This may be a little long, and irregular, and broken across multiple posts. People who know me are often surprised when I claim to be a conservative and vote Republican; I have a very lasse-faire attitude when it comes to personal lifestyles, for example, which doesn't seem to jive with their image of Republicans as near-fascist "Moral Majority" bible thumpers. And while I will admit a departure from the religious right--who I think have built their philosophical foundations incorrectly--at least I don't see them as dangerous as I see today's post-9/11 left, who strike me as dangerously insane in how their own foundations are laid.
However, claiming someone else is off their rocker, philosophically speaking, is much easier than actually constructing one which is relatively self-consistent.
Now I strongly believe that 9/11 was a defining event. Since then, what I've seen described elsewhere as a "great political sorting" has taken place: people like myself who never gave a single thought about the foundations of our politics sorted it out in the weeks and months of public mourning and attempting to understand why It happened. Some have found themselves taking a second look at conservatism and the religious right and found fellowship--albeit with disagreement over some issues that suddenly seemed petty and minor. Others have looked abroad and at home, looked to the left, and decided the world on the right had suddenly gone insane--from a time of peace and prosperity to a time of near universal insanity and a desire for blood lust.
Me; politically I grew up fairly fast. I've always had a consistent world view, but the creeping socialism that we now see in politics, as well as the creeping surrender to forces who would destroy us always seemed like a distant problem, one for another generation perhaps a hundred years hense--not my problem.
Well, 9/11 made it our collective problem.
Before I get underway, let me note an observation I once overheard: liberals believe in the perfectability of mankind, while conservatives do not. Individuals may rise and grow, but the mass of mankind will always be the same, in the conservative view--there is no inevitable march of progress, no evolution of man to a state where private property is a collective anarchism, no perfection of the human race. Just us, messy and imperfect, some of us shining gloriously, others less so.
I'm a conservative because I believe while individuals may evolve, mankind will not. In fact, I do not see this as a pessimistic observation, but an optimistic one: we are all commanders of our own fate and can chart our own destinies without worry that some higher fiend will tell us who our collective God is supposed to be that we are all to eventually emulate to perfection.
I find it ironic, by the way, that the core philosophy of the Left, which can trace it's lineage directly to Christian Theology (specifically to the Pauline doctrine expressed in Colossians that the elect and evolved would live a radically different life by using heavenly standards, and shed their social standards in favor of Faith) would be embrased most heavily by those who are self-proclaimed "agnostics" or who believe in non-traditional religious belief systems, such as Wiccans and neo-Pagans.
But I digress.
One of the points of departure for many on the Left, ironically enough given the foundation of their political system being firmly established in Pauline theology, is the notion of "universal law" or "fundamental moral truths." Many on the Left have expressed their distaste in the notion of "fundamental moral truths" as a religious one--yet I strongly suspect that this distaste only extends over those "truths" which are inconvenient to their own absolute Faith in the inevitable evolution of Mankind to a race that has evolved beyond the need for "petty things."
Specifically I'm refering here to the notion that property ownership should somehow be expressed as a "fundamental right." When people have the absolute right to own property, it makes it impossible for the State to redistribute property, or to enact laws which establish "collectivism"--an absolute truth that the Left has decided superceeds the Right's absolute truth that man has the right to keep what he has worked for.
So now that I have established a difference between the Left and the Right and given some hints as to why I have great distaste for the philosophers of the Left (even if some of their short-term political goals are in harmony with mine), let me lay out a philosophical groundwork for my own belief system.
The Rights of Man
One of the basic problems that the Left has had with conservatism is that they find the idea of absolute morality distasteful, in that it implies a God the Creator who created man with certain inalienable rights. It's that "God" thing that gives many on the Left a fit. Yet that's not what the Declaration of Independence says in the preamble. Instead, it says:
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.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.
Now in the above quote, "Creator" is capitalized--yet so is "Government", "Men", "Powers" and the terms "Rights", "Life", "Liberty" and "Happiness", as well as "Truths." The emphasis on the word "Creator" does imply God--but by capitalizing these other words, it does not directly state "God" in the text. And it is perfectly reasonable to state flatly that by "Creator" we could be refering to my mother and my father, who created me some 40 years ago.
Even if we take God out of the equation, however, the above statement can be held to be true. By "created equal", we are all born, we all die, and we all live with certain drives and desires that are inherent in our nature--as animals, if there is no God--to be free. As descendents of monkeys, we all desire security and protection, to live, and to pursue (through the use of our intellect) happiness.
