It’s probably not a good idea generally to buy a book out of spite, but in some ways that is precisely what I did when I picked up Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue. We had had a meeting at work, and several of my co-workers were amusing themselves with some anti-Palin jibes. So at lunch time I decided to take a stroll to the local book store and pick up Palin’s book, prompting the “Oh, Sarah Palin” observation from the clerk, who must be wondering why anyone in the middle of enlightened Dupont Circle would be interested in the right-wing Neanderthal. And I have to admit that I also delayed reading the book until after I got home from Thanksgiving vacation so that I could proudly read the book on the Metro.
Michael Sean Winters has put up a post on NCR Online that is a rebuttal to a Deal Hudson commentary on abortion and the public option. Winters demonstrates that he is either wholly ignorant of the legislative and judicial process, or that he puts support for Obamacare ahead of opposition to abortion.
Hudson argues that the public option will end up extending federal funding for abortion. He says that the courts will step in even if Congress doesn’t mandate abortion coverage in any such plan. Mind you, the courts have not stepped in to over-rule the Hyde Amendment lo these many years. The federal health insurance coverage that members of Congress enjoy does not include abortion coverage. Federal Medicaid funds do not support abortion. So, why would the federal option, which would be modeled after the insurance that members of Congress get, necessarily end up mandating abortion coverage? Hudson does not say.
I can’t speak for Hudson, but the Courts won’t even have to get involved in order for Congress to skirt the Hyde Amendment in order to fund abortion through the public option. As has been pointed out by numerous sources—and I’ll start out with the National Right to Life Committee—the Hyde Amendment only applies to annual HHS appropriations.
Since the Hyde Amendment applies only to funds appropriated through the annual HHS appropriations bill, the Hyde Amendment will not apply to any of the funds used to establish or operate either the “public option” or the premium-subsidy program created by H.R. 3200. Members of Congress who assert that the Hyde Amendment would prevent federal government funding of abortions under H.R. 3200 are misleading their constituents, in some cases perhaps inadvertently and in other cases perhaps by design.
It has been well established elsewhere that H.R. 3200, particularly as revised by the “Capps Amendment” (or Capps-Waxman Amendment) that was adopted in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 30, 2009, would (1) authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to pay for elective abortions under the “public plan,” and (2) allow the “affordability credits” to subsidize both the public plan and private insurance plans that cover all abortions. See, for example, the August 21, 2009 FactCheck.org analysis “Abortion: Which Side is Fabricating,” and the August 13, 2009 NRLC factsheet “What Do the ‘Health Care Reform’ Bills Backed by President Obama Have to Do With Abortion?” The sole purpose of this memorandum is to correct the erroneous assertions that the Hyde Amendment would somehow prevent those results.
The NRLC goes into greater detail as to why the Democrats cannot hide behind the Hyde Amendment.
Even if one allows that there might be some reasonable arguments against the NRLC position, the next two paragraphs contain just a stunning amount of mendacity. (more…)
If I’m on the right track, pro-life arguments are not likely to succeed by simply continuing to stress the humanity of the fetus. The opposition already knows this, as probably do most women who have an abortion. Rather, the pro-life movement must take into account the larger cultural context of the sexual revolution that invisibly but surely sustains the triumphant advocates of abortion.
It won’t be easy, but somehow the case against abortion must include a case against sexual libertinism. It is time to return to the drawing board.
I’d take slight issue with this in that I don’t know that we’ve truly convinced the larger public about the humanity of the unborn child, and as such efforts should continue on that front. But I think DSouza is on the right track.
Hargrave adds his own thoughts:
The strength of the pro-choice movement has never been derived from outright denials of the humanity of the unborn child, but from the manner in which it presents itself – as a champion of women, and particularly poor and minority women. Abortion is almost always referred to as a “woman’s issue” and all too often pro-lifers end up stuck in the rhetorical boxes created for them by their opponents. We end up somehow arguing against women. Of course much pro-life literature and propaganda focuses on the harm that abortion does to women as well as children, but all this tends to do is reinforce the notion that abortion is then, if not a “woman’s issue”, a mother’s issue.
Perhaps you can tell where I am going with this. In my view, what is often missing from the abortion debate are men. Behind every unwanted pregnancy is a man, and behind many abortions – possibly the vast majority of abortions – are the actions of men: of husbands, boyfriends, friends and fathers. Abortion is not always (and I have to imagine, hardly ever) the decision of the idealistically independent, strong-willed woman determined to do as she pleases in spite of a patriarchal society. This is a radical feminist fantasy.
