Objection:  Without in-group loyalty, there would be no persecution of outsiders.  Therefore, we should eliminate “us/them” categories from our thinking.

Reply:  I grant the premise and go farther:  group self-consciousness is what makes possible all the bad things ever done by collectives, because it is what makes any collective action possible, good or bad.  Following the objector’s advice would effectively mean the death of society.

Objection:  Natural law arguments have been used to justify bad things in the past.  Therefore, natural law reasoning should be rejected.

Reply:  I grant the premise and go farther:  natural law principles are the only things that have been used to justify bad things.  They are the only things that have been used to justify anything.  There is no morality outside natural law.  Other ethical theories are just truncated versions of this morality that arbitrarily and unjustifiably accept some natural law principles while rejecting others.

Objection:  Religious people are violent because they are too certain of their beliefs.  Agnostics are more tolerant because they are less sure of themselves.

Reply:  I deny even the premise.  Suppose on some Pacific island a tribe comes to believe that there is an 85% chance that their gods will kill everyone in the island unless they throw all left-handed men into a volcano.  I think it entirely possible that the heathen will carry out this violent act, entirely conscious of their uncertainty, in order to minimize the expected number of deaths.  How firmly a belief is held has nothing to do with how murderous that belief is.  True, someone is more likely to accept sacrifices (for himself or others) for a belief the higher its perceived probability of truth, but this would include noble and heroic acts as well as vicious ones.  In any event, the debate is academic.  We cannot function without acting on the belief that some or other propositions are true.  It would be better to direct our energies to finding beliefs with the highest probability of truth rather than engage in a futile quest for “neutrality” in which we can make decisions without acknowledging the responsibility of having made decisions.

Objection:  Everyone should become liberal; then there would be no religious persecutions.

Reply:  The premise is true, but hardly something for liberals to boast about.  It’s equally true that there would be no persecutions if everyone were to become Roman Catholic, Shia Muslim, or Latter Day Saint.  Just as is the case with these other faiths, if everyone were to accept liberalism, it would effectively mean the death of all other religions and the end of religio-philosophical diversity.  If liberalism is the true faith, than I guess this would be a good thing, but let’s not pretend that we are preserving meaningful diversity.

Pharisees and Journalists

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:  “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacterieswide and the tassels on their garments long;  they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;  they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.  And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.  Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.  The greatest among you will be your servant.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

–Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus spent a lot of time excoriating Pharisees and others he regarded as hypocrites.  “Hey,” says the journalist, “we’re like Jesus, because we too are dedicated to exposing hypocrisy.”  Not so fast.  Christ and the journalists do very different things.  The journalist lives to bring down anyone who defends the moral order–all authority figures, all religious figures.  Their weapon is to expose some way that the authority figure has himself failed to live up to the moral law.  Since we are all sinners, all authorities are vulnerable to this sort of attack.  Thus do the journalists make themselves our masters.  Authority figures are either intimidated into doing the newsman’s will, or they are “exposed”, socially destroyed, and replaced by the newsman’s own creatures.

Jesus, on the other hand, certainly did not condemn people for upholding the moral law, and never imagined that the public promotion of vice excuses its private exercise.  An official who publicly condemns adultery while keeping a mistress is guilty of adultery but not hypocrisy.  He is only a hypocrite if he presents himself to the public as an exemplary chaste man and seeks status according to this lie.  The latter is what Jesus condemned:  status-seeking through moral posturing, moral grandstanding like the hypocrites who make sure everybody knows when they’re fasting, self-righteous priggishness like the Pharisee who thanked God he was not like sinful men.  This message of the Gospels is extremely relevant today, but not in the way our media masters would like us to believe.

Why single out the Pharisees, though?  They’re certainly not the only, and probably not the worst, of history’s status-seekers.  (Also, it goes without saying that there were a number of honest, godly Pharisees toward whom Jesus’ criticisms were not directed.)  The social context gave their preening a particularly obnoxious flavor, though.  Among the pagans, I doubt one encountered this kind of moral grandstanding so much, not because they were more humble, but ironically because they were, in a way, less so–the pagans didn’t make personal virtue the key to social status.  Of course, being a good man was thought desirable, but if is was respect and power you were after, you would have been better off trying to convince your neighbor of your wealth, military prowess, and influence.  Among the Israelites, there seems to have been a competition between Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots for influence, based not on who was perceived as toughest, but on who was perceived as holiest.

