is nothing found contrary to sound doctrine, but its author, D. Felix Sarda, merits great praise for his exposition and defense of the sound doctrine therein set forth with solidity, order and lucidity, and without personal offense to anyone.

Thus reassured that the book is truly Catholic, we may cite from its pages and hear what case it brings against Luther’s movement:

Rejecting the principle of authority in religion, [Protestantism] has neither criterion nor definition of faith. On the principle that every individual or sect may interpret the deposit of Revelation according to the dictates of private judgment, it gives birth to endless differences and contradictions. Impelled by the law of its own impotence, through lack of any decisive voice of authority in matters of faith, it is forced to recognize as valid and orthodox any belief that springs from the exercise of private judgment. Therefore does it finally arrive, by force of its own premises, at the conclusion that one creed is as good as another; it then seeks to shelter its inconsistency under the false plea of liberty of conscience. Belief is not imposed by a legitimately and divinely constituted authority, but springs directly and freely from the unrestricted exercise of the individual’s reason or caprice upon the subject matter of Revelation. The individual or sect interprets as it pleases—rejecting or accepting what it chooses. This is popularly called liberty of conscience. Accepting this principle, Infidelity, on the same plea, rejects all Revelation, and Protestantism, which handed over the premise, is powerless to protest against the conclusion; for it is clear that one who, under the plea of rational liberty, has the right to repudiate any part of Revelation that may displease him, cannot logically quarrel with one who, on the same ground, repudiates the whole. If one creed is as good as another, on the plea of rational liberty, on the same plea, no creed is as good as any. Taking the field with this fatal weapon of Rationalism, Infidelity has stormed and taken the very citadel of Protestantism, helpless against the foe of its own making.[2]

If we were to characterize the gist of this reasoning, it is that a process which begins in disintegration must proceed toward disorder and terminate in death. Neither can this argument be called a ‘slippery slope’, for he was not conjecturing wildly about what might happen, but was observing what already had. He was merely connecting dots.

Such is the mainspring of the heresy constantly dinned into our ears, flooding our current literature and our press. It is against this that we have to be perpetually vigilant, the more so because it insidiously attacks us on the grounds of a false charity and in the name of a false liberty…

The principle ramifies in many directions, striking root into our domestic, civil, and political life, whose vigor and health depend upon the nourishing and sustaining power of religion. For religion is the bond which unites us to God, the Source and End of all good; and Infidelity, whether virtual, as in Protestantism, or explicit, as in Agnosticism, severs the bond which binds men to God and seeks to build human society on the foundations of man’s absolute independence.[3]

Nothing else need be said at this point regarding Liberalism in its specifically religious manifestation, because in another section we have addressed the question of religion more comprehensively.

[1] Liberalism is a Sin, ch. 6.

[2] Liberalism is a Sin, ch. 2.

[3] Ibid., emphasis mine.

Enlightenment: or political Liberalism

“…these followers of liberalism deny the existence of any divine authority to which obedience is due, and proclaim that every man is the law to himself; from which arises that ethical system which they style independent morality, and which, under the guise of liberty, exonerates man from any obedience to the commands of God, and substitutes a boundless license. The end of all this it is not difficult to foresee, especially when society is in question. For, when once man is firmly persuaded that he is subject to no one, it follows that the efficient cause of the unity of civil society is not to be sought in any principle external to man, or superior to him, but simply in the free will of individuals; that the authority in the State comes from the people only; and that, just as every man’s individual reason is his only rule of life, so the collective reason of the community should be the supreme guide in the management of all public affairs. Hence the doctrine of the supremacy of the greater number, and that all right and all duty reside in the majority.”

~ Pope Leo XIII[1]

In much the same way that Luther could be considered the father of the Reformation, John Locke (1632-1704) has been considered the father of political Liberalism. He was the most influential thinker to come from the Enlightenment, and was the philosopher of choice for revolutionaries such as the American Founding Fathers.