Hargrave marshals the evidence that demonstrates why abortion is not just a woman’s issue. He then continues:
I don’t doubt for a moment that almost every pro-lifer understands the role that fathers play in the abortion of children. But what we need to do is incorporate it into our political program. The role of men in abortion must become more widely broadcast, it must be expanded beyond the occasional nod it gets in an obscure journal or pamphlet. When abortion is discussed on national television, in the major newspapers, on the radio, in any venue where a multitude of people will be listening or watching, the role of men must occupy a much greater place that discussion.
It must be done, first of all, because it is the truth, and as studies have shown, a truth that must not be ignored. Secondly, it must be done in order to demonstrate that to be pro-life is not to oppose women, but to oppose all who would abandon their parental responsibilities and obligations. It is high time we acknowledge the partial truth behind one of the most commonly used pro-choice slogans: “if men could get pregnant, abortion would be legal” or some variation thereof. It is only a partial truth, of course, but it does highlight a failure to hold men accountable for their own sexual promiscuity and often appalling behavior towards their pregnant wives and girlfriends.
I think Hargrave is on the right track here. It’s a fact of political life that controlling the narrative is essential to advancing one’s cause. Despite the fact that a wide majority of even pro-choicers have difficulty with the morality of abortion, the pro-choice cause has been aided by the feminist narrative that abortion is a woman’s issue, and that abortion rights somehow are essential for the cause of equal rights. And D’Souza’s argument about sexual libertinism is also correct.
There are plenty of ways those of us in the pro-life movement can make our case. Lucky for us most of the arguments favor our side of the debate. There is no harm in using every tool we have at our disposal.
Local officials and state police are confirming that a pro-life advocate was shot and killed outside a high school in this Michigan town. The person, who is described as well-known but whose identity has not been released, was shot multiple times while protesting abortion outside Owosso High School.
Officials say the shooting occurred at 7:30 a.m. local time and most students were inside the school building at the time of the incident.
State police have also confirmed they apprehended a suspect about 8:15 a.m at the suspect’s home in this small community northeast of Lansing.
Something tells me this will not receive 1/10 the attention of the George Tiller murder.
I’ve been interested in the reaction to my review of Atlas Shrugged which Chris Blosser linked to here. First of all, it might be the only thing I’ve ever written that has united both right-wingers and left-wingers (and everybody in between). Clearly, almost everyone dislikes Ayn Rand. But I was intrigued by the angry reaction of Rand fans, most of which focused on my treatment of her dismissal of original sin. What’s surprising about the objectivist objection to original sin is that the doctrine would almost seem to perfectly accord with their worldview.
Part of the angst seems to come from a mistaken understanding of the doctrine. Rand and her followers believe that the doctrine of original sin means that we are all born evil, but this is a gross exaggeration. Commenter Dale Price helpfully linked to the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s definition:
Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence”. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.
This rankles the objectivists, but the doctrine as stated above is hardly much different than how many secular-minded philosophers have described human nature. When James Madison wrote than men were not angels, he was essentially hitting upon the notion that man is an imperfect beast. In fact, I don’t think he’d much object to the idea that human nature is “wounded.” In the Federalist Papers, both Hamilton and Madison—especially Madison—were influenced by David Hume, who wrote that it in “contriving any system of government, and fixing the several checks and controuls [sic] of the constitution, every man ought to be supposed a knave, and to have no other end, in all his actions, than private interest.” Hume’s statement is not necessarily a reflection of his view of human nature, but many of the Framers of the Constitution adopted this philosophy. I’d go so far as to say that they dropped the “supposed” part from their ruminations.
Rand doesn’t like the concept of original sin because it’s not fair, but she also claims to be expounding a purportedly realistic philosophy. What is so realistic about rejecting a view of human nature that common sense and experience tells us has quite a lot of merit? One need not be a bible thumping Fundamentalist to appreciate the imperfections of the human condition. As I said in my review, Randian utopians are no better than Marxist utopians or any other utopians in their completely naive outlook. Even if one does not fully accept the doctrine of origjnal sin, it is a rather extreme jump to embrace a doctrine of original perfection.
The Rick Pitino saga is one of the sickest and saddest sports-related stories I’ve ever come accross. Here are the major details:
University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino told police that he had consensual sex with Karen Cunagin Sypher at a Louisville restaurant where he’d been drinking on Aug. 1, 2003.