Medieval Christians seem to have followed the pagan route.  Even in highly polemical writers, like Dante, one doesn’t hear a great deal of moral self-congratulation, of claims that one is on one side of a conflict as opposed to another because of one’s superior virtue, piety, or compassion.  Today, of course, things are different. We engage in far more moral posturing than the Pharisees of today ever dreamed of doing.  And who are the paradigmatic pharisees of today?  Who else could it be but the journalist?  The man who ruthlessly annihilates all rivals to his power, and then turns around and says that it was his overwhelming sense of justice that forced him to do it.  Like the praying Pharisee in the parable, the journalist’s core belief is in his own moral superiority to his fellows.  Like all hypocrites, he presents himself as a paragon of virtues he imposes on others but never practices himself.  He demands that religious believers keep their faith private, but he demands that the state enforce his atheism on the public sphere.  He demands that white Christians despise their cultural and religious heritage and make no efforts to protect their own group interests, while he ruthlessly advances his own hegemony and the interests of his own ethnic group.  The journalists are far worse than the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, and they deserve His strictures far more.  The Pharisees, at least, taught a good morality, and Christ Himself told His disciples to obey them.  Their code imposed real burdens on them, burdens they made some effort to meet (and made sure everybody else knew about it).  The journalist encourages and practices every vice, and discourages only those who challenge their power.

Against Christian Republicanism

The Mad Monarchist has a great three-part series on monarchy and democracy in the Bible here, here, and here.  I especially recommend the final part.  Not surprisingly to anyone who reads the good book honestly, MM concludes that God leans strongly toward monarchy, or at least that attempts to read republicanism as a Christian imperative are obviously bogus.

The good war

People call World War II “the good war”.  If one judges a war by its effect on the character of the victors, then WWII was certainly not a good war; it was a worse war than WWI.  WWI left us chastened and skeptical of schemes to redeem the world through bloodshed; WWII left us self-righteous and fanatical, prowling the world for demons to slay.  The lesson we took away from WWII is “never appease bullies”, which means “never compromise”, which means to become a bully oneself–all in the name of peace, of course.  WWII gave America, Europe, and the international Left a template for understanding the world:  the enemy is always Hitler.  The trouble is, this template hasn’t fit any situation since 1945.

Why do we remember the last great war so fondly?  I think it’s because it was the last time America and her intelligensia were on the same side.  We miss the days when our greatest authors and moviemakers were making propaganda for our side, rather than the enemy’s.  Also, the virtue of fighting with the Allies is the one point of American pride that our Marxist historians won’t touch.  Everything else in our history they have convinced us is tainted.  Suggest to an American that his country’s participation in WWII was wrong or foolish, and he will react with horror.  You would be taking away his one piece of evidence that his ancestors weren’t completely wicked, the one mark to unambiguously go on the positive side of the ledger.  I know; I was once one of these Americans.

Sure, Hitler was a bad guy.  (The average German, I’m sure , was no worse than the average American.)  But we shouldn’t base our collective self-image on having somebody worse than us that we thrashed.  (It was mostly the Red Army that thrashed him anyway.)  We shouldn’t be proud to be Americans.  Pride is a sin.  We should show piety toward America, our patria.  We do this not because of any particular past glory, and certainly not because it meets the Leftist ideal of communal virtue better than some other polities, but because it is our fatherland.  Like biological fatherhood (but in a much weaker sense), it is one of the symbols of God that He used in our formation, and we thus honor it for His sake.

Notable on the Web, April edition

At First Things, Wilfred McClay writes about The Moral Economy of Guilt.  We often hear that modern man has lost the sense of sin, and McClay does tell how our understanding of guilt has replaced psychological adjustment for the knowledge of objective transgression, but that’s only half of the story.  As he points out, guilt is ubiquitous in the world today.  For the first time in history, we can feel guilty about things happening across the world.  To escape the guilt, people desperately seek the status of victim, or seek to associate with an “official” victim in some way, and we prove our righteousness by scapegoating those accused of insensitivity.  I think this deserves further exploration.  It does seem to me that that the public sphere, and, especially, the academic sphere are more moralistic, more given to moral oneupmanship than it was in the past.  Thomists, Scotists, and Occamists were able to argue robustly without ever accusing their opponents of being heartless toward the poor or being dupes of imperialism or whatever.

Gerry Neal has presented an excellent series of posts on Christian soteriology from an evangelical Protestant perspective here and here and here.  I intend to address some of his points in detail in later posts, but for now I would just recommend readers check out his lucid presentation of the Protestant position.

