Saturday, September 12, 2020

The rule of lawlessness

As Aristotle and Aquinas teach us, human beings are by nature rational social animals.  Because we are a kind of animal, we need to be safe from violent attack and we need the freedom to acquire food, shelter, clothing and other material goods and to be able to rely on stable possession of them.  Because we are social animals, we need the cooperation of others in order to acquire these material goods, and we also need the warmth of human relationships and a sense of belonging and loyalty to a larger whole – to a family, a community, a nation.  Because we are rational animals, we need for others to appeal to our reason in order to persuade us of their opinions and favored policies, rather than resorting to intimidation and violence.

These are basic human goods insofar as they are the necessary preconditions of other goods, and the fundamental duty of government is to safeguard these basic goods.  It must do so in a way that respects the natural law principle of subsidiarity, according to which it is a grave injustice for the state to take over from lower-level social orders (such as the family) what they can do for themselves.  And it must do so in a way that respects the rule of law.  The rule of law is not the same thing as the arbitrary will of some legislator, but precisely the opposite of that.  True law must reflect rationality both in its motivation and in its effects.  A decree that has no consistent rationale or application, or which makes the social order unpredictable or otherwise unstable, smacks of tyranny rather than lawfulness.  As Aquinas writes:

In order that the volition of what is commanded may have the nature of law, it needs to be in accord with some rule of reason.  And in this sense is to be understood the saying that the will of the sovereign has the force of law; otherwise the sovereign's will would savor of lawlessness rather than of law.  (Summa Theologiae I-II.90.1)

And of tyranny he says:

Everything is uncertain when there is a departure from justice.  Nobody will be able firmly to state: This thing is such and such, when it depends upon the will of another, not to say upon his caprice. (On Kingship, Book I, Chapter 4)

Protecting these basic goods of human beings as rational social animals, in a way that respects subsidiarity and the rule of law, is the foundation of true social justice as it is understood in the natural law tradition and in Catholic moral theology.  Any regime that imperils these basic goods is fundamentally socially unjust.  And any regime that imperils them in the name of social justice is not only unjust, but diabolically perverse.

New world disorder

Now, the last few months have seen the sudden rise of a strange new order of things (or rather a disorder of things) that imperils all of these basic goods.  It has three main components:

(1) Open-ended stop-and-start lockdowns imposed in the name of public health that are unnecessary, excessive in the material and spiritual costs they impose on citizens, and arbitrary in their application;

(2) The refusal of many public officials to suppress widespread rioting, vandalism, and looting, conjoined with their seriously entertaining (and in some cases actively working to implement) the dismantling of ordinary police protections; and

(3) The spread throughout news media, entertainment, educational institutions, corporate Human Resources departments, and governmental agencies of a Maoist-style “cancel culture” that shrilly insists on a simplistic and divisive Manichean ideology, and tries to shout down and otherwise harass dissenters and make them infamous and unemployable. 

This confluence of trends endangers the vast majority of citizens, particularly the poor and the middle class and small business owners.  It has little effect on the super-rich and large corporations, who have the resources to shield themselves from the worst effects of economic disruption and social chaos.  So, who benefits from it?  Mainly two groups: (a) revolutionaries and other lawbreakers who profit from the breakdown in social order, and (b) governmental officials and corporate bureaucrats (such as HR personnel looking to ferret out insufficiently “woke” employees) seeking to expand their discretionary power over others.  In other words, it benefits the tyrannical personality type described by Plato, which preys upon society from below (in the case of criminals and revolutionaries) and from above (in the case of ideologues in positions of power).  The law-abiding public is caught between these two groups, as in a vise.  Indeed, as I have argued elsewhere, what we are seeing with some of these trends is eerily reminiscent of what Plato describes in the Republic as the classic mechanism by which democracy degenerates into tyranny. 

Let’s consider each of these trends and how they threaten the basic human goods I described above.

Lawless lockdowns

No doubt some readers have already had to wipe spittle flecks off of their computer screens, outraged at the very suggestion that the lockdowns might be in any way questionable.  Such knee-jerk attitudes are precisely part of the problem I have in mind.  I do not deny that COVID-19 is a serious problem, and I do not deny that many of the measures taken to deal with it (social distancing, the wearing of masks in public, etc.) are reasonable.  I also do not deny that the initial lockdown was justifiable as a way of keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed – indeed, I defended it.  (Though in hindsight, it was vain to hope that public officials would be willing to close that particular Pandora’s Box once the public allowed them to open it.)

It simply doesn’t follow, though, that lockdowns were necessary or justifiable beyond that, and it is foolish either flatly to assert that “Lockdowns work!” or to pretend that shouting “Science!” suffices to justify them.  To take the latter point first, whether lockdowns are a good idea or not is not a purely scientific question.  In addition to the epidemiological considerations, there are questions about the effects lockdowns have on people’s livelihoods and life savings, their repercussions for health-related issues other than COVID-19, the psychological costs of lockdowns, their effects on education, questions about the circumstances under which it is ethically permissible to impose such huge burdens on citizens, questions about the effects of lockdowns on social and political stability, and so on.  Epidemiologists and physicians have no special expertise on most of these matters.  Resolving them is the task of the statesman (Aristotle’s politikos) – not the natural scientist, whose role is merely to provide expert but fallible advice on some aspects of the question.  To pretend otherwise is scientism, not science.

For another thing, “Do lockdowns work?” is the wrong question.  Yes, considered in the abstract, keeping someone shut up in his house makes it less likely that he is going to catch or spread the virus.  But of course, it also makes it less likely that he is going to be involved in a car accident that kills either himself or another person, and it makes it less likely that he is either going to murder someone or be murdered.  But no one thinks that lockdowns might be a good way to reduce the incidence of traffic fatalities or murder until such time as we can improve traffic safety and criminal justice.  So, it would be quite silly to think the obvious fact that, in the abstract, we are “safer at home” by itself proves anything. 

There is also the fact that, as I have argued before, lockdowns involve actions that, under ordinary circumstances, would be gravely unjust.  Human beings have a natural right to labor in order to provide for themselves and their families.  They have a natural right to gather together for religious worship.  They have a natural right to decide how best to educate their children.  They have a natural right to the liberty of action involved in ordinary day-to-day social activities.  They have a natural right to the stability and predictability necessary for long-range planning, which the rule of law is supposed to guarantee.  Interference with these normal human activities and goods causes grave harm.  Hence, while they can in principle be temporarily suspended when absolutely necessary in an emergency, there is a strong presumption against this.  The burden of proof is always on government to demonstrate that interference with these goods is strictly necessary, and not on citizens to show that such interference is unnecessary.

So, again, “Do lockdowns work?” is the wrong question.  The right question is: “Do we know with moral certainty that lockdowns are strictly necessary to prevent the potential harms of the virus, and that those harms are greater than the aggregate of harms that the lockdowns themselves cause?”  And I submit that we know no such thing, and that continued lockdowns are, accordingly, unjustifiable and tyrannical. 

Those who are in serious danger from the virus are the elderly and those with serious preexisting medical conditions, and not the general population.  And it is certainly not a serious threat to the young.  Hence, in order to justify general lockdowns and the closing of schools, at the very least we would have to be morally certain that quarantining only those who are in serious danger, together with less draconian measures for the general population (social distancing, masks, etc.), would not be sufficient.  Note that it is not good enough to respond that those at special risk might catch the virus from others who are out and about in the general population.  For that is already the case even given the lockdowns that have occurred (where grocery stores, hardware stores, and the like were not shut down).  So, what we would have to be morally certain of is that shutting down so-called non-essential businesses and schools is strictly necessary, when we’re already letting lots of businesses stay open.

Yet there is simply no evidence that lockdowns are strictly necessary for bringing about the results desired, nor even strong evidence that they are particularly effective in doing so.  Sweden opted to pursue herd immunity rather than imposing draconian lockdowns, and while it had more deaths than some countries that imposed them, it had fewer deaths than other countries that did.  Despite its large elderly population and densely packed cities, Japan kept its death rate low without a lockdown.  Public health experts like Johan Giesecke, John Ioannides, and Sunetra Gupta have long been arguing that the hoped-for benefits of lockdowns do not outweigh the known harms.  Recently, Greg Ip has usefully summarized their costs, and Donald Luskin the lack of statistical correlation between lockdowns and improved outcomes vis-à-vis COVID-19.  The most widely publicized COVID deaths – those of thousands of elderly people – resulted, not from the absence of lockdowns, but from the policy of some states of sending infected people back into nursing homes.  Meanwhile, it is precisely the poor and otherwise vulnerable who have suffered the most from lockdowns.

The defender of lockdowns will insist that all of this doesn’t prove that lockdowns aren’t necessary, but the burden of proof isn’t on me or anyone else in the first place to prove that they aren’t.  The burden is on the defender to prove that they are necessary, and to do so with moral certainty.  Absent such proof, governments have no business destroying ordinary people’s livelihoods and life savings and ability to educate their children and to plan for the future – nor any business papering over the true costs they are imposing by pretending that it is only some abstraction called “the economy,” rather than flesh-and-blood human beings, that they are harming.  Absent such proof, this destruction is tyrannical – it is government causing grave and unjust harm to its citizens rather than protecting them from it.

Abetting anarchy

If there were any doubt that the government officials most enamored of lockdowns were not acting with wisdom and justice, it was dispelled by their reaction to the protests and rioting that began two months into the lockdown. 

For one thing, many of the same officials who sternly forbade large gatherings, on the grounds that they posed a grave public health hazard, suddenly tolerated or even encouraged such gatherings when the political cause that motivated them was one the officials sympathized with.  The justification given for this double standard was that the cause of fighting police brutality was no less a matter of public health than COVID-19 is. 

But this is rank sophistry.  First, prior to the protests, lockdown defenders were assuring us that assembling in large crowds and thereby facilitating spread of the virus threatened innocent lives, and was even tantamount to murder.  So how is doing something tantamount to murder a good way to protest murder, or to prevent further murders?

Second, the number of people who die in police shootings annually is nowhere remotely close to the number who have died from COVID-19.  In the United States, police kill about 1,000 people a year – that’s all killings, including the ones that no one claims were unjustifiable.  Meanwhile, so far over 190,000 deaths in the U.S. have been attributed to COVID-19 this year.  So, if your interest is in saving as many innocent lives as possible (as lockdown defenders claim theirs is), then how can you justify doing something that risks a vastly larger number of innocent lives in the name of protesting something that risks fewer of them?

Third, many of the protests degenerated into riots, and riots themselves pose threats to innocent lives, not to mention the property and livelihoods of innocent people.

So, their response to the protests all by itself demonstrates that those public officials who have pushed lockdowns the hardest do not have good judgment.  But far worse even than that was their response to the riots, vandalism, and looting that some of the protests gave way to – which many of these public officials took no significant action to prevent, and which some even tried to excuse or put a positive spin on. 

Here too the justifications given were manifest sophistries.  They amounted to arguments like: “Person A unjustly killed Person B; therefore it is defensible (or at least excusable, or understandable) for Person C to loot and burn down Person D’s business.”  Moreover, those who suffer most from rioting and looting are the minority communities that these public officials claim to be most concerned for.  Even worse than that, some of these same public officials have expressed sympathy for, and even tried to implement, calls to “defund the police” – this despite the fact that the minority communities they claim to be concerned for are, like the public in general, overwhelmingly opposed to this insane policy. 

Hence, here is what we can know with moral certainty.  Public officials who refuse to defend innocent people from rioters, looters, and vandals, and who even entertain the idea of removing police protection from them, cannot be trusted to make sound judgments about lockdowns, or pretty much anything else for that matter.  They manifestly do not have the best interests of law-abiding citizens at heart, and/or lack even rudimentary common sense.  And occasionally, the mask drops and their true concerns are revealed.

It is difficult to overstate the gravity of what has been happening, for it is far worse and more diabolical than the ordinary corruption of which politicians are often guilty.  A corrupt politician breaks the law himself, but nevertheless typically keeps the law in place, pays lip service to it, and even upholds it when others break it.  But what we are seeing with this one-two punch of arbitrary lockdowns and tolerance of criminality is the subversion of the most basic function of government.  Governments have themselves been directly causing grave harm to the livelihoods and businesses of innocent citizens, and then have refused to defend those citizens when criminals and anarchists looted and burned down those businesses, and thereby destroyed those livelihoods.  Law-abiding citizens are punished and their protections removed, while lawbreakers are treated with kid gloves and their criminality is facilitated.  This is perverse, the direction of government toward what is positively contrary to its fundamental purpose under natural law.  It is government undermining rather than upholding the basic preconditions of the social order.

Empowering ideologues

If lockdowns threaten the material goods we need as a kind of animal, and anarchy threatens the goods we need as social animals, the “cancel culture” and the “woke” ideologues pushing it threaten the goods we need as rational social animals. 

They do so, first of all, in their methods, insofar as they shamelessly deploy elementary logical fallacies as their basic mode of engagement with those they disagree with.   For example, they routinely assert simplistic slogans unbacked by argument, and sweepingly dismiss opposing views as “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” “transphobic,” or otherwise “bigoted” – where whether such characterizations are fair, and whether the slogans are true, is precisely what is at issue between the wokesters and their critics (so that the wokesters are routinely guilty of the fallacy of begging the question). 

They routinely question the motives of their opponents rather than addressing their arguments, dismiss them as “racists,” “bigots,” etc., and dissuade others from paying them heed by way of mockery (the fallacies of appeal to motive, abusive ad hominem, and appeal to ridicule).  They relentlessly distort the views of their opponents, putting on them the most sinister and uncharitable interpretations possible (the straw man fallacy).  And needless to say, they can barely utter a sentence without committing a fallacy of appeal to emotion.

Worst of all, they try to intimidate their opponents into silence by stirring up Twitter mobs against them, doxing them, working to get them fired from their jobs, making them infamous and unemployable, and so forth (the fallacy of appeal to force). 

Of course, most human beings are prone to committing such fallacies from time to time, especially in political contexts.  What is new and different about “cancel culture” is that it represents a mass movement that has self-consciously adopted these tactics as a method for securing political victories and social change.  And the tactics reflect, not the occasional lapses of rationality to which we are all prone, but ideologies that reject the very idea of neutral and dispassionate rational discourse.  Political conflict is interpreted as essentially a war of wills between competing identity groups or economic interests, rather than an honest disagreement between minds sharing a common set of basic assumptions and standards of argumentation.  Accordingly, the desired outcome is interpreted as the imposition of one’s own will (or the will of one’s interest group) on the other, rather than the persuasion of fellow rational agents via argument.

Hence, the wokester or Social Justice Warrior tends, I would suggest, to be of what I have elsewhere called the “voluntarist personality type.”  And the dulling of his reason and content of his opinions tend, I would argue, to have two deeper sources, the envy characteristic of the egalitarian ideologue and the blindness of mind of those deeply enmeshed in sexual vice.   As Plato warns us in the Republic, egalitarian envy and disordered sexual desire are the seeds from which tyranny grows within the late stages of a democracy. 

In any event, what we find in “cancel culture” are several of what Aquinas characterizes as sins against the peace of a community, such as discord and strife.  And in both its content and the inspiration it gives to the rioters, vandals, and looters, it also manifests the sins of sedition and of hatred of one’s own country.  For instance, it demonizes the United States and its institutions as wicked to their very foundations, on the basis of crackpot historical claims that serious historians (including left-wing historians) have debunked.  And on the basis of crackpot social science, it sows hatred and paranoia by demonizing an entire race as so deeply permeated by evil that its members are unaware that everything they say and do manifests that evil.  (Some left-wing critics have pointed out the essentially “Hitlerian” character of these so-called “anti-racist” theories, the only difference from Nazi ideology being which race is demonized.)  Such calumnies divide citizens into inherently hostile camps, provide a rationalization for extremism and violence, and render impossible the compromise, good will, and solidarity that a stable political order requires.

And once again, the same government officials most favorable toward lockdowns, and least inclined to put a stop to rioting, vandalism, and looting, and are also the least inclined to criticize “cancel culture” and its excesses.  Do the math.

Plato the prophet

The sudden and dramatic disruption of the preconditions of everyday social life represented by these three trends has, unsurprisingly, had as its sequel an alarming increase in general anxiety and despair.  But that merely accelerated a trend that already existed due to the more gradual breakdown in the fundamental social institution, the family.  That breakdown is also the true root cause of the poverty and crime that underlie contemporary social unrest.  And of course, the breakdown of the family is in turn due primarily to the Sexual Revolution. 

Now, liberals and those further to the Left have more or less been in agreement on the Sexual Revolution, and happy to go along with its destruction of the restraints on desire that have traditionally safeguarded the stability of the family.  The difference is that liberals nevertheless wanted to preserve the stability of bourgeois financial and political institutions.  This was the Clintonian Democrat/socially liberal Republican “bourgeois bohemian” dream: You can have your sexual license and a safe neighborhood, a flourishing 401(k), and some flag-waving too. 