He also told police that he later gave Sypher $3,000 to have an abortion, according to Louisville Metro Police reports The Courier-Journal obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act.
But Pitino denied Sypher’s allegations that he raped her at Porcini, after the restaurant closed, and again a few weeks later at a different location, police records show. And prosecutors who have reviewed Sypher’s claims say Pitino won’t be charged.
Pitino’s lawyer is now saying that the coach gave the woman money for “insurance,” not an abortion, though that just seems to me a way for Pitino to assuage his conscience.
As horrible as this story is, I can’t help but see one tiny sliver of hope. I listen to a lot of sports talk radio and read various sports-related blogs, and the moral revulsion at what Pitino has done runs very deep. Now some of this is probably related just to the extra-marital affair, and others are pointing out the “hypocrisy” (Pitino is a Roman Catholic, and at one point met with Pope John Paul II). But there is clearly an undercurrent of disgust that Pitino apparently paid for an abortion. These are not Catholic or politically conservative blogs and talk shows I’m talking about. Clearly, there is still some kind of social stigma attached to abortion that extends beyond the pro-life community.
We see this with the people who go out of their way to describe themselves as pro-choice, not pro-abortion. And while I certainly have scoffed at those who so proudly declare themselves to be “personally opposed, but,” it’s not entirely a bad thing that even the pro-choicers want to wash their hands of the moral evil that is abortion.
About half the people in this country believe that abortion is absolutely wrong and should be prohibited. Among the other half of the country, a large percentage have at least a subconscious revulsion towards abortion. My feeling may be misplaced, but that gives me just the slightest bit of hope.
I don’t know exactly what about me threatens them so much, other than that people are listening to me. Malkin has the No. 1 book on The New York Times bestseller hardcover nonfiction list, but I have nearly twice as many Twitter followers as she does. And trust me, Twitter is more of an indication of where young people are than books published by the hyper-conservative publisher Regnery—which will be bringing you Carrie Prejean’s new book and published one of Ann Coulter’s.
It’s depressing that someone can actually think this, let alone write it. Even more depressing is the fact that the observation about young people is probably correct.
Daniel Hannan, a British politician and Member of the European Parliament, writes:
I gave the same message everywhere. Americans should cleave to their Jeffersonian heritage.
Normally I would shoot mental shockwaves of negative energy towards any man who uttered such blasphemy. But I read on and Hannan was kind enough to publish an email from Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Ebell has a much different (and accurate) take on Mr. Jefferson.
Jefferson may have said that that government is best which governs least, but he never had a useful thought about how to keep limits on government except to recommend revolution in every generation. Which is of course disastrous. But he was a very silly man—a true, because superficial and calculating, product of the Enlightenment.
Ebell proceeds to carefully delineate the differences between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Ebell’s preference for Adams shines through.
Unlike Jefferson, Adams was obsessed with how to keep elites in check by dividing power and balancing power against power. In this he is in the tradition of Harrington and Montesquieu and Hume rather than of Locke (Jefferson on the other hand admired Rousseau). He was the deepest thinker of the Revolution and also the most important political figure (as distinguished from leader)—he made the strategy that led to independence, he led the public campaign for independence, and was the leading proponent for independence in the Continental Congress both rhetorically and behind the scenes.
Mr. Ebell, if I ever meet you, the next beer is on me.
I’ll admit to a certain bias when it comes to Mr. Jefferson. My doctoral dissertation was, in essence, a diatribe on why the Jefferson/Rousseau philosophy was leading us down a path of destruction and it continues to annoy and distress me when I see conservatives hold Jefferson up to such lofty standards. The man was no conservative—in any sense of the term. The fact that he claimed to support limited government makes him no different than any of his peers, and in fact—as Ebell aludes to—his ultimate governing philosophy had quite the opposite impact. His true progeny are men like FDR and Barack Obama, not Ronald Reagan.
I’ve said on this very blog that some of these abstract academic musings are somewhat futile because America is not a deeply ideological country. I stand by that, but it is important to have some kind of grasp of our philosophical heritage. We need to understand that there are two decidedly different pathways: the path of Jefferson and Rousseau, and the path of Adams and Edmund Burke. Choose wisely.