I am really impressed by Alte’s work at Traditional Catholicism.  Just look at all the sources and different metrics she consulted to flesh out the rise of multigenerational households.  She’s also doing good work for patriarchy showing which kinds of welfare do and don’t undermine patriarchy and explaining to other women what men find endearing in a wife.

Ed Feser takes apart a particularly silly and obnoxious objection to theism here and here.

The Mad Monarchist remembers Pope St. Pius X, scourge of the modernists.  If only God would send another like him!

If Justin is right, it wasn’t just the Soviets who committed outrageous crimes against the post-WWII defeated German population.  I would not be a bit surprised if it is true, and I have no reason to doubt it.  The movies I’ve seen from the WWII era, and decades thereafter, demonized and dehumanized Germans to a shocking degree.  The rule in movies used to be (and, to a large extent, still is) that any person with a German accent is always absolutely evil.  There was never any sense that the enemy armies were composed of decent men, fighting for their country as we were.  The Enemy Below was noteworthy because that sort of thing was so rare.  The self-righteousness of the Allies was a terrifying thing.  What’s more, it’s still going on.  A while back, I saw a book in the Cornell bookstore lamenting the attention Germans gave to the bombing of Dresden.  Could it be, the author kept suggesting, a sign of neo-Nazi sympathies?  “Well I’m shocked”, I was tempted to say, “How dare those dastardly Germans mourn their own dead?!”  Today, our self-righteousness has inflated to such a degree that historians and Jewish organizations are hounding countries for being neutral during the war (c.f. the “shame” that allegedly fell on Ireland, Switzerland, and Vatican City for not jumping into the war on our side).

Finally, something totally apolitical.  Imagine what it would be like to have had Oscar Hammerstein as an uncle.

The denial of Peter

Peter was no coward.  He was ready without a second thought to die defending Jesus from the crowd at Gethsemane.  But Jesus wouldn’t allow it.  And so it was:  the Master was in the hands of His enemies, the populace had turned on Him, His disciples had fled ignominiously, the movement–whatever it was–was over.  Nothing left for Peter to do but wonder whether he’ll be able to get that fishing gig back.  Then a servant girl sees him and says, “Hey, aren’t you one of the followers of that lunatic they just arrested?”  Peter was ready to be a martyr, back when it might have made a difference.  Now the fight is over.  Standing with Him now won’t help the Master; He’ll never even know.  Why throw my life away now, for nothing, he thinks.  “I do not know him.”

Afterwards, Peter remembered what Christ had predicted.  When Peter had professed his loyalty to Jesus, what Christ had cared about was not Peter’s loyalty when it mattered, but his lack of loyalty when it didn’t matter.  The latter was the kind of loyalty Jesus really wanted.  That was the real test–will you stick by the Savior when the cause is already lost and as far as worldly eyes can see your sacrifice will do nobody any good?  Not just loyalty unto death, but loyalty unto pointless death.  Can you sacrifice to God purely out of devotion to Him, not to advance the Cause?  The Cause you place entirely in His hands.

All Christians owe Peter their gratitude for his subsequent heroism in service of the Faith, not least in his making sure that this story of his own weakness would be preserved for our benefit.  Its application to 21st-century reactionaries is apparent.

Muslim individualism, Christian corporatism

The key to the seemingly anarchic or ‘irrational’ growth of the Muslim city may lie in a singular fact of the Shari’a law:  the absence of the Roman-law concept of ‘legal personality’.  In Europe, the public right is an abstraction which can be upheld by defending it in law as a ‘legal person’.  Litigation between the public and private interest can therefore–for civil purposes–take the form of an adjudication between two parties.  In criminal law one party is always the state, which brings a case against a suspected criminal as though it too were a legal party on par with the accused.  This principle applies not only to the state but to companies and corporations, groups of individuals endowed for the purposes of the law with legal personalities.

The absence of juridicial personality in the Muslim law may not have been an oversight:  it is certainly consistent with the uncompromising individualism of the Shari’a.  Many aspects of Roman-Byzantine law and administration were taken over by the Arabs…but in the public sphere the Shari’a seems to have taken no steps to define the interests of the community vis-a-vis those of the individual….

This absence of a juridicial definition of the public sphere had far-reaching consequences.  Islamic law did not recognize cities as such, nor did it admit corporate bodies.  Whereas in late medieval Europe the cities came to be administered by powerful corporations representing the merchant classes, the Muslim city remained in certain respects a collection of villages in which the group interests of families predominated over class interests….In a discussion that covers much of the same ground Pervez Hoodbhoy evaluates the role of Islamic law in inhibiting or preventing the emergence of autonomous cities and corporations and of a self-confident bourgeoisie able to withstand the arbitrary power of dynastic government, a prerequisite for the scientific and technological revolution which gave birth to the modern world….