But the woke Left, which is now pushing aside the liberals, wants to tear it all down – the family, the market economy, police, patriotism, and the rule of law, which it would replace with the rule of ever-evolving woke diktat.  The liberals are “nice nihilists,” to borrow a phrase from Alex Rosenberg.  The woke Left, not so nice.  Liberals, like termites hollowing out the inside of a tree, destroyed the core social institution of the family.  And now the wokesters want to blast away the empty outward husk too.  There is in them a complete sickness of soul, an unquenchable lust for destruction, that is reminiscent of Dostoevsky’s Demons, Nietzsche’s tarantulas, or Plato’s tyrannical man. 

Again, I have argued elsewhere that Plato’s analysis illuminates our current situation.  Recall his classification of five basic types of political order, and the way they reflect different character types or conditions of the soul.  The human psyche, Plato tells us, has three parts: the rational part, the spirited part (the part of us that is moved by considerations of honor and shame), and the appetites.  The well-ordered soul is one in which the rational part is in charge and the spirited part is its ally in keeping the appetites in check.  A disordered soul is one in which this order of things is upended in one of several ways, some of them worse than others.  The best political regime is one in which the well-ordered soul is honored, and those possessed of it are in charge.  The four bad regimes, each worse than the preceding one, are those which are dominated by increasingly more disordered souls.

In particular, the ideal regime in Plato’s account is, of course, the reign of philosopher-kings, who are not just any old type of philosopher but, specifically, those committed to a broadly Platonic metaphysics and ethics.  Again, this is analogous to the kind of soul in which reason dominates the spirited part and the appetites, and it is the kind of society in which that kind of soul is idealized.  Its ideal human being would be the man who has forsaken the cares of the world for the contemplation of eternal truth and mystical union with the Form of the Good.

The second kind of regime – bad compared to the reign of the philosopher-kings, but the least bad of the unjust political orders – is timocracy.  The character type that predominates in this kind of society is one in which the spirited part of the soul is dominant.  The military man, rather than the Platonic philosopher, is its ideal, and virtues like courage and self-sacrifice are the ones most honored.  Because it puts honor above the disinterested pursuit of truth, it is inferior to the reign of the philosopher-kings.  But because it nevertheless subordinates the pull of the appetites to considerations of honor and shame, it retains a measure of nobility.

The third kind of regime is oligarchy, by which Plato essentially has in mind the sort of society oriented toward commerce and the accumulation of wealth.  The character type that dominates it, and which it idealizes, is the capitalist.  This sort of regime is inferior to timocracy, and much inferior to the reign of the philosopher-kings, because the appetites have now come to dominate society and those who govern it.  However, the disorder of the soul is still not complete in an oligarchy, because accumulating and securing wealth requires putting some check on the appetites.  Hence oligarchies will honor bourgeois virtues like thrift, the delaying of gratification, regard for law and order, and concern for respectability.  Oligarchic man is stolid even if not terribly inspiring or noble. 

The fourth kind of regime is democracy, by which Plato has in mind the sort of society that prizes freedom and equality above all else.  In particular, its tendency is to regard every desire and every way of life as equally good, and to resent any suggestion that some desires and ways of life are bad or even inferior to others.  “Do your own thing” is its ethos, and tolerance is its most prized virtue.  The character type that prevails in this sort of society is one so dominated by appetite that even the bourgeois virtues of the oligarch are gradually undermined.  Relativism and irrationalism also become prevalent, because the very idea of objective standards of goodness and truth becomes odious to egalitarian man.

The only thing worse than that sort of society, in Plato’s view, is the kind it tends to degenerate into, which is tyranny.  In a certain kind of soul within egalitarian society, the dominance of appetite and resentment of social constraints become so overwhelming that it is not satisfied with being left alone to do its own thing.  It wants to impose itself on others.  The laid back hippie becomes the bitter revolutionary, and “free love and free stuff” something to be secured by the ammo box rather than the ballot box.  For Plato, tyranny is not the opposite of democracy as he understands it, but its culmination.

The Evil Party and the Stupid Party

See my recent American Mind article for more on Plato’s analysis, and in particular on why he thinks there is a tendency for each kind of regime to give way over time to the next and worse kind.  Naturally, I wouldn’t endorse every detail of Plato’s political philosophy.  But the broad outlines of his analysis of the main types of regime and the character types they reflect are, I think, illuminating.  I would suggest that what we are seeing in current events may turn out to be something like the transition he described between democracy and tyranny.  And I think Plato’s analysis also sheds light on the nature of contemporary American politics more generally.

For most of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, both the Republican and Democratic parties have essentially been oligarchic, in Plato’s sense.  The difference between them, especially in recent decades, is this.  The Republicans have been more inclined to celebrate the military virtues and patriotism, so that there is in their view of things at least an echo of timocracy in Plato’s sense; and to the extent that they have also been more inclined to praise traditional religious belief and restraint on the appetites, there is even a faint echo of the otherworldliness of the philosopher-king.  Meanwhile, the Democrats have in recent decades become less comfortable with religion and patriotism, while at the same time enthusiastically championing the Sexual Revolution, feminism, and, in general, radical egalitarianism and liberation from traditional restraints on appetite.  Hence their trajectory has clearly been in the direction of democracy as Plato understands it; and insofar as in recent years they have begun flirting with outright socialism, there is even an echo of tyranny in Plato’s sense.  More than an echo, in the case of the wokesters. 

Republican senator Alan Simpson once famously said: “We have two political parties in this country, the Stupid Party and the Evil Party.  I belong to the Stupid Party.”  I’ve long thought that that’s a pretty apt description of modern right- and left-wing political parties in general.  Naturally, I don’t mean that every right-winger is stupid or that every left-winger is evil.  But the general tendency of modern left-wing parties is to push us ever further in the trajectory of what the Platonic analysis would regard as social and political degeneracy.  And the general tendency of right-wing political parties has been to resist this trajectory, but in a way that is timid, inconsistent, incompetent, and at best only temporarily effective – and of course, in a way that rarely aims for anything higher than what Plato calls oligarchy, even if it resists the lower sorts of regime.  That is unsurprising, for the overall trajectory of modern Western society is itself leftward and democratic in Plato’s sense.  And the trend is accelerating, and has worked its way into right-wing parties themselves.

Holding actions, half-hearted, badly implemented, barely effective, and bound to fail eventually, seem to be the best we can realistically hope for from politics for the foreseeable future.  What I said just over four years ago goes double now: Never has the Stupid Party been more stupid, or the Evil Party more evil.


  1. How do we fight back? If you say anything with even the slightest conservative sentiment, people who were once good friends, even people with PhD’s and MD’s (not just ignorant trolls), will shut their ears and refuse to engage with you.

    I also feel like throughout history, tyranny could only go so far because eventually if the tyranny was severe enough, it would destroy economic and political stability. Then eventually a less tyrannical order would be established.

    However, modern technology makes tyranny much more sustainable. The masses will not fight if they have their bread and circuses.

    At the end of the day, we do need to trust in God (since he seems to be the only One who can get us out of this mess), but as St. Joan of Arc said, “In God’s name, the men will fight and God will grant the victory!”

    So how do we fight?

    1. Crank up the sanctity and don't fear . . . anything.

    2. First, one must liberate themselves from the pseudo-sexual desire to "matter" politically. Realize your smallness and refuse to participate in unaccountable collective action. Doing this requires a certain amount of detachment and stoicism that can be difficult at times, but remember: anger is only good if it is directed towards a good end, and you are NOT going to achieve anything if you go out into the fray.

      Second, now that you've cleared your mind, take stock of what you own and what you have lost. How much power do you actually have? What can you do with it? What is a lost cause and what must be defended no matter what? Don't make ultimatums or threats you cannot back up, and don't try to defend something that was lost a long time ago. Mourn for the good that was lost and focus on defending what is.

      Third, build institutions and communities that can uphold virtue. Gather people who believe in a common moral way of life and start building. You all have roles you can play. Intellectuals, archivists, artists, spiritual leaders, engineers... all of these types are necessary. Politicians are unreliable allies, however, as they are often too wedded to the way things are now to actually change what is.

      Fourth, develop ways of resisting the storm of progressive wokeness. They'll batter you and try to wear you down. But if you have your community and your institutions, you can handle it! The key is a kind of judo: play the part of the pure skeptic, the one that questions everything. You should only call into question something very abstract. For instance, in a critical race theory seminar, you can keep saying "I'm not sure I agree with this," and then you could occasionally mention that you believe all races have equal dignity, including Whites. If your instructors are White, you can question whether they are White critical race theorists as a way of subtly undermining their authority (because the word "white" to these people just means "evil" or "fake"). This constant dog whistling will drive the radicals in the room mad while throwing up a huge question mark for the saner people in the room. You must destroy the institution using its own strength rather than stand up as the lone wolf and get scapegoated.

      If you can keep building up your base institutions, your leaders, and institutions, what you'll eventually get is a parallel civil society that exists inside the one we have. When the old order is swept away by some kind of regime change, your team will be in the best position to take over, since you'll be the best organized and sanest people in the room. And that's how you win a culture war. However, we must understand that such a regime change cannot be forced before its time and may take hundreds of years to come about. But it will happen. Things that can't last forever will not go on indefinitely.

    3. Nice. Politicians go to hell because they are too worried about using up their political capital to ever do anything with that capital-- avarice. Most of us go to hell because we are too worried about using up our social capital. As you point out, none of us amount to a hill of beans in the long run anyway, so we might as well keep our integrity.

    4. @Eric Rasmusen

      Yes, and the reason why you'd want to curb the desire to matter is not only moral, but practical. I remember watching a podcast involving a man named Curtis Yarvin, and he compared the desire to matter to sexual desire in that it blinds people to reason. He explained that this was the main thing behind the Left's insanity. I think Feser's emphasis on eros being the culprits is mistaken. Certainly, it's huge part of this, but I think it's thumos that's fueling the passions of the Woke.

    5. My answer is basically T N's answer. I think you can see good reason for it: Plato was probably to some degree describing the degeneracy of his own culture. That degeneration was to some degree turned back by the (partial) sanctity of Socrates. How much more will our own sanctity work this way (if we - if we actually do try for it), since we have the True, Risen Lord on our side!

      Oh- another point: keep the Left (and the Right as well, of course) in prayer. This ideology is horrific & stupid- but these people are made in God's Image, & Jesus came to die for them- so we need to keep a love for them in our hearts & minds.

      That's my 2 cents worth!

      Great question though!

    6. This isn't specifically a conservative problem anymore, since *anyone* who challenges identity politics and intersectional hierarchies, right, left, or center, will be labeled a fascist and attacked.

      I don't think what is going on can sustain itself for long, since the woke do eat their own; the goalposts of what is progressive are changing more and more quickly, and anyone who doesn't keep pace with it is immediately cast out. The left is absolutely fractured as a result. One suggestion I've seen when it comes to talking to people is to get them to draw their own red lines in the sand over what would be a step too far. Arguing conservative views won't work, since there's not always that much common ground there, but if people have actually considered their own beliefs, it'll be easier for them to notice when falling in line with whatever is considered progressive will actually entail betraying those beliefs.

      Also avoiding becoming reactionary in response to what is going on is important, of course.

  2. Could someone comment on why “moral certainty” is necessary? Is moral certitude equivalent to “beyond reasonable doubt”? If not, could someone explain the term? Thanks

    1. I think it is at least a preponderance if evidence, but probably closer to clear and convincing evidence. The kind of evidence you need to perform surgery probably would be a good example. Maybe if the evidence is only 51%, you might default to no surgery, but 75%, if the surgery will purportedly be life saving, you would probably want to do it. I do not think beyond reasonable doubt is necessary as that would be an impossible burden of proof for such a dynamic and large scale problem.

    2. I think that "moral certainty" is a loose term for a constellation of different degrees of (justifiable) confidence depending on the issue at hand. "Moral certainty" that I have .5 milliliters of saline solution versus 1 ml of saline solution in a hypo which I am about to inject requires only a very modest level of confidence, because the degree of harm if I am wrong is very limited also. "Moral certainty" that the jet engine has been serviced with its standard (required) lube service before the pilot takes off demands a higher degree of confidence.

      I can't remember ever seeing a clear analysis of "moral certainty" that made it clear and was of practical help across many types of situations. Maybe there is one out there, but I haven't seen it.

  3. Just a comment on the first leg of your argument. It has been overtaken by consumer behavior. See this article. Interestingly, this same rough 60% figure has been found for air travel, hotels, various retail store shopping, and not just in the US but globally. In other words, its not really just about government partial or total lockdowns anymore and hasn't been for perhaps several months. For all the, say 40%, who are willing to go back to pre-covid behaviours (perhaps with masks but that 40% also seems mask averse), more are not. Until something closer to 100% are willing to go back to pre-covid behaviours, the economies can't possibly be fully restored. So even if New York City completely loosened all restrictions on indoor dining (no capacity rules) the "market" would likely demand that restaurants not use full capacity - ie. large numbers would refuse to eat in restaurants packed to near full. So serious economic damage will continue until more people have confidence the virus is under control either through testing /tracing (see Korea, Japan); adherence to sensible mask wearing; sensible social distancing; and ultimately a vaccine that large numbers are willing to take (or widespread confidence in herd immunity). I agree that the economic damage from the near total lockdowns was in fact deplorable human damage (and as you point out - far too often "abstracted" by media, pundits, etc) and that was becoming as concerning as the virus. It still is a serious concern (some lingering fear of a potential deadly deflationary spiral) but this risk now goes far beyond government orders which really aren't the sole or even primary driver anymore

    1. The people are easily scared by the propaganda coming out of the mouths of irrational politicians. That's not a surprise.

    2. Indeed. How would those polled think after a 6-month campaign pushing "COVID skepticism" for lack of a better term?

    3. its not really just about government partial or total lockdowns anymore and hasn't been for perhaps several months. For all the, say 40%, who are willing to go back to pre-covid behaviours (perhaps with masks but that 40% also seems mask averse), more are not.

      It would be difficult indeed to get a satisfactory read on that until ALL of the restrictions were lifted, not just some, including (a) all air and train travel, (b) without mask requirements and (c) without spacing demands), and employers required workers to come into the workplace as normal. Just for example, a very large percentage of restaurant business in many office districts consists of during-the-work-day food (especially lunch) by office workers: if you expected those workers to come back to the office, and there were no restrictions on using the restaurants the same way they were used to, the level of restaurant use would climb rapidly. To pre-COVID levels, or close? No way to be confident of that answer. Anyone who says otherwise is just guessing.

    4. Of course, that reveals other perversities in our consumer culture. For a huge chunk of our economy relies on our purchasing goods and services that we don't need, or need to the extent that we purchase them. A possible positive outcome of the quarantining should be that we discover that we don't need to travel as much as we used to, we don't need to eat out as much as we used to. Many parents may even discover that they can do a better job educating their children than the public schools do.
      That will contract the economy, but then more households will discover they can get by with only one income.
      If I know my fellow-countrymen, that won't happen, though.

  4. OP
    The assertions of (1), (2), and (3) lack citations and evidence.

    The complaint against lockdowns is a case of swatting at phantoms. We are not locked down. In a few cases there remain some restrictions. We had a second wave that was actually worse in total numbers than the first wave.

    Far from being “arbitrary” governors of states such as CA and NY have worked with teams of health experts to set very specific goals and have implemented measures and withdrawn measures using the best available data regarding cases, risks, mitigation techniques, and hospital (over)loading.

    “the government officials most enamored of lockdowns”
    No government official was or is “enamored of lockdowns”. Name one.

    “But far worse even than that was their response to the riots, vandalism, and looting that some of the protests gave way to – which many of these public officials took no significant action to prevent”
    Nonsense. Every municipality has a police force and when rioting started the police were sent in. Then when the local police did not have the numbers needed the National Guard under state control was brought in.

    Now a couple LASD deputies got ambushed in Compton. Reaction? A flood of officers who set up a wide parameter and initiated an intensive search, with multiple witness leads, vehicle descriptions, video analysis, and crime scene analysis. I can only speculate that this was some insane notion of revenge for Dijon Kizzee, a felon with a concealed gun who ran from LASD, punched an LASD deputy in the face, went for his gun, and got shot in self defense.

    Let’s hope the deputies pull through, they catch the criminal, and he never sees the outside again in his miserable life.

    “Here too the justifications given were manifest sophistries. They amounted to arguments like: “Person A unjustly killed Person B; therefore it is defensible (or at least excusable, or understandable) for Person C to loot and burn down Person D’s business.””
    No public official has expressed that opinion. Name one.

    “Public officials who refuse to defend innocent people from rioters, looters, and vandals”
    There are none. Name one. This is just a made up out of whole cloth Trump talking point. It is beneath your dignity, Dr. Feser, that you would repeat this vapid charge.

    “the blindness of mind of those deeply enmeshed in sexual vice. "
    Hmm, sexual vice leads to the irrationalities of the woke SJW? Then why am I not a woke SJW?-)

    “This was the Clintonian Democrat/socially liberal Republican “bourgeois bohemian” dream: You can have your sexual license and a safe neighborhood, a flourishing 401(k), and some flag-waving too. “
    Yup, win win, I like it. The only president in modern times to balance the budget, plus he showed that a cigar is not always just a cigar.

    1. Political commentary may not be Feser's strong suit.

    2. If you take anything Stardusty says seriously, thinking isn't your strong suit...

    3. Aren't you committing the ad hominem fallacy? Regardless of who says it, the points made in the comment above are reasonable. If you can answer them, I'd be interested in hearing your answers! :)

    4. Stardusty is a noxious troll and I have no intention of feeding him. Long experience has taught us all here that no good comes of that. Anyway I was replying to you.