In answer to Joseph’s question, I am a little surprised by how far the President’s approval numbers have fallen and how much pushback he is getting on his agenda. I thought that President Obama would remain personally popular even if the public started expressing greater disapproval of his actions and the state of the economy, and I still maintain that the Republicans would be wiser to focus their attention in the mid-terms on Nancy Pelosi and tie vulnerable Congressional Democrats to her rather than the President. But we’ve seen the first real chinks in his armor began to manifest themselves, and one word in one late-night press conference may have done more damage to his credibility than anything else he has done.
That being said, it’s hardly time to begin celebrating. Bill Clinton rebounded after the 1994 election debacle, and our current president is still savvy enough to take advantage of even the slightest opening.
More importantly, even if the all of the pieces of the President’s disastrous agenda are not put into place, what’s done is already sufficient to justify conservative gloominess. (And as an aside, since when is pessimism considered a negative trait for conservatives?) Furthermore, even if Obama doesn’t get universal health care and cap-and-trade passed, he can and almost certainly will do enough around the edges to put our country on even worse footing. There can be another Supreme Court retirement, and it might not be another case of a liberal replacing a liberal. Is a weakened Obama really going to have his Supreme Court picks blocked? Bush managed to get two in post-Katrina, so I think not.
And even a grossly unpopular president is still the head of the Executive Branch, and considering the bureaucracy he’s structured, that in and of itself is perilous. For example, take a look at cap-and-trade. Sure the Senate might defeat the bill, but EPA has been given enough authority that it can implement some kind of regulatory structure that might be even worse than what Congress is considering right now. So Barack Obama doesn’t even need the backing of Congress to achieve much of what he desires.
Finally, the opposition is still fairly pathetic. I believe that the grassroots has done more than an admirable job in raising public consciousness, but they’re hardly getting any help from inside the Beltway. We have certain Republican Senators focusing their ire instead on those evil Southerners in the party. We also have a National Republican Senatorial Committee backing moderate candidates at the expense of more conservative and frankly more promising candidates. And the problems aren’t just relegated to the national party, as “outsider” candidates are pushed to the back in favor of insiders. Unlike in 1994, there seems to be a lack of coherent organized movement on the Hill.
So yeah, there is probably a bit more call for optimism than I would have thought possible at this point in time. But we have a long, long way to go.
There was an interesting exchange on the American Enterprise Institute’s Enterprise blog, sparked by this Charles Murray post about the concept of duty. Murray was writing in response to Mark Sanford’s scandalous behavior, and this prodded Danielle Pletka to ask why we should care publicy about Sanford’s deeds. I found Murray’s response rather intriguing.
The harder part of your question, particularly for libertarians like me, is about the division of public and private roles if the public role is being performed competently and diligently. Here, I side with the Founders. Google any Founder’s name and the word “virtue” and you will find lots of quotes. Here are some examples. The common thread is that limited government cannot work without virtue in the public at large and in their leaders in particular. I agree adamantly with that conclusion, and attribute much of the current loss of limited government to the loss of that kind of virtue. In that sense, people in high positions (private as well as public) serve as exemplars–”role models” doesn’t begin to cover the gravity of that function. They don’t have the option of being reprobates, even lovable ones.
So that’s why I don’t cut unvirtuous overlings any slack even if they are competent. Mind you, I don’t want us to pass laws to make it easier to get rid of them. I just want all of us to look upon them with withering scorn. I bet you didn’t know it is possible to be both a libertarian and a grouchy old prude.
The reason I find this intriguing is that libertarians are usually the first to claim that we shouldn’t judge politicians by their private behavior, but I think Murray hits upon why that reasoning is flawed, especially from a libertarian point of view.
As a social conservative who has libertarian sympathies, I recognize that most behavior simply cannot be legislated. While the phrase “you cannot legislate morality” is frankly silly and completely contrary to our experience, there is a kernel of truth contained in it. Social issues generally lie outside the realm of legislative politics. But as Murray observes, the Framers stressed that a republican society needs virtuous people in order to thrive. (Thus Benjamin Franklin’s famous quip about our form of government—”a republic, if you can keep it.”)
Libertarians often forget this. In correctly noting that a polity cannot truly mandate private virtue, they seem to forget that private virtue is nonethless a necessity in preserving the polity. We absolutely must hold our public officials to a high standard precisely because we hope to live in a society of free and virtuous individuals. It’s called leading by example. And since a libertarian should theoretically prefer example to force, they should be at the forefront in demanding greater virtue out of our public officials.