For our purposes here we will adopt Christopher Ferrara’s summary, which concisely presents Locke’s political legacy:[2]

  • A hypothetical “social compact” or contract as the foundation of the State.
  • The origin of political sovereignty in the “consent” of the governed (invariably presumed to have been given by those who happen to be wielding power).
  • “Government by the people” according to the “sovereignty of the people,” meaning strict majority rule on all questions, including the most profound moral ones.
  • Church-State separation and the non-“interference” of religion in politics.
  • The confinement of religion, above all the revealed truths of Christianity, to the realm of “private” opinions and practices one is free to adopt (or to denounce) if it pleases him, but which are to have no controlling effect on law or public policy.
  • The unlimited pursuit of gain, including the freedom to buy, sell and advertise anything whatsoever the majority deems permissible by law.
  • Total liberty of thought and action, both private and public, within the limits of a merely external “public peace” essentially reduced to the protection of persons and property from invasion by others—in sum, a “free-market society.”
  • The dissolubility of marriage, and thus the family, as a mere civil contract founded on a revocable consent.

These principles found their most absolute expression in the French Revolution. The American Revolution, however, suffices as another example, and the Declaration of Independence acts as a neat summary of Locke’s ideas. This should come as no surprise, since the Declaration was penned by Jefferson, an intellectual so enamored with Locke that he added his bust to a special canvas alongside Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton. These, he wrote, were “the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception…having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised.”[3]

[1] Libertas, 15.

[2] Christopher A. Ferrara, Liberty, the god that failed: policing the sacred and constructing the myths of the secular state from Locke to Obama. Angelico Press, Tacoma, 2012. p. 15.

[3] Letter to John Trumbull, Thomas Jefferson: Writings, 939.

Capitalism: or economic Liberalism

“The conviction that man is self-sufficient and can successfully eliminate the evil present in history by his own action alone has led him to confuse happiness and salvation with immanent forms of material prosperity and social action. Then, the conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from “influences” of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way. In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise.”

~ Pope Benedict XVI[1]

That Capitalism is the liberalization of economic life should be painfully obvious, even though the American conservatives who today espouse it have no idea of the fact. To illustrate the point to such historically ignorant individuals, then, we might refer to Milton Friedman, economic advisor to Ronald Reagan and internationally known proponent of laissez-faire economic policy. In his 1962 book titled Capitalism and Freedom, he wrote that “the intellectual movement that went under the name of Liberalism emphasized freedom as the ultimate goal and the individual as the ultimate entity in the society.” This movement “supported laissez-faire at home as a means of reducing the role of the state in economic affairs and thereby enlarging the role of the individual.” Friedman thus considered himself a thoroughgoing Liberal, as much as this might dismay his contemporary disciples who think that ‘liberalism’ is merely a synonym for progressive politics. The reason for this dismay is simply that Friedman was consistent, and had an understanding of history and philosophy; our contemporary conservatives do not.

At this point I do not intend to examine the policies or problems associated with Capitalism. That will be addressed when we lay out Catholic Social Teachings as an adaptation of traditional doctrine to the modern context. Here and now, we only intended to show that Liberalism acted as the mother of Capitalism, since this relationship tends to be veiled, especially in the United States, due to our arbitrary use of political terminology.

Having shown this connection, we are able to understand the phrasing used in many Catholic encyclicals and documents which condemn Capitalism by calling it Liberalism. For example, when Pope Pius XI applauds “boldly breaking through the confines imposed by Liberalism,”[2] and John XXIII condemns “unrestricted competition in the Liberal sense,”[3] they are speaking with a unified voice of the evils of Capitalism,[4] but this is completely ignored by many contemporary readers who refuse to acknowledge that contemporary party politics do not retroactively determine the meaning of words in historical documents.

Oswald Spengler had seen the connection between the money Liberalism of our capitalists and the more progressive moral Liberalism of their enemies, saying that Liberalism consists in “freedom of the intellect for every kind of criticism, freedom of money for every kind of business.”[5]

[1] Caritas in Veritate, 34.

[2] Quadragesimo Anno, 25.

[3] Mater et Magistra, 23.

[4] See also: Sollicitudo rei Socialis, 20, 21, and 41.

[5] Oswald Spengler, Decline of the West: Perspectives on World History, p. 403-404.