    5. If I raised the same questions, would you answer them? I sincerely want to know the answers to these questions!

    6. Oh no, the obsessed 'Anonymous' again, ranting on about Stardusty. Yawn.

    7. Oh no the compulsive troll feeders defending an obvious troll. Yawn.

    8. You are both right but the anti-SP anon is more so. Yes, it gets a little annoying and counterproductive when people feel the need to point out SP is a troll. But it is the truth. It's the truth that no one here (pace leftist or atheist defenders of his) has ever had a constructive interaction with him despite his prolixity, and it would be better if he never darkened the door of this blog again. The problem with those making comments like Unknown is they actually seem to want to defend SP wholsesale, rather than just point out it is counterproductive to take up space calling him out as a troll.

      I think anyone who is honest can probably agree to both of these points.

    9. I'm not familiar with Stardusty, but rest assured, I'm not a troll. I simply want answers to his questions. I'm not from the US, so if it's obvious to American readers what those answers are, it isn't obvious to me.

      In particular, I'd like to know:

      - Which governors actually wanted to impose lockdowns? From the little I know, it seems governors were reluctant to impose lockdowns, but they thought, rightly or wrongly, that they had no better option.

      - What percentage of riots did police respond to?

      - Which public officials chose not to defend the public from riots?

    10. Below Unknown makes it clear that he actually is pro-Stardusty himself, not just against the clutter of denunciations of him. That was rather predictable. It is also hilarious for those of us who have posted or lurked here a while and know exactly the worth of Stardusty's posts.

    11. " one..."
      Here are two.

    12. federalist"
      "Here are two"
      Two what? There is no indication of any public official who is "enamored" of lockdowns in the link.

      That link is from mid May, this is September.

      past participle: enamored
      be filled with a feeling of love for.

      in love with
      infatuated with
      besotted with
      smitten with
      love-struck by
      captivated by
      charmed by

      Your link does the opposite of what you think it does. The link only shows that no public official was or is "enamored" of lockdowns. The OP remains completely made up out of whole cloth on that assertion.

  5. It's still unbelievable that Ed continues to say with a straight face that the Republican party is simply the 'stupid' party. In the age of Trump, this is laughable at best and morally calamitous at worst, and as intellectually dishonest as it gets. You have four years of *bountiful* evidence to the contrary, and the fact that you continue to ignore it undermines your credibility. Just the absurd fact that DONALD TRUMP is the leader of the most powerful country in the world and you've had nothing to say about it is rather telling. At least conservatives like David French are willing to deal with the utter embarrassment of Trumpism and its disastrous effects on conservatism and christianity. And to be clear, I agree with some of your analysis above (which we've already heard from you before!), but if you won't ever honestly engage with (or even acknowledge) the evil on your own side, it rings rather hollow.

    1. Anonymous,

      Would care to detail Trump's moral depravity and how it's uniquely and profoundly debased the office of president of the United States in ways so egregious it makes the sins of Kennedy, LBJ, and Clinton mere choir boy indiscretions? Most of who support President Trump are not blind to his crassness, egoism, and lust. He's a bastard -- but our bastard -- and as a matter of the electoral facts on the ground was the only viable option in the general election against Hillary Clinton and remains so against the Biden/Harris ticket, both of whom overtly advocate for policies disastrous to both Christianity and conservatism. Pray tell, what would "respectable" conservatives and Christians of the David French variety do given the circumstances? Meekly surrender while our children are exposed to "Drag Queen Reading Hour?" Lose nobly like McCain and Romney while faithful Christians are bullied and compelled to violate their religious consciences to provide abortifacients as employers or cakes to same-sex "marriages"? I suspect it's Trump's thymos at the head of a more recalcitrant and resolved Right that irritates you so. I'm gleaning you prefer a conservatism that's easily cowed and so virtuous and principled it can't even stir itself to defend vociferously those principles, which is a paradox that implies an absence of virtue and principle. When was the last time David French the columnist and his cohorts at the Bulwark struck a decisive blow that led to demonstrable effects that improved the lives of those they claim to represent? In short, when was the last time they actually conserved something? If that's the conservatism you prefer, forgive me for finding that a raw deal.

      Anonymous, as if it had any relevance to the OP and Feser's credibility, you admonish our host for ignoring the evil of Donald Trump, his administration, and his followers without offering examples. I won't be so discourteous so as to prevent you from confronting the wickedness of "your side."

      1) The Obama administration's unethical, if not illegal surveillance of an opposing presidential candidate's campaign and U.S. citizens, with the same officials continuing such malfeasance once Trump took office.
      2) The intrigue and maneuvering employed by James Comey, Peter Strzok, etc. to force a special prosecutor's investigation in the Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy theory/hoax when they had no actionable intelligence to justify it.
      2) The partisan entrapment and unjust prosecution of Michael Flynn.
      3) The defamation of Brett Kavanaugh.
      4) The defamation of Nick Sandmann and the Covington Catholic high school students.
      5) The impeachment of President Trump under a phony and flimsy pretext, further dividing a rupturing country after 3 years and $29 million spent on the bogus Mueller investigation.
      6) Mainstream politicians like Ilhan Omar winking and "passing notes in class" with noxious antisemites like Louis Farrakhan.
      7) The widespread calls to assassinate President Trump -- see Kathy Griffin or Madonna.
      8) Hollywood chastising and preaching to less glamorous Americans about their alleged sexism, racism, homophobia while ignoring, if not paying homage to sexual predator Harvey Weinstein to further their own careers.
      9) Members of the Biden campaign providing bail money to rioters who terrorized the innocent citizens of Minneapolis.

      These 9 examples further supplement the lawlessness and tyranny Feser explained that animates the Democratic party at large. They would rather crash the economy and let criminals and domestic terrorists burn down the nation's cities in order to oust Trump from the presidency. And what vexes you so as to prefer seemingly that lot to Trump? Mean tweets? Quotes dishonestly taken out of context that can be shown as such?

      Come November, it's obvious which side is so unscrupulous and malignant that they shouldn't, morally speaking, be elected to handle the levers of power in Washington.

    2. Modus Pownens, is that your best salvo? Would I care to detail Trump's moral depravity? Sure, although you already know all of it, but are so intellectually dishonest and spiritually bankrupt that you think saying "He's a bastard -- but our bastard" is somehow a compelling argument for a christian to follow. I'm sure Jesus would resonate with your 'logic'. Also, I am not a Dem and am critical of any politician or political/spiritual position that is evil, incoherent, unjust, etc.

      * You mean the guy who's been married 3 times and had kids with each wife, had a public affair with his second wife while married to his first wife, is currently married to a former nude model, has had at least 25 women accuse him of sexual misconduct since the 1970s, paid hush money to porn stars, bragged about grabbing women by the pussy, has sexualized his own daughter (and apparently Michael Cohen's 15 year old daughter), proudly displayed his Playboy cover in his office, etc? What was that you were saying about Obama? You know, the guy who has been married to one woman for almost 30 years and had two kids with that same woman. What happened to all that christian hand wringing about character mattering in the presidency when Clinton was impeached?
      * You mean the guy whose most powerful evangelical ally (Falwell Jr.) was just fired from his university due to the sexual escapades of him and his wife over many years? And, who Trump likely blackmailed via Michael Cohen to get his endorsement in the first place?* He dodged the draft 5 times (including for *bone spurs*) and has had no family members serve in the military, and yet has the gall to insult John McCain, multiple 5 star generals, etc. You don't even have to believe the recent allegations about his statements re: wounded vets to see his obvious disdain.* He boasted that he'd 'drain the swamp', and yet his administration has had more criminal indictments than any other. Having close associates like Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone is no big deal, though, right?
      * He criticized Obama on Twitter 27 times for golfing too much during his presidency, and said "I won't have time to play golf if I'm elected president," and yet it's a verifiable fact that he's spent far more time golfing and at golf resorts than Obama, and has *also* directly enriched himself in the process (by visiting and spending our tax $ at his own resort properties).
      * He refuses to show his tax returns, which is highly unusual...between 1974 and 2012, every president but Gerald Ford has made a voluntary release of the tax returns they filed while in office. What is he hiding?
      * He's partaken in conspiracy theories like birtherism and QAnon. Read the aforementioned David French's article on conspiracy theories and the 9th commandment. (And we could talk about the increasing # of totally insane Republican politicians who have referenced QAnon like Laura Loomer and Deanna Lorraine)

    3. * He had a $25 million Trump University settlement for students of 'sham university'.* He paid $2 Million to 8 charities for misuse of foundation - "Under a settlement, the president admitted he had used his charity to bolster his campaign and settle business debts." * He has a history of shafting contractors.* He's had dealings with Deutsch Bank, Bank of China, Saudi Arabia, etc. that raise *many* unanswered questions about how his business dealings impact his decision making as the president. 'Conflict of Interest' is an understatement.  Need an example?  Sure: in 2015 he said "Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”  He recently told Bob Woodward re: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Jamal Khashoggi "I saved his ass. I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop." Nothing to see here, right?* He praised China's handling of Tiananmen Square.
      * He says his favorite book is the bible but can't quote a single verse.* He was friends with the Clintons and pro-choice until it was no longer politically expediant for him to be so (i.e., he's a charlatan who uses rubes like you for his own political and financial ends).* He spends hours on end bloviating on Twitter and watching Fox News instead of, you know, actually working, and has admitted to not reading books.* He likes to praise dictators (while insulting our own leaders): "Kim Jong Un has been, really, somebody that I've gotten to know very well and respect." "President Xi, who is a strong man, I call him King, he said, 'But I am not King, I am president.' I said, 'No, you're president for life and therefore, you're King.' He said, 'Huh. Huh.' He liked that." re: Putin "The man has very strong control over a country," he said. "Now, it's a very different system and I don't happen to like the system, but certainly in that system, he's been a leader. Far more than our president has been a leader."
      * We could also spend time talking about all the anti-life conservative positions: resisting any meaningful gun control legislation, continuing to support outrageous military expenditures that are greater than the next 10 countries combined (which not only diverts funds from a myriad of societally beneficial uses, but adversely affects the poor here and abroad), continuing to undercut or block meaningful social safety nets including adequate medical access for all (read DBH's recent "Three Cheers for Socialism" article to be taken to school). 

      I could go on, and on, and on. But yeah, keep wringing your hands about drag queens.

    4. @Modus Pownens:

      Don't you miss the times of moral probity and decorum of former US presidents? The times of a JFK that turned the White House into a brothel, or a Bill Clinton, that probably tainted every inch of the oval office with his secretions. Those were the days: with the current occupant it is just crassness, boorishness, depravity and orange man bad.

    5. @grodrigues, good job ignoring everything I wrote. I can post another list just as long as the last one if that would help (I know it won’t help). Also, how does it feel to defend *Donald Trump*? I mean, seriously, must be some real impressive mental, spiritual, and ethical gymnastics going on in that brain of yours. Or perhaps I shouldn't assume you ever had a coherent position to begin with.

    6. @Anonymous

      Trump is a man of many, many moral failings, not going to lie. This is the sort of person we'd come to expect from a democratic society like our own. Though I don't think his moral failings mean that the Republican Party is the "evil party."

      Your list of "anti-life" bromides are just pure question-begging. Conservatives don't believe that those policies will save lives, but that doesn't make them less pro-life. More than that, those wonky issues cannot be divorced from the culture war issues, as seen when the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate that required Catholic hospitals, universities, and charities to pay for their employees' contraceptives, including abortifacients, in order to appeal to feminists.

    7. @Mister Geocon, my point was not to say that Republicans were *the* evil party, only to argue that Feser's attempt to call them simply the "stupid" party fails on all accounts. Both parties are indeed evil and stupid in numerous ways, some of which overlap and some of which don't. Ed can continue to categorize his pet issues as the 'evil' ones while hand waving away any suggestion that his side's issues deserve the same categorization, but he has not, in my estimation, successfully argued why that should be the case, nor do I think he can.

      Yes, Trump is a man of many moral failings, but those failings extend far beyond the 'personal' realm (e.g. cheating on his wife) out into his business dealings (for decades) and finally his political leadership. He is a stunningly incompetent "The Fifth Risk" to see up close how terrifying his early days in office were. And Republican leaders have continuously enabled him to the degree that it's clear they simply don't care if he's enriching himself via the presidency, or has no moral center, or is a sexual deviant, or associates with con men and buffoons, or loves dictators, or has no respect for the military, or feigns religious faith by seeking spiritual guidance and support from people like Paula White and Jerry Falwell Jr in order to manipulate people for political gain, or throws bread crumbs to his radical followers with quotes like 'the very fine people on both sides' and nods to QAnon, or throws sub-middle school level tantrums on Twitter every day, or lies as easily as he breathes. We could talk about their silence or support for additional items like his asinine border wall (sections of which are hilariously already falling down), his nepotism, his pathetic immigration policy (which overlaps with criticisms I have of Obama), etc. 

      I recognize that "conservatives don't believe that those policies will save lives", but that doesn't make their positions any less incoherent, or ultimately any less 'anti-life'. If you'd like to see an excellent breakdown of some examples of this incoherence, please do read DBH's 'Three Cheers for Socialism' article ( Regardless of what you think of Feser's favorite sparring partner, I think it's a devastating critique of the American exceptionalism conservatives are often so fond of, and shows their utter failure to reckon with actual reality. (Also, since many conservatives not only make excuses for the most morally bankrupt and incompetent leader in recent memory, but actively love and support him as though he's truly God's Man, what they think about something like universal healthcare doesn't carry much weight with me, considering this lack of ability to do basic moral reasoning). And yes, you're right, each of these issues can't simply be viewed in a vacuum. I'm not suggesting they can or should be. The suggestion I reject, though, is that conservatives have the full, holistic, 'godly' view and attendant policy ideas to make them cohere + enactable. They simply don't.

      As an aside, Jonathan Chait's recent "The Republican Party Must Be Saved From the Conservative Movement" is also worth a read:

    8. Have you ever heard that begging the question? Your rants seem to be entirely question begging, relying on leftist premises that conservatives reject. What a waste of everybody's time.

    9. Most of who support President Trump are not blind to his crassness, egoism, and lust. He's a bastard -- but our bastard.

      He's not my bastard.

    10. Anonymous,

      Ah, yes, the attacks on my spiritual and intellectual character. Very compelling. Please, tell me more what my own religion teaches about the public square?

      Also very compelling is the tawdry laundry list of alleged offenses of Trump. All you've offered is froth, vitriol, and bile: "Orange Man muh bad!" -- proverbial Trump Derangement Syndrome. Curiously, even if all are true in the way asserted, you never answered the original question and explained how these offenses are uniquely disqualifying when compared to the perfidy and avarice of say Hillary Clinton. Why the two standards? Why engage in what really appears to be psychological projection? Why is Trump such a singular threat to the republic? I never claimed he was a saint. In fact, I claimed otherwise. But you go to war with the army you have, flaws and all. As a conservative Christian, I have to make do with the "Stupid Party," including Trump. The hour is late, and conservatives and or Christians don't get the luxury of being doctrinaire.

      Furthermore, you have yet to address my appeals to electoral realities of American political system, especially those of 2016 and this elections year, that David French and others gloss over or the rapidly encroaching leftist totalitarianism that had a significant role in buoying Trump, the outsider buffoon, to the presidency in the first place.

      The fact of the matter is there is no moral equivalence between the left and the right currently, even with Trump, terribly coifed toupee and all, at the head of the Republican Party.

    11. grodrigues,

      Yes, boorishness vs. rampant adultery and sexual predation while in office. Hmmm, it's definitely boorishness that disgraces the office of the presidency and extends to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors."

    12. Yeah. The Leftists here don't seem to appreciate the severity of the situation. They seem to think that abstaining or voting for the Dems is a viable option for conservatives, when in fact we are facing a matter of political life and death. If it's Trump vs the party that has proclaimed their public hatred of me and determination to destroy everything I care about, then no amount of character flaws on the part of Trump can really change my mind.

    13. Anonymous,

      I don't see how you can criticize capitalism and then turn around and criticize socialism, a system that takes all of faults of capitalism and turns them up to eleven. But that's your brain on Leftism, I suppose. The biggest fault in your arguments is this idea of "authoritarianism." This is what we call a "scare word." You can't even define what it is. It just means "bad thing I don't like." So when you say that the Right is authoritarian, all I hear is "I don't like the Right." Which is fine, but you can't claim that this is an actual critique of right-wing policy.

      Ultimately, the problem with Leftist economics is that they have no understanding of the trade-offs involved with things like free college tuition or universal healthcare. Yes, Republicans are very stupid for falling for the Socialist/Capitalist dynamic, but that dynamic was invented by Leftists. So who's fault is it for pushing this meme?

    14. Anonymous:

      First, can you at least put some kind of a moniker on your posts so we can distinguish between YOU and other anonymous posters? Please?

      Second, you attack Feser for calling the Republican party "the stupid party" in contrast to the Dems being "the evil party". You should note, however, that when we name things by their characteristics like this, we name them for their more notable characteristics. So, in calling the Dem party "the evil party", Feser is not saying "but hey, they aren't stupid", he is implying rather that their quality of being evil is the more notable one compared to stupidity. Same with Repubs: their stupidity is the more notable characteristic compared to being simply "evil".