To say that some people have the "right" to pursue happiness by using their intellect, to find security in their person (the drive to live) and in their things (our intrinsic territorialism as apes), while others do not is to deny that those without the "right" are not fully human beings. It's to deny our intrinsic behavioral drives as an ape-descendant species. It's to deny that we exist in some fundamental way, but are instead things to be executed and butchered like a slab of inanimate meat before being tossed into a mass grave alongside the foil wrappings off our food or the shit we flush down the toilet.
As dramatic as the above paragraph may sound--and as revolting the idea of discarding human beings as trash unworthy to live or to express their own basic animal instincts--this was the way of the world for most of it's history. This is the way of the world in most places and in the minds of many men--such as the politicians of the Middle East who regard their subjects as so much fodder to be stomped in the face of the politicians' own personal progress.
Through virtue of our creation, by our very nature, we are animals who have the instinctive need for territory so we may feel safe, a consistent understanding of the universe about us so we can feel secure, a desire for life, and the intellect and desire to find Happiness beyond the fundamentals of (say) my cat, who desires little more than a warm spot to sleep and watch the birds outside my house.
So one could say that even if there is no God, there is a morally absolute Truth that mankind--as individuals--have the inalienable right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness--including the tools (such as property ownership and unambiguous and justified laws) which protect these Rights. That's because those men who are denied these fundamental rights will seek them anyways--even if it leads to chaos (such as the revolutions that used to happen like clockwork in many of the banana republics).
The supremecy of the Individual
It is also important to recognize the importance of the individual in all of this. We are not talking about mankind here; we are talking about individual men and women, boys and girls--the mass of humanity which is the forest for the trees that are each of us.
If we presume that individuals are free--that is, by virtue of their intellect (or rather, because they have a brain) people are able to pursue Happiness on their own terms and with their own definitions--then we must necessarily assume the individual is master of the Government. That is, if we assume that by our very own nature--either given to us by God or accidentally evolved by Nature--that we have certain fundamental Rights, then Government must serve those Rights, or risk rebellion as individuals seek those fundamental Rights that have been denied to them.
A Government, in other words, which denies people freedom must deal with the urge to freedom--either through brain-washing, lying about who is denying them their rights, or through resisting the open rebellion of the populations they control.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter if the argument is utilitarian or mystic, we must inevitably come to the conclusion that there are certain Fundamental and Unalienable Rights, and that to acknowledge these Rights--established either by our creation or by our accidental birth--requires a certain absolute Moral Law.
At this point let me note my departure from the Religious Right. Having established that there is an absolute Moral Law, the Religious Right then go on to claim that this Law derives from God--or rather, their narrow interpretation of God--then go on and establish to varying degrees that Moral Law also includes various passages from Deuteronomy or from Galatians. The problem here is that this "Moral Law" is not absolute across time and space. This moral law relies upon a particular body of scripture--and a particular interpretation of that body of scripture, rather than relies upon the very fabric of our essential creation.
While I do not deny the value of following Saint Paul's proscriptions for living a spiritual life in the Holy Spirit as formulated in Galatians, or the inclusion of select passages from Deuteronomy, it is important to remember that this is one particular formulation--one particular group's personal use of their own Intellect to try to discover Happiness in their Faith. But for them to believe their own intellect has discovered Truth in select religious writings is to deny the intellect of others who find their own personal Truth elsewhere.
On the other hand, the Left fails by claiming that just because the "Moral Truths" of the Christian Conservatives are not absolute, therefore there can be no absolutes: this is throwing away the baby with the bathwater. In essence, they're suggesting that just because the idea "Homosexuality is a Sin" is not absolute, then our fundamental right to Life is also not absolute. This failure to understand that there are certain absolutes lead the extreme Left right to the same place as the extreme Right: if we do not have the absolute right to Life, then Homosexuals may be put to death arbitrarily because they offend us. There is, to the extreme Left, no absolutes, so the arbitrary putting to death Homosexuals who offends us could simply be "utilitarianism."
Which is, as an aside, one of the reasons why the far Left is so comfortable with the Muslim religious conservatives who destroyed the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentegon and murdered around 3,000 people on 9/11--because without moral absolutes there is only utilitarianism. And the utility of destroying a Western power far outweighs any "fundamental--but nonexistent--right" to life.
Ironically enough, though, Muslim religious conservatives do believe in an absolute law: the Absolute Law of Allah--which means that many on the Left (such as the folks at QUIT!) are in for a rude surprise if they succeed in destroying the West--as they will then be the first to be executed under a new World Order they are now helping to create.
Next time: from absolute rights to a Political Philosophy