To add a few links to this argument I suggest that in the West the Church, the ‘mystical body’ of Christ which alone guaranteed salvation, became the archetype in law of a whole raft of secular corporations that suceeded it during the early modern period.  The mystic qualities of fictional personhood originating in the Body of Christ were eventually devolved to joint stock companies and public corporations with tradable shares.  Western capitalism and the bourgeois revolution that accompanied it has a distinctly Christian underpinning (one that is paradoxically ‘Catholic’ rather than ‘Protestant’ in origin, as Weber famously claimed, because its legal foundations are rooted in the idea of the Church as a distinctive body separated from society and infused with divine authority)….The corporate group becomes the vehicle for the accumulation of capital.  The burghers continually reinvest their money in the company which, crucially, not only transcends the sum of its individual members, but exists for eternity, just like the Church.  Whereas Islamic law requires that a merchant’s estate be redistributed amongst his kin upon his death…the capital invested in the western corporation may continue to grow…Hoodbhoy comes close to recognizing the significance of this process in registering a concluding irony:  ‘Paradoxically, a superior moral position–the right of the individual to interpret doctrine without the aid of priests–appears to have led to a systemic organizational weakness which proved fatal to Islamic political and economic–not to speak of scientific and technological–power in the long run.

–Malise Ruthven, from Islam in the World, pp. 167-170

Weak propositionalism

Many of us on the Right cringe whenever we hear claims that America is a “propositional nation”, i.e. that the essence of being an American is accepting some or other political creed.  Lydia at What’s Wrong with the World takes a stab at defining a less objectionable propositionalism, one that she thinks we should actually endorse:

1. America has become great in no small measure because of the nature of the form of government put together by America’s founders, who were right in their propositional ideas concerning the wisdom of the details of their system–e.g., checks and balances, separation of powers, freedom of religion, and the limitation of federal powers to those enumerated.

2. There is another set of important ideas presupposed by the American form of government which are not, unfortunately, exemplified in all other countries of the world and are centrally important to America’s greatness. These include the evil of government corruption, the equality of persons under the law, the value of honesty and hard work, and the importance of the rule of law.

3. An understanding and love of the ideas in #1 and #2 is a crucial part of being a good American citizen.

4. It is not only theoretically possible but also a live, practical possibility that some people not born in America will develop this understanding.

5. If people can come to embrace these ideas, there is a good chance that they will make good naturalized American citizens. In fact, Americans born in America from generations of American citizens who scorn these ideas may be worse and less loyal citizens than those naturalized who have a deep understanding and love for these ideas. Those who have no concept of these ideas have suffered from a sad gap in their American civics education which should be remedied if and when at all possible.

6. Being of non-Caucasian lineage is not by itself sufficient to make it so highly unlikely that one will embrace these ideas and become a good citizen that all persons of non-Caucasian lineage should be debarred from coming to the United States and attempting to become citizens. While race and ethnicity are closely bound up together and can be important cultural markers, race by itself is not everything and does not automatically designate cultural fitness or unfitness for presence in the United States and future good citizenship.

7. Loving one’s soil and kindred is not enough to make one a good American, per se, as opposed to a patriotic citizen of some country (any country) or other.

 I admire Lydia and her writings a lot, and this explication of propositionalism is less crazy than most, but readers will not be surprised to learn that I’m still against it.  I don’t take it as an insult to me that Lydia has made a definition that excludes the possiblility of people with my beliefs being good Americans.  It is rather America that is insulted here.  Aristotle pointed out that it’s only in a good polis where being a good man and being a good citizen are the same.  A nation that requires its citizens to profess false beliefs would necessarily be radically defective.

I would have said that the only requirements for being a good American is that one loves ones country and countrymen, and one recognizes oneself as a subject of the United States government.  Lydia’s point that most perplexes me is 7.  It seems to be an attempt to turn one of the paleoconservatives’ main charge against propositionalism–that it robs our nation of any distinctiveness, since lots of foreigners can and do embrace all these “American” political principles–against us.  Love of blood and soil is not enough to make one a good American because it’s not distinctive.  Good Frenchmen, good Mexicans, and good Japanese no doubt feel the same way about their countries.