      Secondly, you shine a bright spotlight on the evils of Trump, but doing so does not speak DIRECTLY AND POSITIVELY to the evils of the Republican Party as such. Why? Because Trump is not "the Republican Party". And furthermore, the "party" is not even merely the collection of people who have signed the member rolls, it is also the SET OF PRINCIPLES and ideals and methods distinguished in its charter, the planks of its platforms, and so on. As to the first element: Trump indeed has a great many warts, some of them assuredly justifying the name "evil". No dispute there. But by and large Republicans vote for him NOT on account of those characteristics (though some do), but usually in spite of them. So those evils you noted are (for the most part, at least), evils of Trump but not evils of the Republican Party. As to the second, I have yet to see someone like you attacking the "evil party / stupid party" assertion establish any plausible claim that the ACTUAL POLICIES and principles of the Republican party are evil ones - except for claims that are in and of themselves hotly contested political claims. For one small example, it is hotly contested whether raising minimum wage will actually improve the situation of the poor, given that it is a KNOWN result that raising minimum wage puts some number of the lowest rung of the poor out of jobs.

      A last note: you should be more cautious about describing Trump supporters as those who are conservative: some conservatives vote for Trump holding their noses, and it is disputable whether that should be counted SIMPLY as "support": it is support in one respect, but not a simplistic support "for Trump". Other conservatives can't stand him and never will vote or support him. But in either case, TRUMP HIMSELF is not a conservative and never has been: he was a member of the Democrat Party most of his life, and he probably would still be today if the Dems hadn't continued moving leftwards year after year and left him behind. (The Republican Party has also moved leftwards, to an extent.)

    15. I have a feeling the anonymous above is Mark Shea.

    16. @Tony, sure, here you go. Thanks for at least a reasonably interesting reply, I'll try to respond soon.

      @Neil, I don't know who Mark Shea is, but I assume that wasn't a compliment. I'm a long time (6+ years) reader of Ed's blog, but very rare poster. I appreciate some of his writing a lot, but as you can see, not all of it.

    17. Anon/Paranoid Android,

      Look at it this way. Would you rather have Silvio Berlusconi, or a gang of Maoist cultural revolutionaries? Neither, naturally. But if you had to pick, it would be insane not to go with the former. So when you and others go on in this way, it seems to some of us that you are jumping up and down about how bad another Berlusconi term would be, while the Maoists are getting ready to undermine the very social and political fabric. In other words, no sense of proportion.

    18. Which is not to say that I really think Trump is comparable to Berlusconi, by the way. The point is that even if all of the more overheated allegations the left has made against him were true, we'd still be dealing with a Berlusconi type situation, i.e. corruption. And as I said in the OP, batshit insane policies like defunding the police are much worse than corruption.

    19. Hey Ed, thanks for the reply. I don't know much about Berlusconi, but sure, I'd choose a self-absorbed, corrupt boor over roving death squads. But of course that extreme dichotomy doesn't really apply here, not even close, and there is much disagreement on how far Trump's corruption actually extends and how Mao-like the left really is. There also seems to be a consistent plank/splinter situation...a constant downplaying of Trump's sins as though they are *merely* boorish behavior and don't translate to *actual threats* to national security and sovereignty and the physical and financial health of the populace, with an attendant rise in dangerous conspiratorial thinking, foreign election interference, financial malfeasance, white nationalism / far right militias, and anti-intellectualism that *he directly fosters* and again have real world consequences. I'm honestly baffled by the inability / unwillingness to see the stakes there. This is well beyond small time corruption, and he's not just some relatively harmless cad who will be gone soon enough. In that vein, ultimately I fear his success only elevates the chances that someone much worse will be coming down the pike, especially in light of how completely ineffectual the GOP has shown itself to be in resisting. Lastly, if you're so convinced of the overwhelming weight of danger being on the left, I have to ask a sincere question: how dangerous / evil / corrupt would a Republican leader have to be to get you to take notice and be concerned? 

      (Also, just to be clear, I'm an equal opportunity critic...some of Trump's sins are a baton pass from Obama, e.g. drone bombing programs with their 'collateral damage' and the immigrants in cages the Dems seem to forget happened on their watch, too. 

    20. @tony It's quite late, so forgive me for any tired brain imperfections.  Here goes:
      I think the distinction you're making in your first paragraph has been pretty well understood in this doesn't seem to really change the nature of the disagreement.

      A few questions arise: 1. what does it say about a party that could end up with such a leader? 2. what does it say when, with rare exceptions like Justin Amash, the party has completely fallen in line (even formerly harsh critics like Ted Cruz) with nary a whimper? 3. how does enabling Trump's evil not bring culpability on the party? 4. what if this set of principles you mention is largely hollow, e.g. 'fiscal conservativism'? For instance, it's arguable that Republican administrations have passed much worse financial situations onto Democratic ones than vice versa and have been extremely irresponsible with items like military spending and  corporate tax breaks that simply lead to stock buybacks. There are more examples of party platforms being 'all talk'. 

      Yes, many claims are hotly contested political ones. So what? I can still bring forward evidence and argumentation to support the claim that a given conservative position is detrimental, even if there are others that are murkier. Here, let's look at an example of what I'd say is a clear evil of the Republican party (not just Trump):

    21. The nature of much discourse relating to universal healthcare often revolves around reasons for avoiding it like: the political cost of appearing to support 'socialism', the 'capitalist' ideal of leaving it to 'the market', or more laughably, conservative 'fiscal responsibility'. By not only avoiding proactive legislation for these unmerited reasons but often actively thwarting attempts to solve the problem, Republicans cause significant and tangible harm to actual human beings in our country. This isn't an abstraction. We're talking about bankruptcy, premature death, and unnecessary mental/physical/spiritual suffering (I have seen this up close). I think this qualifies as a grave evil. And as DBH thoughtfully points out in the article I mentioned to you earlier (which I implore you to read), the problem isn't as intractable as it's made to appear, and quite frankly it seems your average conservative/Republican/Trumpian citizen is either too stupid or blinded by ideology to follow the logic. I use the word 'stupid' here with intention: it's pointed at those like poor red staters on medicaid who don't seem to realize they support a party that actively undermines their long term ability to get the care they need and can't ultimately afford. To quote Hart, "An enormous number of Americans have been persuaded to believe that they are freer in the abstract than, say, Germans or Danes precisely because they possess far fewer freedoms in the concrete. They are far more vulnerable to medical and financial crisis, far more likely to receive inadequate health coverage, far more prone to irreparable insolvency, far more unprotected against predatory creditors, far more subject to income inequality, and so forth, while effectively paying more in tax." 

      So yes, using the specter of communism and centrally planned economies to undercut any meaningful progress on this is dishonest and unjustifiable, and is not simply part of a hot button issue to be debated. Sure, we can argue over the finer details of how to best implement the system, but the fact that there is *no* political will to do so is unconscionable (and yeah, Dems get some of this blame, too). The proverbial blood is on their hands. I should also say I have family from a certain country with both high quality universal healthcare and strict gun laws, so I've seen it work up close. I've also heard all the reasons those things just can't work here, and I'm frankly weary of the horseshit. This was driven home when I had nothing comforting to say to my kids when sending them off to school after yet another local school shooting (hey kids, nothing's changed, you're not any safer today, sorry about that!). Our pro-life party talks a big game, but when it comes to healthcare, guns, militarism, care for the poor, etc. it acts like a death cult as much as anything else. 

      Finally, I agree to an extent with your last paragraph, but doesn't that simply highlight how utterly embarrassing and shameful this situation is for conservatism?

    22. "Finally, I agree to an extent with your last paragraph, but doesn't that simply highlight how utterly embarrassing and shameful this situation is for conservatism?"


      I am not an American, so I have the luxury of looking at things with some more equanimity as I have no skin in the game. But that we have reached a situation where a guy like Trump, with all its big large American qualities and big large American flaws, is the only antidote against leftist rabid madness with some prospect of achieving some measure of success (even if it is just to deaccelerate the seemingly downward fall into hell) speaks volumes about the utter and complete failure of conservative movements to bring about a politically feasible program of action. Suppose we are granted a moment of respite by God and Trump wins. Now what? And four years from now?

      These are *not* interesting times we live in, they are just depressing.

    23. Paranoid Android, you really need to look up question begging and work to avoid it. All you are doing is giving Liberal positions on issues like guns or welfare without establishing why these are correct. Here's an obvious fact: conservatives don't accept these positions.

      To those who believe life begins at conception, abortion is clearly not pro-life. Various positions on welfare or gun rights are far less clear cut.

      Also is that the DBH essay where he actually gushed over famous imbecile AOC?

    24. Paranoid, I am going to act on the assumption that your comments on health care is an argument intending to show that the Republican Party is evil, because one of its formal policies is evil.

      First, you need to begin to distinguish more clearly between principle and methods. The principle being employed by the Republican Party to oppose, say, government-paid universal health care, is that of subsidiarity. One of the methods is to employ rhetoric that compares this to the (quite reasonably hated) specter of communism. The method may be distasteful to you as unnecessarily (and unhelpfully) lacking in logic, but it's not part of the principle.

      And the principle is valid: the federal government should not undertake to do "for the people" what the people or some lower-down level of social organization (such as states, cities, churches, businesses...) can do for themselves. When the federal government does it, that robs the lower levels of their own vitality and strength - eventually to their demise.

      The policy question comes in at the level of a judgment call: when and where do we decide to draw the line between "what the lower-down levels of social organization can do on their own"? And here we come to one of the defining differences between the conservative-proper and the liberal or progressive: The progressive makes an assumption that if those in authority can see a good they can (or may) be able to achieve, they should be free to go for it, even when doing so requires serious change to existing forms of existing social structures and customs. The conservative says that the existing social structures and customs are, themselves, constitutive of "the good" in certain ways, and they have the advantage of the "benefit of the doubt" when some new good-to-be-achieved is pursued. The new good, then, is to be compared not only with NOT achieving that good, but also with (a) the goods lost by overturning and eroding the existing organized goods inherent in already subsisting customs and norms, but also (b) in the damage caused to the norm of customary usage itself.

      In the context of health care, there had already been a wide-spread gradual trend toward more health insurance through employer-paid group health insurance. Yes, there were gaps that needed thoughtful attention, but socially we were getting better, over time. Against that trend, the Obama-care approach effectively ran roughshod over all the options being used by the vast number of players making "local" choices. And what the federal-level mandates did (as usual with the liberal solutions) is it ignored that when you "solve" a problem FOR a lower-level entity such as an individual, you undermine the lower-level entity's motives for pursuit of virtue: when you take away the naturally-existing negative incentives from a bad choice, you insulate bad-choosing from a motive NOT to engage in that choice. There is, of course, a degree of JUDGMENT about when and where to do that, but Obama decided that that judgment would take place at the federal level, scads and scads of distance away from the lower / more local possibility of refinement of such choices by those closer to the particulars. It is, by definition, less efficient with respect to citizens learning virtue even when it happens to be "more efficient" with respect to delivery of some practical result, but usually it ends up being less efficient even at that when you look at all of the practical results.

      So, at best, your example remains one of the hotly contested political issues about where "the good" actually rests.

    25. If anything, this thread shows that the Left is incapable of making any kind of moral argument that isn't just reduced to puffing their chest and begging the question against conservatives.

  6. I'd say that rather than having the Stupid and Evil Party in the USA, there is the Evilly Stupid Party and
    the Stupidly Evil Party.

  7. Ed,

    Thanks for another insightful contribution to understanding our current condition. There are many useful ways to look at the problem (such as outlined in the O.P.), but in the end they all seem unsatisfactory: try as we might, we just can’t seem to get at the essence of the mysterium iniquitatis.

    I guess that's why it's the mysterium iniquitatis.

  8. "A group of Catholic theologians, activists and nuns has signed an open letter to Catholic voters urging them to oppose President Donald Trump, who they argue “flouts core values at the heart of Catholic social teaching.”"

    Their letter says “there is nothing pro-life about spreading disinformation about COVID-19, sending refugees and asylum-seekers back to certain death, reinstituting the federal death penalty, policies that worsen climate change, and exploiting racism for political advantage.” It quotes Pope Francis in saying that “the lives of the poor, the lives of migrants, are ‘equally sacred’ as life in the womb.”

    1. As opposed to the very pro-life Democrats...

    2. Am the only who hasn't heard of most of those mentioned, except for Campbell, a nun who has said she doesn't think it right to outlaw abortion? It is clearly mostly leftist Catholics anyway. The idea of Catholics for Biden is both hilarious and saddening. Biden has been denied communion.

    3. Ficino, ssshhhh, ok? If you keep talking this way and pro-lifers actually listen to you then what will a mean old atheist like me have left to criticize? I mean, right now we've got the charge that pro-lifers only care about life before birth, after that, it is tough luck kid.

      But, if you go ahead and keep applying the principles of being pro-life both before and after birth how is a nasty old atheist going to be able to cry hypocrisy against pro-lifers?

    4. StardustyPsyche,

      False Democratic Party talking points never cease to be false. "Pro-lifers only care about life before birth" is just a smear, as the underlying premise is that "unless you have my exact policy prescriptions and care about the things I care about, then you don't care about human lives!"

    5. Yes, Geocon, on any sort of sober reflection we find that the average pro-lifer cares about human life broadly, as do those who take a pro-choice stance.

      But, there can be a grain of truth in the smear, on both sides. I think ficino's point was, approximately, that to be consistent pro-lifers who seem to sometimes take a very harsh stance on other issues that affect child welfare should re-examine those positions to be more consistent with the message of love from Jesus Christ and perhaps spend more time praying for the salvation of their enemies and less time advocating positions that result in maltreatment of the post-born.

    6. "Consistent pro-life" is just a meme invented by left-leaning Catholics to excuse their voting for pro-abortion candidates. The entire pro-life movement is and always was simply the opposition to abortion on the grounds that it is murder. Simple as. If you think that "spreading disinformation about COVID-19, sending refugees and asylum-seekers back to certain death, reinstituting the federal death penalty, policies that worsen climate change, and exploiting racism for political advantage" are the equivalent of the murder of the most innocent of lives, then you and I are operating under completely different moral frameworks.

  9. Political conflict is interpreted as essentially a war of wills between competing identity groups or economic interests, rather than an honest disagreement between minds sharing a common set of basic assumptions and standards of argumentation. Accordingly, the desired outcome is interpreted as the imposition of one’s own will (or the will of one’s interest group) on the other, rather than the persuasion of fellow rational agents via argument.

    But that's exactly what Carl von Clausewitz said politics is: war by other means.

  10. Rule of law is always rule of those who make the law, for only men can rule. This is because law cannot govern; only men can govern. The law is decided by a man (or men) and then acted upon by other men. The law is not an autonomous entity which can act by itself.

  11. Thanks, Ed. Excellent post.

    Ed wrote: "I also do not deny that the initial lockdown was justifiable as a way of keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed – indeed, I defended it. (Though in hindsight, it was vain to hope that public officials would be willing to close that particular Pandora’s Box once the public allowed them to open it.)"

    So this is still a problem. Hindsight is starting to clarify things. But isn't it also clear now that the initial justification was just a fear-based rationalization? Why do you still think it was actually justified, i.e., there was any kind of moral certainty that global lockdowns were actually necessary in order to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed? (Was the Swedish policy then morally wrong, despite being actually right?) And certainly, why think (especially in hindsight) that that objective was ever the real operative motive of policy makers?

    So I still think you were and are wrong about this initial justification business, and this even though you are much, much smarter than the vast majority of people. And if this whole business has been difficult to (intellectually) diagnose for even those with exceptionally strong intellects, then that suggests that while corruption of the will (moral evil) is certainly possible as an explanation for the various elements you describe in the current slide towards tyranny, nonetheless corruption/weakness of the intellect (stupidity) is a sufficient explanation for it. (Of course the degree to which that stupidity is fundamentally a daughter of moral evil is an open question.) In other words, there's a danger that your analysis is too voluntarist in its tendency. A lot of the current ferment of (moral) evil may be more a matter of (mass) stupidity, ideological contagion dramatically set in motion by the various contemporary forms and institutions of global mass communication. That's what the fact that even you were and are wrong about the initial justification suggests to me. "Since a small error in the beginning is great in the end, as the philosopher says..."

    1. David,

      What I mean is that a reasonable person acting on what we knew then could have supported a temporary lockdown as a way to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed. Given what we know now I would not have supported it.

    2. It is also questionable whether a well-informed person--as opposed to just a reasonble person reading the newspapers like most of us-- would have supported a lockdown back in March. Remember, the experts in Britain were against it before they were for it, and they were just telling us the conventional wisdom about epidemics. For some reason the experts all changed their mind then from what they'd always said before 2020. Note that "experts" doesn't include anybody who, like economists, thought about the Cost side of the cost-benefit equation.

  12. You make some excellent points. Every reasonable person should agree with the basic principles you posit (along with other classical philosophers) in the first part of your post.