There is no such thing as a capitalist free market

Economic liberalism promises to promote an environment of ‘equal opportunity’ and free trade. The problem is that even if we began in a context of real equality of opportunity, for example with a blank slate, each man having a certain allotment of resources, and then allowed competition to have its way, freely, then this context of relative equality would immediately cease to exist. As soon as one business fails and another absorbs a portion of that market, the latter grows and is as a matter of course more advantageously positioned than anyone else who must start from zero. This process of concentration whereby the successful swallow up the rest, first due to aptitude and then due to power pure and simple, is the major blind spot of free market ideology. The truth is that a market that is left to itself will quickly become captive. Thus, ironically, the only way to maintain a market of relative freedom and to allow competition to actually function in a meaningful way, it is necessary to impose strict limits on the amount of control one successful business can exercise on the market.

It is generally admitted that monopolies destroy competition and market function, but it is ignored that capitalist ideology paves the way for concentration of economic power.

A functional market is always a balance between principled regulation and profitable, competitive activity. Too much of the former leads to socialism and too much of the latter leads to capitalism. Neither are truly free markets.

A market that is truly free—in which as many businesses as possible can participate and that permits supply and demand to function meaningfully—is always going to survive as a manipulated and even and enforced economy of limits and meaningful intervention. This is how it has always been. Contrary to what the capitalists would have us believe, we find in history it is not ‘the survival of the fittest’ but a highly developed system of customs and obligations that characterize the spontaneous, natural, and human state of things. Man lives in community with other men, and communities are reciprocal and cooperative or else they are nothing.

People have to be propagandized, pressured and berated in order to get them to act according to capitalist ideology, telling him against his better judgement that he ought to behave according to pure self-interest and that anything else is an affront to human freedom.

The worst we can say about modern men is that they’ve listened, and many have believed.

Liberalism and cowardice

“A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life…Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?”

~ Aleksander Solzhenitsyn[1]

There is an old parable regarding some servants who, being trusted by their master with varying quantities of money, each acted in a different fashion. Two of the three invested it, and then surrendered the profit to their master. The third man, however, buried his portion, and returned precisely the amount that he was given. When he does this, his master condemns him as a coward, and has him thrown out into the darkness. From this parable we can assume two things, one about the master, and the other about the servant. About the master, we can say that he obviously prefers the errors of the bold to the cowardly inaction of the timid.

This is the same lesson that we take from Revelation 3:15, when it is said: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I will spit you out of my mouth!”

These passages give rise to the idea of the courageous sin, which is a sin, but one that was preferable to the evil of doing nothing with one’s freedom.

As for the servant who is cast out, we can assume that his fear inhibited him, and that he was ruled by this fear, and so he did nothing with the time he was given. He was a non-entity. He did not sin, in a positive sense, and that is the defense offered always by those who do nothing. And this explains why he could not be excused.

The parable is one about loyalty, yes, but also, and more important for us here, it is about courage, and it seems to us that it is a perfect demonstration of the cowardice of modern political ideology.

As Carl Schmitt said in his Political Theology:

The essence of Liberalism is negotiation, a cautious half measure, in the hope that the definitive dispute, the decisive bloody battle, can be transformed into a parliamentary debate and permit the decision to be suspended forever in an everlasting discussion.

In this he identified the paradox of Liberalism: it is jealous and therefore aggressive, but it is cowardly and therefore timid in its aggression.

Liberalism fosters the behavior of Hitler in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, who spends his eternity building and re-building his cottage further and further away from the community of the damned. Each time he completes construction, he discovers that he has not gotten far enough away from the other individualists.

Fear is also paralyzing, particularly in the mental sphere. This is perhaps why general ignorance has increased exponentially under the rule of Liberalism, despite whatever scientific achievements have also occurred. As Frank Herbert, the master of science fiction, once put it: “fear is the mind-killer.” And this is the precise truth, because a person acting in fear loses his capacity for judgment precisely insofar as he is affected by his fear. In fear, if he does anything at all, he does things that, in a peaceful frame of mind, he’d have found ridiculous. This is why we would expect that, if fear were to become a generalized condition in a civilization, knowledge itself would begin to deteriorate and psychotic behavior would become normal.

Knowledge has a character of command. If something is true, and if we know it is true, we must act in accordance with it. Men across all various creeds agree at least on that, and this is why the immoralist does not claim the right to ignore morality, but rather denies its existence. No one acknowledges a truth and at the same time denies the obligation—the duty—it imposes. And so again, in ages of fear, truth, because of its imperious character, is the most despised of things.