It also occurs to me that this jibes with the general tenor of Pope Benedict’s encyclical. The Pope acknowledges the great potential of the free market, but urges us to keep in the mind the common good. Freedom is worth nothing if we behave irresponsibly and selfishly. Surely we can appreciate the difference between a libertine and a libertarian ethic, a distinction that Charles Murray certainly seems to understand.
Buried within the comments are some expressions of displeasure with the supposedly liberal, post-Enlightenment origins of the American Revolution. This is a fairly common and not altogether incorrect view of this era in American history. No one could possibly deny the influence of Enlightenment thinking on the men who spearheaded the revolution and then wrote the Constitution. But it is not really accurate, and for two reasons.
First of all, to say that the Framers were influenced by the Enlightenment is meaningless without indicating which Enlightenment you’re talking about. Yes, I am a student of the Himmelfarb/O’Brien school that sees quite a divergence between different forms of Enlightenment thinking, particularly the French and British Enlightenments. While Thomas Jefferson may have been at home with the philosophes, the bulk of the Framers were more at home with the much more moderate Brits. There were common threads within all sects of the Enlightenment, especially as regards the role of reason, but the French school was vastly more sweeping and utopian-leaning in scope.
More importantly, it’s a mistake to over-emphasize the role of ideology on the Framers. Yes, they were learned men who studied a great many different philosophers, but the Revolution was in many ways a gut reaction to the perceived slights perpetrated by the British Parliament. Did the revolutionaries need to read up on John Trenchard in order to come to the conclusion that the home government had usurped its rightful authority? Were they simply trying to live out the principles of Hutcheson or Home or Hume, or were they basing their clarion call for independence on their real world experiences?
As someone whose academic specialty is essentially American political theory, it’s a bit difficult for me to downplay the significance of these various philosophies on the Framers. And I would never totally discount the role of, ahem, secularist liberal forces on the men who voted for independence. But I think we need to recognize that for most of the people who decided to pick up arms it was less about upholding the ideals of philosophers living north of the mother country than it was simply about defending their rights as Englishmen. Naturally many of the ideas of these philosophers seeped into their consciousness on some level and inspired the drive for revolution, and it would be foolish to completely discount the role of ideology in the revolution. But I think we would do well to remember that the impetus for revolution was not found in the abstract philosophical musings that so many of the Framers cited.
It is worth keeping this in mind because America remains, as Tocqueville noted so many years ago, a country that is not entirely fond of abstract ideas. Again, it may seem odd that a person with my kind of academic pedigree writing on this particular blog is deriding to some extent the role of philosophy in American life. But it’s useful for those of us up here in the clouds to recognize the non-ideological (for lack of a better word) tendencies of this country—tendencies which date back to our very birth as a Nation.
In a fairly strong display of solidarity, the US Bishops have issued a statement supporting Bishop John D’Arcy’s recent “pastoral concern” regarding President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame:
“The bishops of the United States express our appreciation and support for our brother bishop, the Most Reverend John D’Arcy,” reads the brief statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“We affirm his pastoral concern for Notre Dame University, his solicitude for its Catholic identity, and his loving care for all those the Lord has given him to sanctify, to teach and to shepherd.”
As John Allen reports, the Bishops were not exactly unanimous in their sentiments regarding the controversy, but it seems that most had some level of disagreement with the University.
Baby steps. Baby steps.
Matt Archibiold discusses Sam Mendes’ latest anti-suburbia flick:
Essentially, Mendes seems to adopt the view of literary urbanista types that the suburbs are a death filled wasteland. I find this attitude weird firstly as a business decision because it seems to me that mocking where most people live isn’t the way to make a lot of money. But more importantly, I don’t know what the big look-down-your-nose issue is that people have with the suburbs. I live in the suburbs because it’s near the city where my wife and I work. But we like having a lawn and a little space. I’m just not getting the soul sucki-ness of it all.
I think I’m the bizarro Sam Mendes. I’ve embraced everything he fears.
The question sometimes comes up in conversation with old friends. What was the best time of your life? And I’m sometimes embarrassed to admit it but right now is the best time of my life. Truly. And I’m a short chubby bearded dad living in the suburbs. I mow my lawn. I pay bills. I talk to my wife about what she did that day. I change diapers. Lots of them. Sometimes we go get ice cream. I do all those things that angsty pubescents jeer at.