    The problem, of course, lies in your selective application of them, biased as it is towards your own political preferences, and your cherry-picking of the available evidence and data to support your a priori preferred conclusions. (IOW, a lack of critical thinking skills which, in general, philosophers are pretty bad at.) This leads you to repeat right-wing talking points and pseudoscience refuted a thousand times. In short, you aren't really any more interested in the truth than your opponents you malign. If you actually want to convince the not-yet-convinced, I'd highly advise you to take the beam out of your own eye first.

    You haul your opponents over the coals, but give your own side a pass for the same offenses (that is, when you don't make them yourself: Is "all woke SJWs are so because they are sexual libertines" supposed to be anymore persuasive of a rational argument than "all whites are racist?")

    And what about the POTUS flat-out lying to the American public about the coronavirus? Does that not count as a serious departure from justice and the rule of law? But we'll turn a blind eye to that, because Democrats, amirite? And has the response of Republicans to the coronavirus been anything to write home about? Open up everything yesterday, because the economy and muh freedumbz, and worrying about the "Wuhan Flu" is just a bunch of pointy-headed intellectuals. You can sin by defect as well as by excess, as you well know. The happy medium (where in virtu stat) lies not in strict lockdowns nor doing nothing, but in reasonable social distancing measures rationally related to hindering the spread of the virus.

    1. As opposed to your a priori assumption that everyone to the right of Barack Obama must be evil.

    2. Philosophers are generally bad at critical thinking lol

    3. As opposed to anonymous commentators on philosophy blogs.

    4. VERY compelling rebuttals, guys.

    5. It matches the compelling-ness of the article. I mean, Feser already dealt with why the Republicans want to lift the quarantine and how it's rational for them to do so, and the rest is just foaming at the mouth Trump derangement syndrome.

  13. The blog post of the year. Could be a good outline for a book when all this is over - a case-study in A-T and Platonic political theory!

  14. wow. tucker carlson found a philosophy book. the tradition and art of philosophy has no room for open bias. most great western thinkers (post dark ages) assumed and presented themselves as objective. this
    garbage is a travesty of thought.

    1. Low quality takes by lefty anons are rife here.

    2. Yeah, why *is* that? Kind of odd that so many of them are showing up now. Did this post get shared somewhere?

    3. "Dark ages"? Pick up a history book.

    4. Yeah, "Dark Ages." You know, the years embracing the Endarkenment, circa 1580-1980. Give or take.

  15. We do need to take The Republic seriously. Your take on Tyranny as wanting to control others is interesting and useful, but it's not Plato, I think. His tyrants aren't totalitarians, just selfish dictators. They take over, though, because Democracy results in the people getting tired of corruption and incompetence under equality, and preferring to be still equal but as equally servile under a strong leader who will at least get stuff done.

    1. To give a bit of a defense to Feser, I think he's thinking that the tyrant would impose himself onto other people to satisfy his desires. But I think you're generally correct.

      The totalitarian, I think, is a result of an inherently unstable or weak government combined with a paranoid, Machiavellian personality type.

    2. Yes, I'm aware that Plato is not talking about ideologues, but rather about people who are bundles of disordered appetites on steroids. But what I am saying is that I think the woke ideologues are themselves bundles of disordered appetites on steroids. The ideology just adds a layer of rationalization to essentially the same psychology Plato was describing.

    3. Ah, Professor. I was wanting ask you: what do you think of Curtis Yarvin's thesis that it is thumos (political desire, the desire to "make a difference"), not eros, that is the driving force behind leftist activism, and that thumos and eros have similar effects on one's psyche?

    4. Curtis Yarvin wrote an ignorant blog post explaining how Bayesian standard of evidence would be more accurate ignoring the fact that probability has never been accepted as a means for dispensing justice. E.g. if soneone shot up a school, and it's calculated that John Smith was the most likely on the basis of proxinal evidence such as the distribution of artifacts, bodies, entryways, etc... but nothing seen, John Smith does not get convicted because the standard is "beyond a reasonable doubt."

      This man is no thinker.

    5. Bayesian standard of evidence would be more accurate ignoring the fact that probability has never been accepted as a means for dispensing justice.

      Does it matter what level of confidence you set? Bayesian method can determine the probabilities, but it does not (by itself) tell you what confidence level you are to choose. If you rely on a 90% confidence level, then you are right: no, we don't convict on that level of confidence. But if you set it at 99.9% confidence level, arguably we do. It depends on the actual facts in hand and the issues involved whether 99.9% is "beyond a reasonable doubt". In weighing my weight for prescribing typical medicine, 99.9% is good enough. If I am getting on an airplane, 99.9% confidence that the plan has fuel is lower than I would typically require, given that it is EASY to check. "Beyond a reasonable doubt", while not simply equatable to a specific probability, can be indicated with quantities in some cases, where we might not know the lowest % percentage that is satisfactory, but we are darn tootin' sure that 99.9999% confidence level is beyond a reasonable doubt, and we are darn tootin' sure that 90% is not.

    6. Balanced,

      You don't get to say that the man isn't a thinker just because he disagrees with you or just because he's wrong about something. This lecture makes a pretty good case for Bayesian probability at any rate:

      In the first place, what does his theories on Bayesian probability have to do with his theories on the causes of Leftist insanity?

    7. And Ed, I think you are a bundle of disordered appetites on steroids, and that's why you think the way you do. Your (at least vicarious) desire for power takes precedence over your desire for truth.

      See how easy this is? If you're not willing to cede at least a modicum of presumption of good will to me and those who think like me, then I will cease doing the same to you.

      Have a nice day.

    8. Mr. Geocon, I don't see what's paranoid or Machiavellian about the totalitarian type. Ah-- but I guess there are two aspects. One is total control of political power, which Stalin wanted. Paranoids and Machiavellians would want that,but really any of us would, and it could be used for good or for evil. What I think of more is total control of people's lives--"From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now... 16 years old!" as Bananas says. That is a Controlling personality, a sort of obsessive-compulsive, quite different, or a utopian. Stalin is the first kind; Mommy Staters the second; Hitler is both.

    9. Gonefishing, I for one won't miss your sophistry wrapped in sanctimoniousness. I don't know about anyone else. Take One Brow with you.

    10. Ooooh, big words, Anonymous. I doubt you know what they mean, but anyway. Have a nice day.

    11. GoneFishing wrote:

      If you're not willing to cede at least a modicum of presumption of good will to me and those who think like me, then I will cease doing the same to you.

      I didn't realize you considered yourself "Woke" (as opposed to just a normal leftist). Because I was clear that that was who I was talking about.

    12. Mr. G.,

      Well, first, I certainly would not say that every leftist is driven by eros, not even every woke leftist. And thumos is certainly playing a role with all of them. But if we just confine ourselves to the wokesters, I would say that the thumos is in the service of something deeper -- disordered eros with some, and envy with the others. To simplify a bit.

    13. Professor Feser,

      Thank you for your answer.


      I've been reflecting on the differences between absolute monarchy and the pseudo-democratic dictatorships of the 20th century, and I've come to the conclusion that the main differences between the two are a) insecure power and b) moral character.

      On the first, we can see how unstable totalitarian regimes are from their policies surrounding the transfer of power... or lack thereof. Did Stalin appoint a clear successor? Did Hitler? Did Mussolini?

      Stalin is the perfect example – not just for his extremism but for the chaos that seemed to surround him. There was not only a lack of clear rules as to who is in charge next, but the factional conflict was so rife that he was too busy trying to deal with it to even think about passing on his sovereignty to a successor.

      The fascists, meanwhile, were a mere retaliatory force. They were in large part a reaction to both the threat of communism and the failure of interwar liberalism. Hence why such clear rules as to how power is passed on never existed.

      We like to imagine that totalitarian states are eminently lawful. To the contrary, they were supremely chaotic situations. The status of their rulers was always precarious. Hitler was constantly under threat of being assassinated and replaced by another within his party. So was Mao. So was Stalin. And under such dire circumstance, drastic measures were necessary to secure power.

      The second point is the importance of moral character. This may seem obvious, but having a virtuous person in charge makes all the difference. The inherited traditions of thought that most twentieth century dictators operated within were not conducive to moral rule. For example, Hitler was a fan of Voltaire, a militant secularist, and extremely Machiavellian.

      While Machiavellianism is sometimes necessary in political leaders, European monarchs had much higher standards. Their education was a very specific and strict one of a very specific type. As princes, they were trained by the clergy and brought up with Christian ethics and codes of chivalry. Even if they were hypocritical or cruel at times, they still had a Christian background that informed their actions.

      Once the Enlightenment overthrew the influence of the clergy upon secular rulers in post-revolutionary Europe, this was no longer the case. The new Enlightenment thinkers thought that, if they just set up the right system, they could human-proof the government. They thought setting up the right constitutional rules would stop a would-be tyrant from just getting what they want is a product of naïve Enlightenment thinking. And Immanuel Kant is the worst offender of this by far. He boasted that:

      “many say a republic would have to be a nation of angels, because men with their selfish inclinations are not capable of a constitution of such sublime form. But precisely with these inclinations nature comes to the aid of the general will established on reason, which is revered even though impotent in practice. Thus it is only a question of a good organization of the state (which does lie in man's power), whereby the powers of each selfish inclination are so arranged in opposition that one moderates or destroys the ruinous effect of the other. The consequence for reason is the same as if none of them existed, and man is forced to be a good citizen even if not a morally good person. The problem of organizing a state, however hard it may seem, can be solved even for a race of devils.”

      The totalitarians embodied the amoral character encouraged by the liberal/democratic tradition with none of the checks and balance inherent to liberal democracies, resulting vicious, mendacious, and violent rulers without anything to hold them to account.

    14. Ed:

      I didn't realize you were such a reactionary pining for another Inquisition and another General Franco, as opposed to a normal right-winger focused on tax cuts. See how easy this is? And you're far too intelligent for this. You know better. And for all your kvetching about politics, it really gets me that you fail to see that you yourself are being oppressed by those very "structures of oppression" you refuse to admit exist.

      The fundamental premise of "Woke ideology", if you wish to call it that, is almost self-evidently true in itself and certainly obvious to a Thomist who asserts that man is a social being by nature, albeit one affected with original sin. It is that men ally themselves in groups and engage in conflict with other groups. The conquering group sets up systems designed to ensure the conquered group stays subordinate, and promulgates myths designed to prove that the conquered group's subordination is the natural order of things, and that the dominant group is simply naturally superior. This of course is where tribalism comes in, where loyalty to the tribe is more important than loyalty to the truth, lest one of the founding myths be challenged.

      Look, there's really no excuse for Trump lying about coronavirus, costing thousands of more deaths, or gassing protestors so he could have his photo-op in front of a Church whose pastor didn't want him there. It's a glaring omission (this is the POTUS, after all) in a blog post about disorder in politics. If you're not going to admit this then there simply is no basis for discussion.

    15. Anonymous,
      Take One Brow with you.

      If you don't want to look innumerate, don't post innumerate garbage. I wish the correction could have come from one of the mathematical types on "your side", but they seem to be too focused on supporting friends and attacking enemies instead of on what is possibly true and what is obviously false.

    16. Edward Feser,
      I didn't realize you considered yourself "Woke" (as opposed to just a normal leftist). Because I was clear that that was who I was talking about.

      It's odd how being aware of the many ways you benefit from things like skin color, gender, physical ability, etc. gets turned into a character flaw.

    17. It's amazing how a persuasive definition is a fallacy...

    18. Anonymous,
      It's amazing how a persuasive definition is a fallacy...

      Some definitions reflect reality.

  16. Virus-wise - very complex and hard to make decisions. Israel announces second "lockdown" after spike in COVID-19 cases:

    1. What's the long term goal at this point? Rolling lock downs indefinitely? If a vaccine doesn't eventuate this year or next, are we to operate our societies and economies at 70-80% for years? At this point spikes are usually just spikes in cases with comparatively few hospitalizations or deaths compared to earlier in the year.

    2. ...more lockdowns, because Benjamin Netanyahu is a woke SJW whose sexual depravity is leading Israel through the Platonic stages of social self destruction, obviously.

      Benjamin Netanyahu is, of course, "enamored of" lockdowns, clearly an example warned of in the OP.

    3. "Cases" means nothing in and of itself. Even hospitalizations means nothing depending on how they're counted. In some American states, a patient is counted as a COVID hospitalization if he comes in for a broken leg, tests positive for COVID, yet never has any symptoms and receives no treatment for COVID. We now have gullible politicians and people on all political spectrums falling for a "casedemic".

    4. Marissa,

      Such cases still let us track the spread of the infection and give us an idea of how many people are actually infected. If we had an infection rate of 80% right now, we are looking at a much smaller level of threat than an infection rate of 10%.

  17. Dr. Feser, we are seeing mandatory mask requirements crop up everywhere from local governments to businesses. If COVID is overblown, then isn't this just feeding into people's fears. I don't judge individuals who wear masks, but when the whole population is demanded to wear one, how is that not forcing people to cooperate in reckless scaremongering?

    2nd question: Given how COVID is shown to be hardly more deadly for most people than the ordinary flu, is the position of pro-maskers that even if/when COVID is no more we should still mask to protect people? If masking in public places is morally responsible behaviour here and now, shouldn't it have been so both 10 years ago and 5 years from now?

  18. All else being equal, I'm really not sure how 'eros' is supposed to play into all of this. Speaking of which, what should one make of the socially accepted tradition of (regulated) pederasty in Archaic and Classical Greece?

    It seems that anything the sexual revolution has brought about still pales in comparison to what was considered "normal" by the Greeks for several centuries and through a number of different regimes.

    The whole 'eros' thing seems question-begging.

  19. "I do not deny that COVID-19 is a serious problem, and I do not deny that many of the measures taken to deal with it (social distancing, the wearing of masks in public, etc.) are reasonable."

    Then you ARE part of the problem. There is no reasonable scientific basis for any of this, especially for a virus with an IFR of about .02-.025% (in the range of flu).

    1. If we round up the number of the US population to 350M and posit every single person is infected, an IFR of .025% would be 87,500 deaths. We are more than double that number of deaths, under a population of 350M, and no where close to half of the population has been infected (as far as we can tell).

    2. Yes, exactly. You don't have the faintest clue what you are talking about. You don't care about the truth. You are, in the famous words of Harry Frankfurt, a bullshitter. The IFR would be 0.05% even if every single person in the U.S. were infected.

      That's, obviously, far from being the case, and the real IFR (not the IFR as it exists in the minds of right-wing bullshitters) is between 0.5 - 1.0%, which is about 10 times what it is for the seasonal flu.

    3. Plenty of cranks on this site, including the minor philisopher who runs it. After a brief flirtation with it, i'm out .

      Feser, you are undoubtably a gifted writer, but as an academic philosopher, shouldn't you be guiding phD students and conducting research to be published in peer reviewed journals, instead of spending almost all your time delivering speeches, writing blog and magazine articles/book reviews and popular books? Your scholerly academic output seems somewhat meagre.

      A decent and prolific writer , yes. An apologist for Catholocism, yes. A significant philospher? I don't think so.

    4. The above was too strong and unwarrented. By my lights , I find many of the oppinions expressed on here so extreme and bizarre as to be cranky. This applies to Fesers take on many issues too, though he is hardly a crank per se. I apologise for a very uncharitable over generalisation.

      Although I am out of here now, I would appeal to StarDusty to continue to ignore his detractors and to continue posting, as he is a welcome counterweight to much of the drivel that would often remain unchallanged.

    5. If you think Stardusty adds anything at all to the blog but more matter to scroll past, then you need your head examined. His reputation for pointless trolling isn't confined to this site. That and the fact you think it appropriate to condemn Feser without any proof you are worthy of being taken seriously (praise of Stardusty implies the opposite). Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

    6. The dude refuses to entertain the possibility that the hylemorphic account of nature may be correct. “‘God is pure form.’ That is an incoherent statement. What is it that has form in pure form? Absolutely nothing at all? Then there can be no form at all. Something? Then the form is not pure, rather, of that something.“

    7. Unknown,

      I can walk and chew gum at the same time, thanks.

    8. Florentine,
      Those are indeed my words, and I appreciate that you quoted them fairly and in context.

      But your assertion that I have not entertained the possibility is not the case, rather, I have entertained the term "pure form", and have employed logical argument to show it to be an incoherent term.

      I am hardly alone in rejecting such notions as pure form, a Platonic world of forms, and abstract objects as real features of the extramental universe.

      I invite you to point out what you consider to the flaws in the brief argument of mine you correctly quoted, if you can do so on the merits of the rational arguments.

    9. Florentine, Stardusty is a noxious troll, as everyone who tries to interact with him quickly finds out. That Unknown actually holds him up as some sort of great counterweight to Feser shows how worthless Unknown's view of things is.

    10. I'm actually curious about the story of how Stardusty earned his reputation as a troll.

    11. Have you read his posts? Try to engage him in discussion and you 'll quickly see why.

    12. @Mister Geocon, check out the old Classical Theism forum and his posts

    13. @Unknown:

      "Plenty of cranks on this site, including the minor philisopher who runs it. After a brief flirtation with it, i'm out ."

      Don't let the door hit you on the way out, idiot. I feel the air is already getting cleaner.

    14. 'm actually curious about the story of how Stardusty earned his reputation as a troll.