It is like small child who chooses not to ask his mother a question because he knows he isn’t going to like the answer. The modern man is just such a childish figure—the questions every man in history was ready to ask, and sought with great effort, are set aside as ‘impossible to know’ or invalid from the start. He wants nothing to do with them.

Cowardice says: “Only this—and only if I must.” This is the fundamental cowardice of Protestantism. So horrified is the Protestant of courageous error that they bury their inheritance and insist on sola this and sola that. Ironically, however, this doctrinal timidness has given rise to the most extreme errors of specific interpretation.

When Spengler famously wrote that ‘optimism is cowardice’, he was following the same train of thought. He was not so much condemning a ‘positive attitude’ as he was condemning a very specific kind of positive attitude, the one adopted in order to avoid the severe realities of life, because it is only through these realities that courage and honor can be teased out of existence:

We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one thing that cannot be taken from a man.[2]

He was summarizing the effects of Liberalism, with its contradictory attempt to combine perpetual strife with promises of Progress and Happiness. Through this new myth, called Competition, it Liberalism taught that by waging a perpetual war with our neighbor for the means of self-indulgence, Happiness will be forthcoming, and that the longer we wage this war, the more wealth we will have and the happier we’ll become.

We could proceed through a number of examples, familiar to all, to illustrate this omnipresent and enslaving fear which creates animosity and madness: Think of the man who stockpiles weaponry in his basement, and rages about his rights, and who imagines the day when he will have to do battle with his government—which, as likely as not, will actually be one of his neighbors—when they come to steal these rights from him. Think of the transexual who invents a long list of new pronouns and rages at the world for not permitting him to restructure language on the fly. This behavior is complex, obviously, but in some sense it is certainly an expression of paranoia, an extreme and enslaving condition of fear. But it is also inertia. Without courage nothing happens…that is why God hates it. God wishes to see potential realized, the good achieved. God creates, and God does not suffer the non-entity who excuses himself from reality.

The fearful man might be guilty of terrible errors, or he might be innocent, but he’ll be innocent in the way that a rabbit is innocent. Innocent because he is harmless. Innocent because too spiritually impotent to do anything at all either for God or for Satan. A culture led by such men withers into nothing. Nietzsche’s unique definition of Liberalism is then proven accurate:

“The honourable term for mediocre is, of course, the word ‘Liberal’.”[3]

[1] Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, Harvard Commencement Address delivered on June 8, 1978.

[2] Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics (Arktos, 2015), p. 77.

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, Will to Power, paragraph 864.


“The present danger does not really lie in the loss of universality on the part of the scientist, but rather on his pretense and claim of totality…What we have to deplore therefore is not so much the fact that scientists are specializing, but rather the fact that specialists are generalizing. The true nihilism of today is reductionism…Contemporary nihilism no longer brandishes the word nothingness; today nihilism is camouflaged as nothing-but-ness. Human phenomena are thus turned into mere epiphenomena.”

~ Viktor Frankl[1]

Another term for Liberalism nihilism, which is really nothing but fear expressed in the realms of knowledge and values, is reductionism. Reductionism is a fearful minimalism, insisting that knowledge be drastically simplified. This is typically accomplished by way of unjustifiable generalities.

To demonstrate how far-reaching this reductionism has been, we will examine the contributions made to the decay of knowledge by Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton, Martin Luther, Adam Smith, John Locke, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud. These figures are chosen for the diversity of the fields they represent. If some of this recapitulates what has been said above, the reader is asked to excuse the repetition as a matter of deliberate emphasis.

Rene Descartes (Philosophy): Descartes put a ceiling on man’s knowledge which limited ‘truth’ to rational concepts. This rejected the traditional conception of the self and of our ability to know God through the supra-rational Intellect, “the eye of the heart”, which sees things beyond “the eye of the mind”. Thus, rooting the certainty of our existence in operations of the discursive faculty, he also sought to enclose the Divine on this plane. Everything becomes rational, and therefore impoverished.

Isaac Newton (Physics): Joining with Descartes, Newton reduced the sciences of physics to mathematics and therefore to a deterministic mechanism:

“According to the mechanical philosophy and its theory of ‘atomism,’ the operations of material beings are owing entirely to movements of units of matter (atoms) governed by physical laws rather than the constitutive forms of the Aristotelian-Thomistic system lying beyond the matter of which things are composed.”[2]

This rejected any metaphysical considerations in regard to matter, and effectively severed this science from transcendence.