I resemble those remarks. As someone who used to mock the very notion of living in suburbia, I’ve come to enjoy it. Sure, it takes an hour to get to the mall (for me that’s the one with the grass and the monuments, not the stores), but at the same time I’m older and not looking for the same things now that I was when I was in my twenties. I’m perfectly content with my yard, my cigar, and a book (and maybe a little bit of scotch).
Of course my experience is slightly different. Those of you familiar with DC know your options are: (1) pay a lot of money and live in what is essentially the suburbs (Friendship Heights, Tenleytown, etc.), (2) pay a lot of money and live in a small apartment on Dupont, (3) pay a medium amount of money and live in a transitional neighborhood that you hope transitions enough by the time your kids are old enough to go to school, and (4) pay a small-to-medium amount of money and live in a neighborhood that requires you to carry a gun for protection. The DC suburbs are really the only place a middle-class guy can find a house that will not break his bank. And, frankly, my neighborhood is probably more diverse than most sections of DC.
That said, I can understand some of the antipathy towards certain aspects of suburban life. I’m not a big fan of the new developments where the houses all look the same and your options for eating out are all at the strip mall a mile away. But that’s a personal preference. Like Matt, I do not understand the sniveling, jeering attitude taken against the suburbs—an attitude that is not exclusive to teenagers and hipsters in their twenties.
Most of this antipathy is overwrought and based on an ungenerous evaluation of people’s reasons for choosing to live outside the city. Some do it because of economic concerns. Others might just want a little more space. Whatever the reason, I don’t think we’re all a bunch of lily-white, anti-social people afraid to deal with unlike people.
Finally, you almost get the sense from certain quarters (read the first two comments on Matt’s blog post) that to live in the suburbs is somehow anti-Christian. I just don’t get it. I must have missed that encyclical calling for all Christians to live on top of each other in small apartments that barely fits a family of four. Considering the call to be fruitful and multiply, I would almost think it a Christian’s duty to move beyond the city and find that house that can accomodate those ten kids you’re supposed to have. I jest of course, but as long as you take an active part in your community, does it matter if your community consists substantially of houses with white picket fences or of several fifteen-story apartment buildings manned by doormen?
The shooting at the Holocaust Museum yesterday has had the predictable but still unfortunate result of launching another discussion about the rise of right-wing extremism. In my opinion, James von Brunn’s madness does not lend itself to easy classification. He is, it seems, a bitter misanthrope who hates just about every one. His ties to Nazism certainly indicates a closer affinity to extreme left-wing views (I agree with Jonah Goldberg’s thesis in Liberal Fascism about the leftist tilt of said ideology), but at the same time I also happen to think that such virulent anti-everything mania does not have much of a leftist or rightist tilt.
The incident does spark a question that Jonah briefly touched upon yesterday, but which I think is worthy of some discussion: What is a right-wing extremist? I suppose the answer to that question is tied to another question—what is a right-winger? If we’re associating right-wing political views with traditional conservatism, then the very term extreme right-winger is in fact an oxymoron. Conservatism is by its nature anti-radical. So it would seem that anyone engaged in radical behavior is behaving in an un-conservative fashion and thus, could never be termed a right-wing radical.
Does it mean that there’s no such thing as right-wing radicalism, or extremist right-wingery? Are all extreme political ideologies of the left? Perhaps it might be soothing to those of us with a conservative political temperament to believe that all the nuts are on the other side of the spectrum, but that doesn’t strike me as particularly realistic. So what then?
Getting back to Goldberg, he attempts to answer the question this way:
I don’t have a systemic answer because I think the “right” in the Anglo-American tradition has a fork in it. One branch heads off toward extreme anti-statism, the other to extreme traditionalism to the point of monarchism or some such. I think you could make a persuasive case that a serious anarcho-capitalist libertarian was a rightwing extremist. I also think you could make the case that those who want to restore the monarchy in, say, France are rightwing extremists.
So the extreme right would then encompass Hobessian authoritarians and anarcho-libertarians, two camps that would seem to be quite in opposition. But are they? Remember that Hobbes’s absolute sovereign is one whose power is concentrated very narrowly, focusing mainly on preserving order. It’s authoritarian rule, but the ruler doesn’t get involved very much in day-to-day activities. The anarchists get rid of the ruler, but it’s still a free-for-all out there. Therefore I think it’s reasonable to conclude that both are extreme ends of the same side of the political continuum.