I don’t see why this is objectionable.  The object of one’s loyalty is sufficient to differentiate one loyalty from another.  Let’s consider this from an Aristotelian-essentialist point of view.  What is the essence of America?  The answer is territorial sovereignty.  But how can that be, you ask, since that’s something that all nations have?  Precisely, I say.  America is an individual of the species “nation”.  All members of a species share the same essence/nature/form.  They are differentiated by matter.  America is the form of nationality actualized in a particular location among a particular people.  Propositionalists all end up trying to make America into a form, rather than a concrete being.  This is inimical to true patriotism, because patriotism, like love, is always directed at the concrete and particular.

I will grant that rejecting America’s founding ideology makes being a good American problematic.  In this essay, I address ways that conservatives can navigate through this uncomfortable position.

Poor, poor rich people

First Things is usually a good web site, but sometimes they write things that baffle me, like this recent post on how our taxes are so unfair to rich people.

That’s right. Nearly half the country pays nothing* towards a government that in theory represents everyone. A family of four earning $50,000 pays nothing in federal income taxes. Nearly 40 percent of those 47 percent actually profit from the tax system, getting back in credits more than they would have owed. They’re actually paid to not pay taxes!

Politicians of both parties going back decades share the blame for this. They promise something for nothing to taxpayers to get their votes, then try to make up the difference by higher taxes on the “rich” or by borrowing the money. (The top 10 percent of earners pay 73 percent of the taxes, but realize that “rich” starts at $366,000 in earnings, and some of them are actually small businesses that file taxes as individuals.) We constantly hear pleas for the “rich” to pay their “fair share,” but that’s a mighty weird definition of “fair” if in reality it means the lion’s share. Besides, we can raise taxes on the “rich” to levels unseen in decades and still not make a dent in the federal deficit.

First, that family of four living on $50,000 is raising two children.  One might think that this is contributing to the common wealth.

Second, could it be that those top 10% paying 73% of the taxes has something to do with how much money they make relative to the other 90%.   To take an extreme case, if all the nation’s wealth was owned by one person, would it be unfair for him to pay more in taxes than everyone else?  (In fact, commenters on that post claim that this top 10% make 60% of the nation’s income, so paying 73% of the taxes is hardly iniquitous to them.  In fact, it sounds far too small.  I think it would be more fair to compare tax rates not with total income, but with disposable income.  By this measure, it would be obviously unfair how little that top 10% is paying.)

Third, I don’t know what circles Neven runs in, but yes, $366,000 is rich.  It’s very rich.  I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who makes that much money.  I make $60,000 a year (plus summer salary from my grant), and I’m well-off.

When someone writes something so stupid, I imagine there must be something going on in his head that I’m not seeing.  I expect it’s part of that big political deal that defines the Republican Party.  Christian conservatives agree to let the party define itself entirely by the self-interests of the wealthy, and in return the rich condescend to associate with us (but never, of course, actually push for our agenda).  Astoundingly, the business interests in the Republican Party actually think they’re doing us a favor by letting us stay in and repeat their idiotic ideas.  But there’s something every Christian reactionary needs to know:  the rich hate us.  They absolutely despise us, and they’re not shy about saying it.  To a man, they are enthusiasts for abortion, pornography, gay “marriage”, atheist indoctrination in schools, multiculturalism, and culture-smashing levels of immigration.  Ask yourself:  where is the foundation money going to patriarchist causes?  How many successful entrepreneurs are using their fortunes to support missionary work?  Compare that with how many are giving their money to Planned Parenthood or sodomy-advocacy in schools.    Our loyalty has bought us nothing.  I hope the bastards are taxed into oblivion.

Neofeudalism: a manifesto

We shall never truly defeat socialism until we abolish private property.

Socialism is the inevitable result of modernity’s public/private dicotomy:  “public” (i.e. government) wealth exists for the common good, while “private” property is that which exists for private indulgence, that which an owner can do with as he pleases.  Given this understanding, it’s no wonder that many think that a society will become more virtuous the greater the fraction of wealth that is under government control, and that a small ratio of public to private wealth is a sign of selfishness.