Martin Luther (Religion): We have already discussed Luther’s contribution to the reductionism of the modern era. Suffice it to repeat here that he did not reform—he abridged to an extreme. He took a few specific points of traditional doctrine, such as the teachings about grace, faith, and scripture, and elevated them to absolutes without context or support. In this way he simplified all theology into the “nothing-but-ness” of the three solas: sola scripture, sola fida, sola gratia.

Adam Smith (Economics): The well-known treatise Wealth of Nations contained not a single new idea. Great minds from Aristotle to St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas had spent the last two-thousand years developing the science which they called ‘Political Economy’. When Smith came on the scene, his predecessors had already taken into consideration the totality of economic action and had situated it hierarchically within all other sciences, superior and inferior. Within economics itself they had discerned four categories or stages: production, exchange, distribution, and consumption. All Smith did was destroy this comprehensive edifice by dropping the last two categories (distribution and consumption), and by rejecting any moral or metaphysical considerations. He made the same error as Newton, reducing a sacred science to a profane one, and in the process destabilizing it and degrading it, under the pretense that it could be considered a mechanical and mathematical science, and would thenceforth become simply economics.

Charles Darwin (Biology): It was said by C.S. Lewis that “evolution is as old as Epictetus”, and he was right. Just as the Greeks knew the world was not flat,[3] they also conceived of the idea that life originated in the sea, in some primordial sludge, and then migrated onto land and eventually became man. What Darwin did, which the Greeks refused to do, was take this out of a metaphysical context and attempt to mechanize it according to purely materialistic laws. Darwin eliminated the transcendent from biology, as Newton had eliminated it from physics. Man, then, is a result of this evolutive mechanism, and all of his complexity and subtlety can therefore be accounted for by this mechanism, given enough time.

Sigmund Freud (Psychology): Working from the combined reductions of Descartes, Newton, and Darwin, Freud formulated his ideas, which were perhaps the most reductionistic to date. In the work of Freud, the mind, already a shell of its former self, is further reduced to a highly unstable yet entirely predetermined product of its environment. A mechanical monstrosity. All human passions and beliefs are the result of subterranean influences of the unconscious, which only occasionally break the surface of consciousness and present themselves for analysis. In Freud, we see that the Cartesian imprisonment of the mind eventually—and necessarily—gave way to man becoming a prisoner of instinct and animal ‘drives’.

John Locke (Politics): The reader may not be familiar with Locke by name, but everyone in America is intimately familiar with his political theory. He was one of the famous and influential liberals of the Enlightenment. He is responsible for the radically reductionistic political doctrines on which liberal democracies like America now operate. Like all the previous characters in this list, his claim to fame is the severing of transcendence from his particular field. Locke’s primary legacy in this respect is the ‘separation of church and state’, which today both Christians and pagans embrace as a wonderful novelty, although they justify it in different ways. He completed this reduction by placing all authority in ‘the people’, the government deriving its sovereignty from the bottom up. This is the opposite of the traditional teaching, traced out by Paul, showing that political leaders must acknowledge and remain attached to God, because their authority derives not from below but from the top down. But God was already dead. Based on Locke’s liberal principles, and with God unmentioned in the American Constitution, whatever the people came to desire would be translated into law. This holds true even if the people wish to abolish fundamental realities like sex, and even if they wish to reinstate ancient horrors such as child sacrifice.

[1] Cited in E.F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed, pp. 5-6.

[2] Christopher Ferrara, Liberty: The God that Failed, p. 40.

[3] They observed the spherical shadow of the earth on the moon during eclipses.

Univocity fetish and social contract theory

“Due to their fetish of univocity, the men of the Enlightenment were largely unable to comprehend the idea of the common good. The atoms of Democritus and Newton’s particles of light made philosophes think they could ground the common good in private right.

“Since all people discover themselves within a society, and discover within themselves an impulse towards sociability, it was necessary to come up with some other justification for the existence of community, even if the common good was not acceptable as an explanation. This is the origin of social contract theories.”

~ Coëmgenus[1]

One last hallmark of Enlightenment thought needs to be addressed, which is its obstinate, unrelenting insistence on errors of univocity—which is to say, a refusal to acknowledge subtleties in philosophical terminology and to treat everything perspicuous. This is especially damaging when it comes to the traditional distinction between individual or private good and the common good.