Of course there are such things as authoritarian totalitarian systems—just look at North Korea and Cuba as examples. So perhaps the way to view these extreme right-wing ideologies is by examining not who rules, but how. The political continuum could thus be judged as going from an extreme left where every facet of one’s life is subject to the whims of some governing entity, to an extreme right where there is little control if any over daily affairs. Government is either not seen or simply non-existent.
But is such a state right-wing? It certainly isn’t conservative, but the title of this post isn’t “What is an Extreme-Conservative?” Now, as someone who is of a slightly libertarian bent economically (though not quite a full-fledged Cato booster) this particular labeling scheme has me a bit nervous. But, maybe we also have to get over our fear of the word extreme. That term gets tossed about so frequently, and we instantly object to it as though we’re vampires reacting to sunlight. But as Barry Goldwater put it, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
We can dig further down this rabbit hole and ponder what is an extremist, but we might be reaching Clintonian levels of parsing, so I’ll try to end on just a few more quick observations. Those of us who are passionate about ideas can easily be labeled as extremists by all sides. Unless we specialize in a particularly noxious brand of wishy-washiness, we’re likely to hold very strongly to certain opinions, whether they be of a political, religious, or any other type. That alone is enough to be branded an extremist in certain quarters. When it comes to people like James von Brunn, the word “extremist” is an inapt way to describe them. We have already have useful terms to such noxious individuals, and any of them will do. Since some are unprintable I’ll end on this note: Stephen Tyrone Johns’ family is little concerned right now about which label to apply to von Brunn’s psychosis.
Some might think that it would be a bit unseemly to compare a man who performed late-term abortions with a heroic crusader for civil rights. But the type of individual who would perform late-term abortions is also not likely to be concerned about appearing outrageous:
Dr. LeRoy Carhart, one of the nation’s few providers of late-term abortions, called on the federal government to treat as hate crimes all activities by “anti-choice domestic terrorists,” compared the slain Dr. George Tiller to Martin Luther King and said planting crosses was equivalent to actions by the Ku Klux Klan.
“This is the equivalent of Martin Luther King being assassinated,” Dr. Carhart said of the May 31 slaying of one of America’s best-known late-term abortion providers. “This is the equivalent of Pearl Harbor, the sinking of the Lusitania and any other major historic event where we’ve tolerated the intolerable for too long.”
Carhart is obviously out to lunch, but I’m confused about his analogies. What intolerable things were we tolerating too long before Pearl Harbor or the sinking of the Lusitania? Did Carhart just run out of things to compare the murder to? In the director’s cut of the speech I’m sure there was a reference to the st0rming of the Bastille and the invasion of Moscow (by Napoleon, not Hitler). Hey, whatever sticks.
“I just got off the phone with Mrs. Tiller,” he said, “and I know no decisions have been made about anything. What I want to assure the press and reassure the women of America is that we will somehow, somewhere continue to provide abortions later in gestation.”
Well, that’s a load off of one’s mind.
As disgusting as all this is, the following is by far the strangest thing Carhart said all day, and one of the most outrageous justifications for abortion that I have ever read.
“God gave that fetus a ‘guardian ad litem’ when he chose the mother that fetus is born with,” he said. “That mother, I feel, has been charged by God to make the right choices for that child during its unborn and early born years.”
I’m not even sure Peter Singer would go this far. According to Dr. Carhart a woman is granted—by God, mind you—the ultimate responsibility for guarding a child while it is in the womb. And if the mother decides that killing the child is the appropriate course of action, well, God Himself would approve because he has given her that power.
This is assuredly the desperate cry of a man who cannot possibly live with an easy conscience about the things he has done. The only way to justify such gross violations of the sanctity of life is to stretch reason beyond the breaking point. Truly shameful. But again, this is a man with no obvious sense of shame.
While everyone is discussing the Conservative party victories in the recent British local elections, one begins to wonder what kind of society is being conserved?
Church care homes could be forced to remove crucifixes from their walls in case they offend “atheist cleaners” under the new Equality Bill, Catholic bishops have warned.
The way the bill is written means non-Christians could sue for harassment if church authorities do not remove religious imagery, according to Monsignor Andrew Summersgill, general secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
The bishops are also worried that they Equality Bill will establish what they believe would amount to a “hierarchy of rights”, with the rights of homosexuals overruling those of religious expression.
We’ll have to see how this develops.