      Ever since he came here, he has exhibited traits that are extremely unseemly. For example, he would list so-called theist "arguments" that are not arguments that theists actually use. (I think he may have gotten better about this, but then I don't read his comments much anymore, so I can't be sure.) Then when he went and actually looked up actual arguments, he would give them the stupidest, most glaringly uncharitable interpretations available. In doing so, he would argue from a stance that presumes materialism as true, thus in effect begging the question about non-material aspects (such as formal cause and final cause), rather than recognizing these as disputed theories. But probably most of all, he refuses to learn from past discussions and keeps REVERTING to positions that have been shown TO HIM were wrong, or at least highly troubled and fraught with difficulties, re-using those positions as if they were as sure and solid as he thought before. So argument with him can't actually proceed anywhere useful.

  20. Anyone else notice there are quite a lot of sanctimonious, boringly partisan leftists here at the moment?

  21. No quarter to those who destroy other people's property and harm their bodies.

    Given agreement on that, however, Prof. Feser's OP nevertheless disappoints. I pick out two points.

    1. Prof. Feser denounces "[o]pen-ended stop-and-start lockdowns imposed in the name of public health that are unnecessary, excessive in the material and spiritual costs they impose on citizens, and arbitrary in their application".
    As a classicist, I do not pretend to have the expertise to decide whether "lockdowns" were necessary in a given place at a given time during this bout of COVID-19. Prof. Feser's expertise is not in public health. He steps out of his sphere of expertise in declaring various measures "unnecessary." No one has certainty about these measures and their effects, but trained experts have more standing than philosophers or classicists.

    2. Much is said by what is not denounced. Prof. Feser devotes many column inches to denouncing "rioters." I see effectively no denunciation of police who wreak harm on non-white (or even white) people unjustly. Former colleagues and students of mine have participated in Black Lives Matter protests, out of conscience. One former student was injured by police batons, and her husband was almost blinded by a rubber bullet fired at the marchers. Neither was breaking the law. One may say that no general principle can be inferred from such events, but there is a pattern in America that goes back to its founding - from the Communipaw massacre in Jersey City (look it up) to our own day. Even when protest tips over into violent riots, the cause is often police injustice. "... most of the major urban uprisings of the past hundred years have been precipitated by police violence: Harlem in 1935, 1943, and 1964; Watts in 1965; Newark and Detroit and Minneapolis in 1967; Miami in 1980; Los Angeles in 1992; Ferguson in 2014; Baltimore in 2015; and in 2020, the unprecedented nationwide demonstrations sparked by the casual torture and killing of George Floyd. 'How... do you make sense of this professionally'?" ~ Columbia alumni magazine, Fall 2020, p. 8. To say, well, those people were all rioting and they were all driven by the lower parts of the soul does not begin to address the structures of injustice that have been endemic. Why not an emphasis on that?

    I said a while ago that the Catholic Church seems to side with the established order in any dispute, and I think I remember that Prof. Feser said I was poisoning the well. My intent is not to poison but to ask, can we all who love philosophy and, I think, virtue as we understand it, meet somewhere in a middle? Where would Dorothy Day be today when people might march along East 3rd Street in protest against police injustice (as my students have done all over the city)?

    My own city has been harmed by a mayor who seems to see advantage in laws' not being enforced. AND my city has been harmed when some of its citizens have been treated unjustly by the police who are sworn to protect them. I don't know how to sort out all the complex issues at the start, but I think people of good will, who consider themselves intellectuals, need to try to expand the space for dialogue in the middle, looking critically at the partisans of their own side as well as those of the "other" side - a gulf of sides greater than anything I have seen in my 67 years in America.

    1. You do know that the shooting of Michael Brown was totally justified, right? At least try not to sign on to obvious BLM propaganda. The Freddie Gray was a tragic accident partly caused by the negligence of a black police officer.

      It isn't just that the story of your former student is an anecdote, but that no context is given. When protests devolve into riots and BLM/Anti-fa engage in their favorite past time of attacking police, then any peaceful protesters left are stuck in the cross-fire. That's unfortunate but isn't the polcie's fault. It is the rioters. Maybe the few BLM supporters who are actually keen on keeping things peaceful should make this known.

      Many of us don't accept that there are structures of endemic injustice in American policing and society today, outside Planned Parenthood, so how about not begging the question? These structures did exist decades ago, but there's little proof they do now. Certainly BLM and the like never prove. They have shown that time and again they don't even care about the facts of police shootings. They even made Jacob Blake a martyr!

    2. Also if informed, educated citizens can't comment on policies recommended by experts thats terrible for self-government. Besides many of these experts are so in small areas only, whereas public policy also requires broad, holistic considerations. The likes of Fauci don't have to consider most of the cost column in their cost-benefit analysis of strict measures, because they are outside their area of public health. Public policy requires that the cost column of the lock downs is not ignored.

    3. ficino,
      "No quarter to those who destroy other people's property and harm their bodies."
      Then you would rightly give no quarter to nearly all of the poster boys and girls of the organization BLM, because nearly all were violent criminals who attacked, resisted, and threatened the police, which is why they died, or were shot.

      Dijon Kizzee was a convicted felon and ex con who illegally carried a gun, ran from the officers, punched an officer in the face, and went for his gun, so the police shot him in self defense.

      Jacob Blake raped, abused, and stole from a woman, who filed a complaint, thus a warrant was issued for his arrest. Blake fought the police, put an officer in a headlock, got tased by one officer, refused to stop, got tased by a second officer, still refused to stop, went for a weapon, so the police shot him in self defense.

      George Floyd was caught in the act of conspiracy to pass counterfeit currency and actually passing counterfeit currency, found grossly intoxicated behind the wheel of an SUV, recent methamphetamine use and lethal dose of the opioid Fentanyl, arteriosclerotic heart disease, hypertensive heart disease, Covid-19 infection, was non-compliant as he attempted to hide further counterfeit bills, lied repeatedly about not being intoxicated, not having done anything, not being that kind of guy (6 times convicted and incarcerated). Lied about being too claustrophobic to get in a car (he was found in a car). Lied about not being able to breath repeatedly while standing. Violently resisted getting in the car, worked himself into a state of Excited Delirium Syndrome, was properly restrained by officers who called for the ambulance twice, died of a self induced heart attack just as a black male bystander had warned him he would do, that same black male bystander clearly blamed George Floyd for his own death. A variation of suicide by cop.

      Michael Brown committed a strong arm robbery of local store using threat of violence to steal, openly brandished the stolen merchandise on a public street, Brown punched the officer in the face through the open window of the squad car, Brown attempted to steal the officer’s gun but was shot in the hand, Brown fled and was pursued (the officer’s job), Brown turned and ran toward the officer, the officer started walking backwards and opened fire in self defense as Brown ran toward the officer as the officer continued to walk backwards, all bullet wounds in Brown were front entry. Hands Up Don’t Shoot was a lie told by and later admitted by dishonest bystanders.

      Ficiono, I imagine you are in general a very thoughtful individual, but acquiescence to a campaign of lies against law enforcement has real harmful effects and I think the time is past due for all of us to call out the lies of the organization BLM.

      You may be aware that 2 deputies in the LASD were ambushed and shot in Compton, likely in an insane thought of revenge for Dijon Kizzee, who was shot recently by LASD.

      “Hands up don’t shoot” was a lie that was parroted by newscasters and many more, whipped up by the organization BLM, and fanned the flames of Ferguson.

      The same sort of acquiescence to lies against law enforcement fanned the flames in Kenosha, I think likely led directly to the attempted murders of LASD deputies in Compton recently.

      Enough. Ficino, I urge you to reexamine the facts of these cases, take a close look at the lies on the BLM organization website, and be a part of a push back against the BLM lies, and in support of law enforcement. It will make you unpopular with many, at least in the short term, but you are old, and it up to the old to teach the young, even when they at first attack us for it.

    4. ficino4ml,

      Three things:

      1) Scientific expertise on the spread of pandemics is not the same as wisdom or the capacity for just governance. There are competing goods and other principles to consider other than the potential loss of life here. For example, Professor Feser has repeatedly mentioned that merely shutting down the economy is not some harmless abstraction. As a matter of justice, people's livelihoods are at stake, and when lost, increases in suicides, addiction, and other social pathologies tend to follow. Virologists or public health experts tend to know the nuts and bolts of how a virus or other pathogens may infect, incubate, or reproduce. However, it doesn't follow that from such technical knowledge/expertise they know what ought to be done when a pandemic strikes. On the contrary, philosophy concerns itself with what ought to be done. So Feser is not overstepping his bounds here. Empirical findings can inform public policy prescriptions, but it takes wisdom to govern rightly in the face of crises like pandemics.

      2) There is no emphasis on racist "structures of injustice" is because the existence of those "structures" are what is in dispute. It's interesting and telling that there are many who look at a singular incident, e.g. the death of George Floyd dying while Officer Derek Chauvin's knee was on his neck, and infer "institutional racism" from an alleged singular act of racism. Careful thinkers would recognize it would be hasty to conclude that even if Chauvin was motivated by the most ugly of racist sentiments -- though there are many proponents of Critical Race Theory who would deny that any prejudice from Chauvin is required for Floyd's death to be racist. Nevertheless, a single incident, no matter how perturbing, is not a trend or necessarily normative.

      The truth is leftists a priori believe racist or unjust "structures" exist and argue from that claim to explain an event like the death of George Floyd. Empirical evidence comes later, if at all, as well as an incredulity at how people can deny the existence of institutional racism in the face of a singular incident like Floyd's tragic demise (and around, and around, and around the reasoning fallaciously goes).

      Indeed, it's been my observation, these racist "structures" take on a metaphysical quality. They seemingly constitute a first principle by which leftists makes sense of social reality. Any disparity between the races that is perceived as unfavorable really are those nefarious racist structures at work. Countervailing evidence -- e.g. police killed, I believe, 9 "unarmed" blacks last year in a nation with an African American population of 41.4 million while black-on-black crime in Chicago is often more deadly in one weekend -- is not taken into account because institutional racism is ultimately not an empirical matter. It never was. Though, the differences between, say, theist proponents of Anselm's ontological argument and Critical Race Scholars like Ibrahim Kendi are:

      A) the former ACTUALLY ARGUE to establish their metaphysical first principle -- the latter tend just to ASSUME it;
      B) the former tend not to immediately view and treat a detractor like hostis humanis generis.

      3) Thus, A) and B) suggest proponents of Critical Race Theory, most notoriously the protesters, whether "mostly peaceful" or not, are not acting rationally or in good faith, but are in the grips of an ideology that can't be reasoned or parleyed with.

    5. Thank you gents for your replies.

      As to necessity, obviously in the case of responses to COVID it's conditional necessity, i.e. experts say, if you want outcome Z, then it's necessary to follow Plan A. I note that Prof. Feser sort of conceded at first that if Z = keep hospitals from patient overload, then "lockdown" was justified. But later he said lockdown was neither necessary even to avoid hospital overload nor was it effective. He cited some authorities, one on a YouTube video starting out to say what is reported in the media is wrong. I get the distinction between ends and means - it's emphasized in the OP - but I remain unconvinced that a layman is competent to challenge the generality of experts about the means.

      As for BLM, point taken that some of the people killed by police had weapons or were under the influence of drugs. My understanding is that a good number of others were not. I'll mention only two: Stephon Clarke, shot in grandmother's backyard but only holding a mobile phone; Philando Castille, shot in the car right after he TOLD THE OFFICER that he had a legal firearm. I saw his blood draining out in the video. And even people who were committing crimes or who were brandishing a knife or hammer didn't deserve the death penalty in court, but they got the equivalent, death, in a snap decision of a police officer. My great-grandfather was a marshal in the Dakota Territory. The family story is that he never killed a man, always shot, when he had to, in the leg (I guess he missed the femoral artery). Other advanced countries don't have anywhere near the percentage of police killings per capita that we do. Agreeing that the police are needed in every community, I think we can do much better in how they handle situations. I just read of a new policy in Denver to dispatch health experts instead of police to a lot of 911 situations, and apparently it's working:

      I'll note that I think debate over the metaphysical status of "structures" will wind up as a distraction from what needs to be looked at in public policy. I don't have sociological or criminological research at my fingertips, but I am guessing that constructs like "structure" can be useful metaphors to aid a critical look at laws and customs - e.g. redlining and kindred laws and customs that barred POC from buying property in many places for decades. That "structure" played a role in the big lag in assets between white and black families, on average.

      OK, I shall listen further and continue to inquire.

    6. I don't think anyone will deny that past racial injustices have lingering effects, especially in terms of wealth disparities. But this isn't only what those who are pushing the systematic racism mean. They are claiming the American system is riven by white supremacy and needs to be uprooted entirely.

      They also don't have real solutions to the actual lingering disparities. Their agenda arguably makes them worse by emphasizing blacks as victims without true agency.

    7. Ficino,
      “As for BLM, point taken that some of the people killed by police had weapons or were under the influence of drugs. My understanding is that a good number of others were not.”
      Then your understanding is mistaken. Nearly all cases that BLM cites are cases of violent criminals who variously attacked the police, violently resisted arrest, brandished a weapon, or went for a weapon.

      Stephon Clark
      “Clark had a history of convictions for robbery, domestic abuse, and a prostitution-related offense. At the time of his death he was on probation for a 2014 robbery conviction.[9] According to the investigation, Clark had searched online for ways to commit suicide.[1] A toxicology report also released by police found traces of cocaine, cannabis, and codeine in Clark's system. Codeine and hydrocodone were found in Clark's urine. “

      So, there goes much of your thesis right there, but let’s continue.
      A police helicopter reported that Clark had been breaking windows with a bar. Then “Police body camera footage from both of the officers who shot Clark recorded the incident, though the footage is dark and shaky.[11][12] In the videos, officers spot Clark in his grandmother's driveway and shout "Hey, show me your hands. Stop. Stop."[11] The video shows that the officers chased Clark into the backyard and an officer yells, "Show me your hands! Gun!" About three seconds elapse and then the officer yells, "Show me your hands! Gun, gun, gun", before shooting Clark.[11][12]

      According to the police, before being shot, Clark turned and held an object that he "extended in front of him" while he moved towards the officers”

      So, yet again, we have a multiple convicted criminal, caught in the act of committing further crimes, intoxicated on illegal drugs, refusing to stop, refusing to show his hands, and then threatening the officers who clearly shot in self defense, as is nearly always the case.

      That is why the officers were cleared of wrongdoing, because Clark was a threatening criminal and the officers fired in self defense.

    8. “Philando Castille, shot in the car right after he TOLD THE OFFICER that he had a legal firearm.”
      Which means nothing, because criminals lie. In this case Castille was committing the very irresponsible and illegal act of smoking dope in the car with a little kid in the car. The cop told him not to go for the gun, Castille’s story about its legality being irrelevant. But, instead of cooperating like anybody with sense would do, Castille made a move so he got shot.

      That is why the officer was acquitted, because he shot in self defense, while Castille was being non-compliant, as is nearly always the case.

      “didn't deserve the death penalty in court, but they got the equivalent,”
      No they don’t. They get what they brought on themselves.

      Ficino, if you get stopped by the cops do you pull out a knife, or a gun, or punch the officer in the face, or try to steal the officer’s gun, or run away from the scene? I very much doubt it. Only a dangerous criminal does those sorts of things.

      “My great-grandfather was a marshal in the Dakota Territory”
      How naive. In the Dakota Territory? How many years ago?

      “always shot, when he had to, in the leg”
      He would be lucky to live more than a few years policing in South Central LA using that technique. The truth is that a lot of criminals are hyped up on PCP, cocaine, opioids, and methamphetamine. They don’t stop even with several solid hits in the torso, much less a shot in the leg. You obviously have not thought through what it is like for a police officer in modern times to be in a split second combat gunfight in a crime and drug infested city.

      That is why officer Wilson had to finally shoot Michael Brown in the head. Brown was charging in a state of hyped up rage. Wilson was connecting mid torso in shot after shot but Brown kept charging directly into the firing of Wilson’s semi automatic pistol.

      As Brown threatened to reach Wilson one last shot was fired, directly into Brown’s brain. Only then did the mad, rage filled, deadly threat charge of Brown come to an end, and a very fortunate thing it is indeed that Wilson is the one who won that fight, and that it was the violent criminal Brown who lost that fight, a very preferable outcome indeed, relative to the alternative.

      There is your BLM hero, a violent criminal who violently stole, punched a police officer through the open window of the squad car, tried to steal the officer’s gun, and in the end tried to attack the officer in a mad charge directly into a series of gunshots, only stopped by at last being shot in the brain.

      If you think a cop today can shoot somebody in the foot or the leg then think again. If the criminal has a gun then while the cop is shooting him in the leg the criminal will be shooting the cop in the heart and the head.

    9. StardustyPsyche,

      Now do Breonna Taylor, John Crawford, and Tamar Rice. It'll be fun!

    10. Breonna Taylor
      Police served a no-knock warrant at her house looking for drugs via her known associates, reports conflict between the police and neighbors as to whether they announced themselves as police officers, man in house opened fire claiming he thought it was a criminal home invasion, officers seem to have fired wildly into the home some 20 shots, of which 8 hit Taylor, seemingly far too many hitting Taylor to be accounted for as random shots passing through the wall, highly suspicious of police misconduct, no racial motivation is known.