For the Liberal philosophers, the starting point was the individual. The individual was also the end point. It was assumed that if there was such a thing as the good, then it was certainly an individual good, and that the traditional concept of the common good, if allowed at all, could be nothing other than the sum total of individual goods. What was in fact a difference in kind was re-framed as a question of simple arithmetic.

Thus, even when Enlightenment thinkers acknowledge the duty of the State to seek serve the common good, they interpret this to mean that the State ought to limit itself to the protection of individual rights, since the common good can mean this and nothing more. We notice here again the inability to identify hierarchies of any kind, which ends each and every time by subordinating the higher to the lower.

This univocity error boils down to the inability (or refusal) to make distinctions. Look through the Summa of St. Thomas, or any work of Aristotle’s. On almost every question these thinkers were concerned first and foremost with making the proper distinctions between orders and meanings for each term, allowing for a diversity of interpretations that nonetheless combine to form more or less coherent philosophies. It is difficult to imagine St. Thomas Aquinas starting the Summa with ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident’, and if he had, he could have finished it in a few pages.

In the traditional conception, the common good is a good of a higher order, complementing the individual good but at the very same time superior to it as form is superior to matter in Greek hylomorphism. They touch, but hierarchically. What is important to note is that one cannot approach the superior by attending only to the inferior. One cannot pretend to seek the common good if one only seeks individual goods.

Thus, a State which does nothing but protect individual rights could at the same time be undermining the common good by limiting itself to an inferior, even if necessary, function.

State action which does not go beyond respect for individual rights does not approach the common good, which is supra-individual. That is not to imply that the common good must be sought at the expense of the individual good. The two only become antagonistic when their proper balance or relationship is disrupted. Our sections on the social teachings of the Catholic Church will comment in more detail on the balance. Here we only wish to point out that the common good is one of many fundamental philosophical concepts rendered incomprehensible through the univocity of the Liberals. They try to hold things together by promoting the pseudo-doctrine of the ‘social contract’, but this contract is purely imaginary.

[1] Coëmgenus, The Josiahs, “Theses and Responses on Antiamericanism”,

Strife as the basis of civilization

St. Augustine wrote that ‘all things desire peace,’ and if the Christian tradition is indeed correct in identifying this yearning as one of man’s most noble desires, then it is true that Liberalism has done great violence to man by subverting it and rendering it futile. Liberalism and its forms, namely capitalism, idealize instead the values of competition, which is to say strife, and ours is in fact the first civilization to attempt to base itself on strife.

It had always been said that the end of activity, even war, was peace; today peace is an evil. Peace is not productive. While Augustine and Aquinas taught that we must seek not only the absence of war but the harmony of wills, Liberalism teaches that ‘if you desire peace, prepare for war’—thus, war is the engine of peace, and whatever peace, progress, or happiness exists, is credited to the perpetual interplay of various forms of combat.

Human life, for example, is said to be the biproduct of competitive forces, the ‘survival of the fittest’, a doctrine which finds its economic expression in the Liberal ideas of capitalism and laissez-faire market ideology. Here not only material prosperity but even man himself is the outcome of the great battle for survival, whether that battle be for genetic superiority or natural resources.

We can follow this line of thinking through politics, where we see that the foundation of Liberal regimes (for example the United States) is conceived as a ‘balance of competing powers’, each of which, it is assumed, would seek to aggrandize itself if given the opportunity. This balance could more properly be termed a battle between opposing factions without shared identity or motive.

These powers are designed in such a way that they are always and everywhere trying to check each other’s progress. This aspect of political Liberalism has fused itself ever so naturally with economic life in such a way that the former is now steered by almost entirely by the interests of the latter.

As far as the people are concerned (always in a decreasing degree), this process is exemplified by the two great parties endlessly vying for control over the machinery of the state.

Peace, then, is not an ideal—it is a byproduct of chaos. Biproducts, however, are decreased with efficiency, and peace is becoming scarcer every day as the process becomes more refined. If competition is good, then the system which maximizes ‘controlled discord’ will be the best.