The public/private split is itself the direct result of what modernity, not without reason, considers its great accomplishment:  the separation of persons from their social roles.  A feudal lord felt no embarassment in calling the lands he adminsistered “his” land and the people on it “his” vassels, peasants, and serfs.  He could acquire them through personal inheritance or marriage, and he hoped to pass them on to his son.  In the modern world, such fortunes of land, men, and other resources belong not to individuals but to corporations–governments or businesses.  The person who administers them is a civil servant/employee of the corporate owner.  His actual property is just the tiny house and salary the corporation gives him in compensation for his work.  This system has its advantages, especially from the point of view of Weberian rationalization.  The corporation can appoint/elect the most talented administrator and fire incompetent ones without being hindered by property and inheritance law.  The disadvantage is less obvious but no less real:  property loses its social function.  Once it was an expression of one’s social role; now it has no social function whatsoever.  It functions only as an incentive; it exists only to serve its owner’s material needs, desires, or caprices.  The very meaning of “mine” changes.  It has changed so thoroughly that we now recklessly project our novel ideas of property onto past ages.  The feudal arrangement seems evil and inhuman, because we imagine that when a feudal lord said that some land or its inhabitants were “his” that he meant the same thing as a man means today when he says a television set is his, i.e. that it exists solely for his pleasure, and he can smash it to bits if he feels like it.

Premodern man meant no such thing.  He had no “private property” in this sense.  What he had was a trust:  something entrusted to him by his ancestors, something he was bound to pass on unspoiled to his descendents.  Not only did he not think of “his” people the way we think of inanimate objects we own, he didn’t even think of inanimate objects the way we do.  The land and the estate owned him as much as he owned them.

The author of this heresy of private property was the Whig John Locke.  The scholastics had maintained that government is natural–i.e. an integral part of the good life–while property is artificial.  By natural law, the world and everything in it belongs to everyone, but the community divides the world into parcels of property for its own purposes.  Locke reversed this, making government a pure artifice and property a dictate of nature.  What I make is mine because I have “mixed” myself with nature through my labour.  Of course, this bears very little relation to most of our actual experience of ownership, but the modern mind was bewitched.  Indeed, the failure of Locke’s theory to describe reality was used by Marx to indict reality.  The capitalist system is evil because workers do not see their creations as being mixtures of themselves.  They are alienated, and, ironically, only under socialism will the Lockean ideal of private property actually be fulfilled.  Still, there was no question that a man should see himself–his creativity, his will–objectified in his possessions or products.

According to the scholastic view, which represents the traditional wisdom of mankind, this is all wrong.  Property isn’t supposed to objectify the owner; it’s supposed to objectify his place in the community–his status and his responsibilities.  If we accept this understanding of property, then the problem of political economy, the problem of social justice, must be radically restated.  We should first begin with the human relationships dictated by natural law, those that support integral human flourishing.  Then we should ask what property arrangements will best support these relationships.  I call this position “neofeudalism”.

Often today, the opposite is done.  Not long ago, I was reading an anthropology book from the early 1960’s.  It reports that in newly-industrializing areas of sub-Saharan Africa, marriage was collapsing and giving way to cohabitation.  The author recommended we not worry about his, because marriage is supposedly only needed in an agricultural community where inheritance of farms is a big issue, and everybody needs to know who everyone’s official father is.  It struck me that this is quite backwards, letting economic structures dictate our most intimate relationships.  In fact, monogomous indissolvable marriage is an important part of the good, virtuous life, independent of economics.  If the latter is discouraging this human good, then the economic arrangement is bad and should be changed.  That, to me, is thinking straight.

What are the practical consequences of the neofeudal possition?  That still needs to be worked out.  In a series of future posts, I’d like to argue the following–all in the spirit of the historical Louis de Bonald:

  1. Incorporation of the family.  Conservatives have always opposed inheritance taxes, because in our minds when property passes from father to son, it doesn’t really change hands at all.  The family itself is the owner.  It would be better to assert this directly, by making families property and responsibility-bearing subjects under the law.  Details on how family property should be treated are tricky, since we want to incentivize its correct us and discourage abuses.  Also, inheritance becomes a live issue again.
  2. The abolition of private fortunes.  The rich should be given a choice of having their surplus property confiscated by the State or buying their way into an aristocracy, in which case they get to keep their fortunes, but these are transformed into a public trust, to be used to benefit the aristocrat’s locale.  Rights and duties need to be spelled out.
  3. Strengthening and socialization of unions.  Trade and workers’ organizations are to be encouraged, but they shouldn’t just exist to promote their members’ self-interest (although they should certainly do this).  They should be the forum wherein these workers experience their duty to the wider social order.  One possibility would be to put unions in charge of the training and training standards of new workers, which would begin an evolution of unions into guilds.
  4. A revitalization of anti-usury laws.  Activities that obscure the relations between property and social order (e.g. by giving money a life of its own, as the ancients saw it) must be kept from being too lucrative.  Lots of details to be worked out here.