      John Crawford III
      Police received a call of a man pointing a gun in a Wal-Mart store, later the caller changed the wording to “waiving around”. When police arrived they told Crawford to put the gun down, instead Crawford began to run away, so the police fired to stop the apparent gunman.

      Both federal and local investigations concluded not to charge the officers involved because it was a justifiable use of force against a non-compliant apparently armed man, only later found to be a BB gun.

      Tamir Rice
      A minor with a realistic replica gun with the orange tip removed, a call was made that a guy was pointing “a pistol” at people in the park (thereby committing multiple crimes of armed assault, the fact the gun was actually a realistic replica being irrelevant to the commission of an armed assault), police arrived, Rice began to pull out the realistic replica gun, officers fired in self defense, thereby stopping the criminal assailant.

      In nearly all cases put out by the BLM organization the shooting was either entirely necessary or at least technically justifiable.

      In no case, zero, has racial motivation been shown at all, or even hinted at.

      BLM is a racist organization. If a white cop shoots a black person then by definition it is asserted to be an unjust shooting.

    11. SDP, I thought you were an official "troll" here on this blog. Now that you have attacked BLM as a racist organization, are you going to be rehabilitated? lol

      Thanks for the info.

    12. No, he's still a troll.

    13. ficino,
      I call 'em like I see 'em, irrespective.

      I do encourage you to look more closely at each new case alleged by the organization BLM. Now, if that is not your primary focus in life, OK.

      Objectively, the numbers on the police violence issue, protests, and riots are all very small, relatively.

      The number of people killed by police for any reason at all is tiny compared to the number of murders committed by civilians.

      We will certainly exceed a quarter million deaths from Covid-19, plus there are lots of other human calamities to spend our days wringing our hands about, so if this is not your primary area of interest, well OK.

      In my view the time is now to push back against the false narrative of systemic racism in policing as a cause of supposedly unjustified police violence. This just happens to be an issue that resonates personally with me, my respect for and support of law enforcement is strong as is my disdain for the culture that glorifies and ignores the viciousness of the criminality law enforcement confronts every day.

      Biden won't go all the way I would like to see because that would risk de-energizing his base.

      Trump won't say the right things because he lacks the powers of articulation and the rational analysis capacity to go beyond calling a few crude names that appeal only to the lowest of his base.

    14. @ficino4ml

      Now that you have attacked BLM as a racist organization, are you going to be rehabilitated?

      It just means he's a high-functioning psychopath. He's opposed to Christian conservatives for putting burdens on him that he doesn't like while being completely unfeeling toward the sufferings of anyone other than him. Not even hardcore narcissists like DJT are THAT self-centered.

    15. StardustyPsyche,

      Like I said, this is fun. These cases help show the enormous latitude you offer police testimony after the people who would say otherwise happen to be dead (as happened with your depiction of Garner, Brown, Castille, etc.). It's like you don't understand that police lie to justify their shooting of people.

      Breonna Taylor
      Police served a no-knock warrant at her house looking for drugs via her known associates, reports conflict between the police and neighbors as to whether they announced themselves as police officers,

      So, the police lied, and the police-worshiper believes their lies.

      man in house opened fire claiming he thought it was a criminal home invasion,

      In a 911 call where he was trying to summon the police for help, which would be odd if the police had announced themselves.

      ... highly suspicious of police misconduct, no racial motivation is known.

      Don't forget the part where the DA offered a plea deal to Taylor's ex, which tried to implicate Taylor in drug distribution. Gotta tar the victim. It's all part of the system. You don't need "racial motivation", racism just happens.

      John Crawford III
      When police arrived they told Crawford to put the gun down, instead Crawford began to run away,

      This is a lie. Tape exists of the shooting (I just rechecked it to make sure I didn't remember it wrong). There was maybe 1 second between when the police shouted and when they fired, and Crawford didn't move from the spot he was standing until after he was shot.

      But, who you gonna believe, the police or your lying eyes?

      Both federal and local investigations concluded not to charge the officers involved because it was a justifiable use of force against a non-compliant apparently armed man, only later found to be a BB gun.

      Of course. It's just a dead black man, and you gotta believe the police, because there weren't any other witnesses, right? I mean, besides the tape, but who would think police might lie?

      Tamir Rice
      A minor with a realistic replica gun with the orange tip removed, a call was made that a guy was pointing “a pistol” at people in the park

      Not just a "minor", a child, and the caller said that the he thought the toy was a toy. I love how hard you try to slant this to justify the shooting.

      officers fired in self defense,

      Giving maybe a whole 5 seconds for the child to react.

      In nearly all cases put out by the BLM organization the shooting was either entirely necessary or at least technically justifiable.

      As long as you assume police testimony is unimpeachable.

      In no case, zero, has racial motivation been shown at all, or even hinted at.

      If you are going to rely on citizen reports to locate crime, you have to account for every-day racism in those descriptions, such as when the 911 caller said Crawford was pointing a gun at a woman and two kids, even though the gun was pointing at the ground and not in their direction. Racism has an effect even absent racial motivation.

      BLM is a racist organization.

      You need power to be racist.

      If a white cop shoots a black person then by definition it is asserted to be an unjust shooting.

      Aside from the dozens of shootings (or other deaths) of black people they don't say anything about. Then again, we both know you can't be trusted to do so much as watch of video BLM makes without lying about it.

    16. One,
      “So, the police lied”
      What part of “reports conflict” is confusing to you?

      “the police-worshiper believes their lies.”
      What part of *highly suspicious of police misconduct* don’t you get?

      “This is a lie” “just rechecked””
      Checked what? No reference is provided.

      “Of course. It's just a dead black man,”
      Your words, not the words of any officials investigating.

      “the caller said that the he thought the toy was a toy”
      The caller said it was a “pistol”.

      It was not a toy. Toy guns are recognizable as such. Realistic replica guns used in crimes are real weapons under the law.

      If you commit a crime using a realistic replica gun you do not get to plead, “it was just a toy”. Under the law you will be charged and convicted and sentences for an armed crime.

      “Giving maybe a whole 5 seconds for the child to react.”
      Bullets fired by children kill the same as any other bullets. The criminal assailant drew first, so the cops drew and fired.

      5 seconds can a long time in a gunfight. You have the luxury of sitting at home safely at your computer clicking rewind. Criminals typically do not provide a warning; rather, they commonly draw and fire in a matter of seconds. That is why the police react in a matter of seconds to fire in self-defense.

      “As long as you assume police testimony is unimpeachable.”
      Nope, based on the totality of the investigations in every case, including video, audio, autopsy, shell casings, stray bullet impacts, bystander testimony, body location, shooting scene photos, physical evidence gathered, and all the investigative techniques available.

      In nearly all cases when a careful investigation is performed the police are found to have acted in self-defense and the death was either unrelated to their conduct (George Floyd), necessary and well done (Michael Brown), or technically justifiable (John Crawford).

      “You need power to be racist.”
      A stunningly idiotic statement.

      To be a racist requires only that one think racist thoughts. That is what makes a person a racist. Just like being a communist or an atheist or a deist or a Platonist.

      Racism is a belief system. Racist acts are actions taken that are motivated and (mis)informed by racist beliefs.

      The asinine contention that “You need power to be racist” is used by people who are racist to convince themselves that they cannot be racist and therefore are not racist.

    17. @SP,

      Riiiighttttt. Tell me SP. Doesn't it seem odd how a lot of white mass shooters are apprehended alive, and without any fare. In fact some of the police even act friendly and chummy with said shooters despite them y'know killing people. Doesn't that seem odd when compared to black people killed by the cops?

    18. The Trolls are GatheringSeptember 17, 2020 at 4:07 PM

      Stardusty, One Brow, and AKG, and it's just what you'd expect. One Brow actually outdoes Stardusty in idiocy this time around with this gem:

      You need power to be racist.

    19. AKG,
      "how a lot of white mass shooters are apprehended alive,"
      Huh? What, you think the police marksman was about to take the shot, but then, he sees in his scope that the guy is white, so it's like, awww, the guy is white, I'm not gonna take the shot, white guys like him probably won't kill very many more people, let's just wait and see...

      You live in an anti-white racist fantasy world.

      "Doesn't that seem odd when compared to black people killed by the cops?"
      The cops kill a white guy every day.

      The difference is that white folks aren't at all mad about that, cops killing white guys. In fact, white folks generally are real OK with a cop shooting a white guy, it's just, scratch another white criminal, and good riddance, and thank goodness the officer won that fight and went home safely to love ones while that white criminal got what he had coming for being such a violent dirt bag.

      Doesn't the glorification of black criminals by so many black people and woke idiots of all races seem odd to you, as compared to the healthy condemnation of white criminals by white people generally?

  22. Can anybody provide any actual names of real public officials that have expressed the positions asserted in the OP? I have read the OP and scanned the comments and I cannot find even a single real cited example.

    “the government officials most enamored of lockdowns”
    There is no such actual government official. Who? Name one, much less a plurality of such government officials. Look up the word “enamored”, then apply it to a government official’s statements about lockdowns, and tell me the name of the individual who is “enamored” of lockdowns.

    “the riots, vandalism, and looting that some of the protests gave way to – which many of these public officials took no significant action to prevent”
    Name one. Who? Which mayor, which police chief, which sheriff failed to send available forces to the scenes of the crimes, or failed to have forces patrolling? Which governor refused to send in the National Guard? Name even just one, much less more than one.

    “it is defensible (or at least excusable, or understandable) for Person C to loot and burn down Person D’s business.”
    Which public official said that? What mayor, or police chief, or governor said looting and arson were excusable or understandable? Again, name at least one.

    Lacking any specifics, lacking any citations, lacking any references to any actual statements made by any actual officials I can only conclude that the OP is made up out of whole cloth, and if not intentionally dishonest fear mongering then at least an exercise in a purely imaginary state of affairs, divorced from reality.

    1. I'm sorry you've been living under a rock these last few months. I feel sorry for you.

    2. Your pity, Geocon, is much appreciated.

      Would you then, in an act of mercy for the retarded, at least:
      Name one public official who was "enamored" of lockdowns.
      Name one public official who failed to take action against looting and arson.
      Name one public official who condoned or in any way rationalized or legitimized looting and arson.

      Throw a poor rock dweller a bone here, OK?

    3. Well, I was going to, but then Modus Pownens beat me too it.

    4. The irrationality of the lockdown supporters can be found in Edward Feser's previous articles on the subject.

    5. Uhm, Geocon, Dr. Feser is on record as a supporter, at the time, of lockdowns.

      So, therefore, you are saying Dr. Feser is thereby irrational, correct?

    6. No. Bad Stardusty. Stop being a troll.

  23. Stardusty Psyche,

    In regard to riots, there are a handful of instances I can think of on top of my head and can be Googled easily. And many times these officials are much more Orwellian about excusing lawlessness. They don't act decisively seemingly because they're sympathetic to the cause. They obfuscate, describing protests that regularly turn riotous as "mostly peaceful."

    1) During the Freddie Grey riots in Baltimore, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is quoted as saying: "we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well."

    2) In Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey tacitly encouraged the arson of tax-payer funded public property and lawlessness in the general vicinity after he ordered police to abandon the 3rd Precinct. The National Guard, for whatever reason wasn't wasn't fully deployed until the weekend. Frey made the order to abandon the precinct Wednesday of that week.

    3) Likewise, in Seattle, former Police Chief Carmen Best implied she was ordered to abandon the East Precinct: "You should know, leaving the precinct was not my decision." Afterward, CHAZ/CHOP was set-up with the abandoned precinct serving as the squatters' home base. Mayor Jenny Durkan later described the blocks she abdicated as a potential "summer of love" to Chris Cuomo of CNN. If memory serves, the city even provided and cleaned multiple portable restrooms for the occupiers. It was only after reports of multiple homicides did she order police to reclaim the blocks. Maybe you don't find that convincing, but business and resident owners left at the tender mercies of the demonstrators believe Durkan was so grossly negligent they've filed a class-action lawsuit against the city. Links below:

    4) Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland, despite Antifa riots nearly everyday for months, has rebuffed Trump's offer of federal forces to help quell the unrest.

    5) Oregon Governor Kate Brown refuses to send national guard to troops to restore law in order in Portland despite the US Attorney for Oregon urging her to do so.

    Also some news media have tried to excuse the riotous violence or are soft on it, engaging in false moral equivalence by presenting such views justifying violence as reasonable positions/live options:

    1) CNN's Chris Cuomo: "Please, show me where it says protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful."

    2) NPR interviews Vicky Osterweil about her book, In Defense of Looting.

    3) In 2014, Darlena Cunha in Time: "Ferguson: In Defense of Riots"

    So, no, we're not not just fabricating an "imaginary state of affairs" and feverishly grasping at phantasms, "...divorced from reality."

  24. I was going to ask this myself, but I come here for the Thomism, not the whateverthiswasism.

    1. Conservative commentary on current events. That's what this was.

  25. Brian Leiter's notice the Tarantula link too, which is an apt one:
    I think it's time to recognize that Nietzsche had correctly diagnosed what we are witnessing in these displays, in his discussion of the "tarantulas" in Thus Spoke Zarathustra:

    "That the world be filled with the storms of our revenge, that is what we call justice"--thus they [the tarantulas] speak to each other.

    "We will wreak vengeance and abuse on all those whose equals we are not"--thus do the Tarantula-hearts vow.

    "And 'will to equality'--that should henceforth be the name of virtue; and against all that have power, we want to raise our clamor!"

    You preachers of equality, the tyrannical madness of impotence cries out from you for "equality": your secret desire to be tyrants is wrapped up in virtuous words!

  26. On the topic of the Sexual Revolution, I'm not sure if it's at all visible from the conservative perspective, but the war against the legalization and "normalization" of prostitution is being lost. It seems that there's a lot of money behind the sex industry (including George Soros's Open Society Foundation--and I am a leftist, so finding out at least *one* conservative conspiracy theory is true has been delightful), and at some point this special interest managed to capture the ACLU, which is now parroting "sex work is work" with everyone else. (Yes, and sweat shops are shops.)

    I was *hoping* that the turn to socialism would actually harm the sex industry, since a Marxist analysis of prostitution and pornography as inherently exploitative is incredibly powerful, but I've realized that this is not the case. The "Marxists" are all for the legalization of prostitution, pimps, buyers, and all. They could care less about any actual class analysis, because their answer to everything is always, "even socialists have to live in a capitalist society." They don't actually care about stopping exploitation. I'm not sure they care about anything at all except virtue signaling, and then they engage in identity politics to smear actual prostitution abolitionists.

    The queer theorists have also gone of the rails. They're a step away from telling people that it's bigoted to have any sexual orientation whatsoever. Trans identities must be validated up to and including in the bedroom, so I've heard stories about young girls who feel bad about wanting a husband they can have children with and lesbians who've internalized the idea that they're evil if they aren't attracted to male genitalia on a woman. The social pressure to engage in sexual activity was bad enough when I was in school ten years ago, but it seems that the coerciveness of it all has only been worsening.

    1. 1.The legality of prostitution was defended by none other than Thomas Aquinas himself. Not only that, but prostitution was quite legal during the Middle Ages and well into the 19th century, even in places like Victorian England. If anything, this would be restoring a normal historical state, not doing something radically new.

      2.The entire idea of a "sexual orientation" is a very recent one as well. The idea of being "a heterosexual" or "a homosexual" was alien even to such people as Gore Vidal still. But all in all, the idea of "being gay" or something is itself somewhat of a social construct, and a recent one at that.

    2. You think the commodification of sex and the abuses of the sex industry are a good thing because it was normalized during the Middle Ages? Your "normal historical state" involves marginalized women selling their bodies (and being shunned for it) because that was the only way they could survive.

      I've also literally never heard a Catholic defend the rightness of men buying sex before. So much for sexual ethics, I suppose.

    3. @Hypatia: OT, but do you know whether Marxian economists today hold to the surplus (labor) theory of value? I have been told that no one, not even Marxian thinkers, maintains a labor theory of value. No worries if this isn't your area. Tx

    4. @fichino4ml: I'm not sure, to be honest. I'm a radical feminist, not a Marxist--we use some of the same types of class analysis that more or less derive from Marxist thought, but the focus isn't precisely economics. I think the closest I've gotten to modern Marxist thought is Alasdair MacIntyre, so... not exactly mainstream stuff.

      Checked with a Marxist friend, but all he's said so far is that modern Marxist economists aren't dogmatic about that type of stuff. So... probably not?

    5. @fichino4ml: After discussing it a bit more, I think it would depend on what you mean by the surplus theory of value. If you just mean capitalists (i.e., those who control the means of production) minimizing costs and maximizing rewards, offloading costs onto workers, then I'm not sure what sort of Marxist economist *wouldn't* still hold to it. (Or how any sane person wouldn't hold it, for that matter, but I obviously lean in this direction myself and don't love neo-liberals.)

      If you mean a more complex form of the theory, then I don't know. Hard to imagine people holding to the original Marxist version 100%, though.

    6. @Hypatia, thank you for checking and replying. I don't know enough to have a solid view. I have heard people say that Marxism is exploded because the labor theory of value is wrong, but Karl Popper -- who rejected Communism -- wrote that what was true about Marx's critique of capitalism doesn't need a labor theory of value.