The outcome of this confused situation is, first, a perpetually agitated human population which, at the same time, exhibits a strange timidity toward conflict. It is as if the general atmosphere of subdued opposition instills a fear of open aggression. Thus, true restfulness never arrives, and the true fight never begins. In this state of indirect warfare everyone loses, and even the winners are degraded. It is the Nietzschean “struggle for supremacy amidst conditions that are worth nothing: this civilization of great cities, newspapers, fever, uselessness.”[1]

[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, Will to Power, 748.

The Liberal and the Traditionalist

It is sometimes helpful, when discussing democracy, to use monarchy as a counterpoint, on the condition that this is done didactically, in order to help explain our ideas, and not with superficial intention, as if we were arguing for the implementation of a monarchical form of government here and now. Here and elsewhere in this manual we will adopt the term traditionalist with a similar aim, and with similar reservations.

That is to say, if we take up this ‘label’ for ourselves, if we call ourselves traditionalists, it is for the sake of clarifying our position and because it makes for an excellent contrast to the modern mentality, since until this point we’ve given the impression that everyone is a Liberal.

It is true, of course: nearly everyone today is a Liberal. Yet there have been characters who rejected the modern consensus. Some of the more notable figures in this group are: Nicolás Gómez Dávila, whom we have just quoted. Also Bertrand de Jouvenel, Joseph de Maistre, Julius Evola, Rene Guénon, Ivan Illich, and various popes of the Catholic Church. To describe these types, I will use the term Traditionalist.

All such labels are admittedly imprecise and have numerous drawbacks. First and foremost, the near universal incomprehension regarding the true nature of tradition in the modern world. This would lead our readers to imagine that the traditionalist argues for a rigid set of forms long-dead, wishing to reincarnate these dead forms and force them upon the living. We have already dealt with this confusion, but it cannot be eliminated.

Second, there is baggage attached to the term due to its being used in a relative sense by various groups. For example, within the Catholic Church itself there are ‘traditionalist Catholics’ who pit themselves against the modernist Catholics, but this does not necessarily make them our allies since their understanding of the concept of tradition usually only extends as far as certain liturgical forms. Beyond this secondary context, there are economic traditionalists, legal traditionalists, and so on. Anyone who hearkens back to a previous value, or previous iterations of a current value, as opposed to the latest and greatest, is liable to adopt for themselves the title of ‘traditionalist’ even though they might be defending some idea that is only a few decades old. Thus, we find many traditionalists who are merely upholding earlier versions of modernist doctrine.

Having considered these difficulties, we adopt the label anyway, not because it is perfect but because it provides us with a device of contrast. It allows us to make distinctions, and we will pause to outline many of the distinguishing characteristics that separate the traditionalist from the Liberal in the table below.


The LiberalThe Traditionalist
DemocracyMonarchy and aristocracy
Economic sexVernacular gender
ConflictOrder, peace
LegalismCustom, tradition
Popular sovereigntyDivine sovereignty
Materialism, vague “spirituality”Religious life
Worship of scientists, doctorsWorship of saints
Majority opinionNatural law
Clinging to youthVeneration for old age
Fear of mortalityAwareness of immortality
Technical know-howArt
Novelty, “originality”Beauty, truth
Worship of health, fitnessIndifference to fitness
DeterminismFree will
Security, safetyAdventure
Nationalism, internationalismEmpire, Supranationalism
The soldier, militarismThe knight, samurai, warrior
Industrial productionCraftsmanship
Individualism and collectivismPersonalism
The apartment, skyscraper, hotelThe castle, farm, hut
Homogeneity and the massesMosaic of families and villages
Cowardice, timidityCourage
Horizontal orderVertical order
Contractual societyService, patriarchal authority
The city, the megalopolisThe village, rural community


We hope that these considerations have permitted the reader to at least question the soundness of Liberal philosophy, while also hinting at an alternative human type—the traditionalist—which we will have reason to refer to, although we will use such labels as little as possible due to all the problems that accompany them.

For now, we can conclude by observing that the American Right and the Left fight endlessly for the controls of a hideous machine which the traditionalist would not degrade himself by operating even if the controls were placed in his hands, nor would he degrade his fellows by participating in its control over them. Contemporary political involvement urges man to fight over a prize that the traditionalist sees as a poison. It teaches him to yearn for a victory that the traditionalist senses to be a suicide.