March 16, 2006

Shibboleths of Sharia

Hatched by Dafydd

In Scott Johnson's succinct and well-argued post Relics of Barbarism, he lays out the case for the triumph of "good order" over liberty. But I think he is deeply mistaken if he fails to grasp that what separates America from the rest of the world is our belief that liberty wins over order.

There are of course exceptions; liberty is not license... in particular, not a license to hurt or even severely inconvenience or disgust others. There is no right to "do it in the road," John Lennon notwithstanding; and a verminous, unwashed, noisome bum has no right to loiter in the public library, gagging and driving out the rest of us.

But the balance must be far more towards individual liberty than Scott seems to desire. He notes with particular ire the case Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Court overturned all state laws against "sodomy," however one chooses to define that. In that context, Scott argues thus:

The Court itself, however, has done much to erode the social consensus fostering laws prohibiting practices commonly recognized as inconsistent with republican government. In her Star Tribune column today, Katherine Kersten looks at the question of polygamy in the context of the debate over same-sex marriage: "Once same-sex marriage is OK, polygamy's next." [Emphasis added]

Perhaps I'm being unusually dense today, but I'm baffled how two guys having sex in the privacy of their own home is "inconsistent with republican government." I hope some conservative can explain it to me.

For more about this topic, please read on....

This paragraph is a synecdoche of the tragic flaw of contemporary conservatism: in their zeal to fight the Kulturkampf, the "culture war," against the forces of radical secularism -- who would burn the divine out of America as the Spanish Inquisition tried to burn away "sorcery" with their auto da feys -- conservatives neglect the enemy ever lurking on their right: those fanatics who would swing the pendulum the opposite direction, all the way to sharia law, whether Moslem, Christian, or Jew.

The only bulwark against both forms of extremism is the mass belief in individual liberty. There is no other army that can defend us.

If "good order" is our lodestone, what cannot a state do? Can it --

  • Ban long hair;
  • Ban dancing;
  • Ban smoking;
  • Ban drinking;
  • Ban rap and hip-hop;
  • Ban raggedy clothing;
  • Ban boorish behavior, such as refusing to open the door for ladies and seniors;
  • Ban lending money for interest;
  • Ban strikes;
  • Ban protests;
  • Make voting mandatory;
  • Make civility to citizens -- and servility to officials -- mandatory.

Any of this sound familiar to you students of history? This is precisely what state-centered governments, from brutal thugocracies like the Taliban to absolute totalitarian states like Stalinist Russia to relatively benign and peaceful tyrannies like Singapore, have done since the rocks were cooling: How dare you pass by the hat of the king without bowing? Put this apple on your son's head, and let's see you plink it off, Mr. Tell!

But let's focus like a laser beam on the interesting linkage Scott created above between Lawrence on the one hand and polygamy and same-sex marriage on the other. Can we not see a yawning conceptual gulf between what we are willing to tolerate... and what we must venerate by invoking formal government sanction? As an addendum to this post, John Hinderaker notes:

At least one case has already been filed in federal court, alleging on the basis of Lawrence that there is a constitutional right to polygamy. More are sure to come.

Of course -- because the extreme Left despises individual liberty just as much as the extreme right. Neither Scott nor John is an extremist, naturally; but both have a bit of a tin ear for detecting extremism from the right-hand side of the aisle. (So do I, but at least I work at it!)

A responsible judge would respond that Lawrence only said states couldn't ban certain types of sexual relations; it did not hold we have to formally sanction the related relationship. (You have the free-speech right to publish a manifesto; you don't have the right to read all 87 pages of it in the well of the House of Representatives.)

Some Justices on the Court may well look kindly upon that lawsuit; we have a problem with extremists of the Left infesting the court system, after eight years of Clintonian nominations and Republican belly-crawling. But the answer is not to throw out the liberty with the leftism.

A strong and mandatory commitment to individual liberty is what makes America unique. From our first Organic Law, the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

From our second, the Constitutiton of the United States:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

"Oh, that only applies to Congress," is the usual rejoinder; "states should be free to regular order at the expense of unnecessary liberty."

But does anyone making that argument really believe what he says? Will any conservative stand up and say that individual states should be free to ban dissent and establish a state church? Ever since the Fourteenth Amendment, courts have asserted (rightly, in my opinion) that the "fundamental rights" protected by the U.S. Constitution extend to state laws as well as federal; the only question is what is a fundamental right and what is a "created right," such as the right to vote for president (which obviously cannot exist prior to the Constitution itself). I have never heard any conservative today argue that the state of California can authorize random search and seizure, allow tortured confessions at trial, and compel all citizens to convert to Alan-Watts-style Buddhism.

Deep down, "we the people" understand better than most politicians that the most fundamental right of all is the right to swing one's fist -- which ends where another man's nose begins. "The governed" have consented that there exists a fundamental right to be let alone, alone to live our own potty lives without having to account to government bureaucrats.

We recognize limits: you can keep guns but not explosives, because the danger of the latter is too great; you can call the governor a son of a bitch, but you can't call for his assassination. A man's home is his castle, but not when he's sexually abusing his children. But we know what the default decision should be, absent extenuating circumstances: more individual liberty.

This is why there just is no great sentiment for banning abortion, but almost overwhelming support for banning partial-birth abortion: because the American people are more nuanced than the partisans, and they recognize the difference between four cells and an actual baby. It's not "inconsistent," as some claim; it's common sense.

And we also recognize the huge difference between allowing a couple of sheepboys "get it on" in a pup tent without suffering arrest and imprisonment -- and formally declaring their relationship to be as valuable to society as marriage. And we wonder at those (like Robert Bork) so blinded by agenda that they see no distinction at all: everything bad must be banned; everything good must be mandated. And soon, as Robert Anton Wilson suggests, everything not compulsory is forbidden.

Leave us alone! I happen to want to live happily with my wife, but I couldn't care less that my next-door neighbor is a "man's man." Or that he smokes. Or that he keeps a stupid, little yappy dog -- unless the dog starts waking me up in the morning, or he blows the smoke in my face. And for society's sake, I care very much indeed if we bestow our official nihil obstat on pornographic art or same-sex marriage, on polygamy or "transgendering."

If you must have those, do them on your own steam without state support or social sanction!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 16, 2006, at the time of 7:15 PM

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The following hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi

he lays out the case for the triumph of "good order" over liberty. But I think he is deeply mistaken if he fails to grasp that what separates America from the rest of the world is our belief that liberty wins over order.

Well, that is what finished the Pythagoreans. They were inducting the ruler class into the Society and training them to be "good" rulers. But when the noble Cylon was refused entry to the elite based on his character flaws (which the Pythagoreans judged made him unfit to rule), he raised a democratic mob of villagers with pitchforks and torches to burn them out and kill them all.
Liberty and democracy over "good order".

The above hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 18, 2006 9:31 AM

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