    7. @fichino4ml: No problem! Seems to me that the underlying dispute would be over whether the labor theory of value is wrong. Neo-liberals say it is, but I know for a fact that clients are getting charged ten times what I get paid (granted, the type of money multinationals toss around is absurd), so it's hard to see how some form of the theory doesn't apply. When my Marxist friend explained it to me, I said, "Oh. I thought that was just reality," so I guess I'm more of a Marxist than I realized, haha.

      I think modern Marxism is basically a mess, though, since most people recognize that the traditional version didn't exactly work as advertised. People have an end goal but no practical idea of how to get there. But utopianism is like that, I suppose.

    8. I'm taking the risk of drifting too far from the OP: I recall Locke saying that if a savage (I forget the noun he used) picks berries in the woods, they are his/her berries because of the labor. I have read that Smith and Ricardo developed a labor theory of ownership into their labor theory of value. Then Marx developed THAT into a (labor) theory of surplus value: after the expenses are subtracted, the surplus value of the ready-to-eat spinach leaves or whatever, and of all other products (and services?), is the wealth that the society distributes among its members, so they are survive and flourish. My understanding is that Marx (and Engels?) said the choice in the 19th century lay betw ownership controlling and distributing the surplus vs labor controlling and distributing the surplus. It's as though a poor woman picked berries in the woods and is bringing them to her children to eat, and then a bailiff pops up and seizes the berries and cries, "These are not your berries but Lord Fauntleroy's berries, in whose wood they grew - on land that is his and his ancestors' since William the Conqueror." And then the berries are taken and she is flogged.

      So my understanding is that the question looks at the rights to distribute the surplus value she created by her labor.

    9. @ficino4ml: Okay. What I was discussing with my friend was the question of where that surplus value comes from in the first place. If you subtract the cost of the tools/materials and the cost of labor from the final price of a product, you'll have the surplus value. How is this extra value produced? The basic idea would be that it's produced by the workers and appropriated by the capitalist class as profit, and from there we end up with the amassment of wealth.

      I think your example here gets to the heart of the Marxist critique of property, though. The question of who owns the means of production would apply here too, though I think a better illustration would be a landowner employing a handful of poor people and having them pick berries, and then the landowner sells the berries at a profit. The cost of maintaining the bushes is the same, so the additional value generated is coming out of what would have been the workers' wages. The landowner is of course in possession of the means of production, exploits the workers, and pockets the difference. Hence the Marxist hostility towards private property in general.

    10. “capitalists (i.e., those who control the means of production)”. Does the “capitalist” answer to the market, which is you and I? So you and I tell the “capitalist” what he must provide us with in order for us to allow him to stay in business, no? Who controls whom?

      “offloading costs onto workers,”. I’m not sure what that means really. How does the “capitalist” “offload costs onto workers”? I hear Marxists say it, but I never hear them say that workers “offload” risk onto the entrepreneur—which is something I do clearly understand. Is risk valueless? I certainly was to a petulant and irresponsible, perpetual child like Karl Marx.

      “granted, the type of money multinationals toss around is absurd”. Why?

      “How is this extra value produced?” In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith attributes it to specialization. No?

    11. Also, the "capitalist" benefits from cost reduction (supposedly "stealing" from workers)? You and I don't benefit in lower prices? The explosion of human productivity happened 250 years ago because some "capitalists" started "stealing" from workers? Seriously?

    12. @TN: Frankly, no. I don't think powerful corporations answer to the market in a meaningful way. The more powerful you are, the more you can monopolize the market. On the other hand, the less powerful you are, the more *you* can be exploited by market pressures, so I think there's still an ugly class analysis to be made over market economics.

      Offloading costs onto workers means paying them less than the value of their work. Cutting corners in a way that harms them (e.g., ignoring safety regulations) would count as well.

      Why is the amount of money multinationals toss around absurd? Because they have so much of it, they basically treat it like monopoly money, as far as I can tell. I work in the legal industry, where big business goes to make its problems disappear. I am *very* cynical. (Though to be fair, I'm actually even more cynical about state socialism. I'm probably more a distributist than anything else.)

      No, the explosion of productivity happened because of the Industrial Revolution. Which basically *destroyed* the working class. Studying 19th century torts and contracts cases demolished my libertarianism--it's just a neverending stream of people getting injured in workplace accidents and being told they'd freely entered into the contract.

      As for the ways in which we benefit from lower prices, that cost is also often offset onto workers, sometimes in the form of overseas labor. I absolutely think multinationals are pocketing as much of the difference as they can get away with. A lot of these companies aren't even altruistic enough to not go run to tax havens, lol.

    13. Aquinas didn't defend the legality of prostitution "because" he somehow thought it was a good thing. Rather, he just didn't think all evils needed to be proscribed by law. Very different position.

      Here is a helpful article:

    14. Hypatia,

      “monopolize the market.” Thus anti-trust laws. What do you mean?

      “exploited by market pressures”. What does that mean? How is a small company “exploited” by the market?

      “paying them less than the value of their work”. Who determines the “value of their work”? You and I collectively, or does a central authority set that value? How will a central authority make better decisions than everyone collectively?

      Multinational corporations have too much money? Who gets to make that decision? You and I collectively, or a central authority? Microsoft got “too much money” because they provided you with the computer you demanded from them. At what point should a government bureaucrat have stepped in and punished Microsoft for giving you what you demanded from them?

      “productivity happened because of the Industrial Revolution." And how do you have an industrial revolution without specialization of labor first?

      “*destroyed* the working class.” Really? How do explain that standards of living, life expectancy, elimination of poverty, etc. have skyrocketed compared to any point in the past?

      Suparti was 17 years old when she left her impoverished Indonesian family farm to work in a Matel factory where she dressed barbie dolls. By the time she was 25, she owned her own home, scooter, and a television. This might not seem like much to Westerners, but it is simply amazing to her. If you offer Suparti her 40 acres and a cow (Distributism), I'm sure she will turn you down. Development lifts people from poverty, not fairy tales about class struggle. Suparti did not take the job at Matel because it made her life worse, she took the job because it made her life better. Is there still work to be done? Of course, but why do you deny developing countries the path to wealth that you have benefited from and how is that not economic colonialism?

      I would enjoy continuing this topic. Thanks for the discussion.

    15. This of Hypatia's is very interesting:

      "Studying 19th century torts and contracts cases demolished my libertarianism--it's just a neverending stream of people getting injured in workplace accidents and being told they'd freely entered into the contract."

      I never knew that. Such cases show how workers too took risks - not risking capital but risking their very bodies. I think it is not accurate to think that the employer takes on risks but the employees don't take on risk.

    16. Ficino,

      Everybody has risks. Life is a risk. I was talking about business risk.

      Regulations, safety laws, etc. Are fine for anyone except maybe Ayn Rand (ha ha). What is at debate is if individuals should be able to enter voluntary exchanges, or should a dictator decide for you?

    17. TN,

      Suparti was 17 years old when she left her impoverished Indonesian family farm to work in a Matel factory where she dressed barbie dolls. By the time she was 25, she owned her own home, scooter, and a television. This might not seem like much to Westerners, but it is simply amazing to her. If you offer Suparti her 40 acres and a cow (Distributism), I'm sure she will turn you down. Development lifts people from poverty, not fairy tales about class struggle. Suparti did not take the job at Matel because it made her life worse, she took the job because it made her life better. Is there still work to be done? Of course, but why do you deny developing countries the path to wealth that you have benefited from and how is that not economic colonialism?

      To some extent that is a straw man. My wife's maternal grandparents were illiterate peasants, their 6 children were respectively a managing engineer in a jet aircraft plant, a university lecturer, two were school teachers and two were nurses. All of them owned TVs and lived in cities, some of them bought cows again in the 1990s. This was achieved (despite massive losses and destruction in the 1941-45 war) in a Marxist-Leninist society in which private ownership of the means of production was non-existent.

    18. @Kyle: Okay. I actually like both Augustine and Aquinas (especially Augustine), but it appears that their position is that it's good for society at large for there to be a subclass of sexually exploited women for frustrated men to vent their lusts on. Virtuous women must be protected, so we can tolerate socially undesirable women being abused and cast aside. An understandable argument in the classical and medieval periods, and I've seen it used even now, but... er, hopefully not by Catholics.

      The article does pivot wildly and end up *opposing* the legalization of prostitution, so I would assume that's the Church's current position. Especially since it's clear that modern efforts to legalize it come from that most darling of men's sexual rights movements, liberal feminism, in its attempt to strip sexual intimacy of all meaning and reframe it as just another form of recreation. I loathe the traditional justification too, but as the article points out, it's not really a big part of the modern debate.

    19. @TN: The problem with anti-trust law is that it's been under attack since the 70s, so it's not exactly the strong defense against monopolies that it ought to be. I'm a mixed economy, pro-regulation social democrat, so much as I hate capitalism, I'd be more comfortable with strengthened anti-trust law than with some sort of highly experimental economic restructuring.

      Exploited by market pressures: I'm thinking about things like the conflict between Uber and existing taxi companies, and the way certain types of competition can hurt workers, since you've got a unionized industry challenged by part-time independent contractors who can undercut it completely. Good for customers; not so good for workers trying to survive.

      Multinationals having too much money: I'm thinking in moral rather than legal or governmental terms, tbh. I have no opinion on what should be done about multinationals (aside from the regulation that puts them in a symbiotic relationship with Big Law). Are you familiar with MacIntyre's Aristotelian critique of capitalism? I'm going to mangle it completely, but one of the ideas is that the pursuit of wealth conflicts with things like the pursuit of virtue and concern for the community. I don't think these companies are remotely altruistic, and I also think that being able to toss around the type of money that they do changes the way people think. Hard to not view it as corruptive.

      Industrial Revolution destroying the working class: In the 19th century, it absolutely did. Well, it might be better to say that it *created* the working class that it then exploited. Conditions for factory workers were pretty terrible, though. It's really hard to argue that the Industrial Revolution wasn't built on the backs of the people it destroyed, IMO.

      I'm neutral on the question of protectionism vs. seeking out labor in the developing world. I don't think cutting the developing world off from the wealth of the developed world is a great option, but I don't think the fact that Suparti was able to buy a house and a television means that she wasn't exploited. It's honestly very much as a Westerner that I'm not comfortable looking at a situation like that and congratulating Matel for making her life better, since she wasn't given anywhere near as much as she would have in the West. The company was pretty clearly looking to cut costs. Any altruistic result was incidental, IMO.

      I also don't really mean some sort of agricultural utopia when I say "distributism," so much as a focus on small business rather than large corporations, and on employees above profit and innovation. For example:

    20. @TN: "What is at debate is if individuals should be able to enter voluntary exchanges, or should a dictator decide for you?"

      Eh... not with me, it isn't. I *do* think the economy is inherently coercive, both in terms of low and high paying work, since with the latter, a company will keep you locked in with benefits so that seeking independence is too great a risk. I'm not actually a communist, though. I think it's pretty clear that communism only made this issue worse.

      There *are* industries where I do think that between coercion, power imbalances, and the overall detrimental effect on society, you shouldn't be able to enter into voluntary exchanges. The big one is obviously prostitution. I don't think people should be able to buy sex. (I'm unhappy about pornography too, but I think that ship has already sailed.)

    21. Breadroll,

      The point was that Suparti chose the evil capitalist factory because it was better than any other option available to her. So why get mad at a system that offered Suparti a better choice than what she had?

      No one denies that a Marxist society will produce engineers, nurses, and teachers, but If the Marxist-Leninist society was so great, where is it today and why did it not produce what the U.S. produced?

    22. Did Suparti choose the capitalist factory in a vacuum? Or did the state and/or local officials take away her parents' house or farm or prevent her using them or organizing collectively or cooperatively? In the beginnings of capitalism, this is what it took to get people into factories, with enclosures and the laws of settlement. Only the bleakest alternatives were enough to get many into the factories, and he state had to make it illegal for workers to move parishes to escape this life. This kind of process has often been repeated in the developing world. In China, for example, it often happened that the state 'encouraged' rural people to leave for the factories by demolishing their houses or seizing their land. It's something of a capitalist fairy tale that rural, pre-capitalist societies live in such crushing poverty that they would flock to sweatshops to avoid this, except that corruption and ill-governance and often direct pressure is used. Only someone who had no experience of the peasant life and that of a sweatshop would think it likely many would choose the latter except under the greatest constraint. In England appeal was made to Captain Ludd and Captain Swing before the peasantry was finally drove down.

    23. In many former colonies we are also dealing with a situation where the peasants were expropriated from much of the good land by the colonial authorities and pushed to the margins. When independence came, it was often the case that domestic elites kept this best land. There is less direct collusion between corporations and the state here to further capitalism here, but the history is important and shapes the choices peasants have. If there had been proper land reform, accompanied by cooperative agriculture institutions, in many of these countries, things might have been quite different.

    24. Hypatia,

      On Aquinas: No. Merely saying that a certain law would be unenforceable is not the same as endorsing the thing the law prohibits. Aquinas certainly never endorsed mortal sin.

      “anti-trust law is that it's been under attack since the 70s”. A lot longer than that; it has always been under attack. Social structures are complex and messy—no argument there—but how is it an argument against monopolies to say that our entire society out to be one big monopoly run by a centralized authority?

      Uber and taxis: Creative destruction. What about the buggy whip makers who were put out of business by the gasoline automobile? Should we have propped up the buggy whip manufacturers who were trying to survive? Do you really want that type of stagnation? And why should a central authority make that decision instead of you and I voting with our dollars?

      “the ideas is that the pursuit of wealth conflicts with things like the pursuit of virtue and concern for the community.” Agreed. But how is a centralized authority immune to this human problem? How would a centralized authority be altruistic? It would be great to have a dictator who is Plato’s Philosopher King. Do you know any candidates?

      “*created* the working class that it then exploited.” Agreed. Life is messy. How will a central authority do better?

      “The company was pretty clearly looking to cut costs. Any altruistic result was incidental,” Agreed. The point is that Matel gave Suparti a better choice than she had otherwise. Do you want Matel or some Western government to go in an kick around Indonesia’s notoriously corrupt government so that Suparti has an even better chance? Wouldn’t that be empire building?

      I used to like Distributism until I realized it is just vague moral sentiment. Who wouldn’t agree with the pleasantries Distributists speak? But where’s the beef? I’ve always been a huge fan of Chesterton, but I eventually had to painfully admit that he didn’t have it on Distributism.

      “the economy is inherently coercive”. Indeed.

      Not all voluntary exchanges are beneficial and should be outlawed. Agreed.

      Capitalism is a very ugly pig. But that fact doesn’t prove that the next pig must be better looking.

    25. In terms of gasoline automobile makers, it is interesting that General Motors launched a campaign of literally buying up trollies and tramways and shutting them down. They and their fellow automobile manufacturers also ceaselessly lobbied the government with things like highway building projects. Is this simply consumers choosing with their dollars? I think you have unfortunately swallowed the libertarian myths about capitalism as it actually exists.

    26. @TN: I'm not sure what you mean by "centralized authority." I've expressed interest in distributism, which is obviously all about decentralization. I reject both communism and state socialism, so the only centralized authority I'd be interested in is a regulatory one.

      Creative destruction: I don't really think that applies to the issue of Uber and taxis, since taxis aren't being put out of business by new technology. You have unionized work being threatened by part-time independent contractors. I'm not saying that a central authority ought to be making any decision here, simply that it's a situation where market pressure leaves the public in a position to exploit workers. (I otherwise agree with Captain Swing that consumers do not actually have that much power at all compared to corporations; they only have power when you have freelancers driving down prices.)

      As for the Industrial Revolution, effective safety regulations and limits on what rights could and couldn't be contracted away did eventually do better than a free market free-for-all, so if by "central authority" you mean government regulation, then yes, vast improvement was possible with a central authority.

      Re: empire building, I'm not at all convinced that multinationals aren't also in the process of colonizing the developing world, so there might not be all that much difference in the long run between a Western government and a Western corporation doing the honors.

    27. Captain Swing,

      Rural life in the developing world is just a utopia that no one in their right mind would miss out on? OK.

      No one wanted the gasoline automobile; what they wanted was trollies and tramways. Oh. How did General Motors get the money to buy the trollies and tramways? Selling cars to people who didn’t want them? How was the price tag of tramways cheap enough so as to be affordable to the companies that sold cars people didn’t want? What with all the massive demand for trollies and no demand for cars the robber barons must have used guns or something.

      Appealing to the corruption of central authority is a strange way to advocate for central authority.

    28. Hypatia,

      The conversation started out with Marxism (which is a central controlled economy) vs. Capitalism (which is not centrally controlled). My position is that Distributism is not a viable option.

      “taxis aren't being put out of business by new technology”. But they are being put out of business by a new technology. Even if they are being put out of business by changing preferences, what’s the difference? Why should some central authority decide that people are not allowed to opt for Uber instead of a taxi?

      “I'm not saying that a central authority ought to be making any decision here”. Great! Then you have no problem with Uber.

      “market pressure leaves the public in a position to exploit workers.” How are any workers being exploited? Were buggy whip craftsman “exploited” when demand for their product evaporated?

      “consumers do not actually have that much power at all compared to corporations” But your whole complaint is that consumer preferences are putting established corporations (i.e. taxis) out of business. That's power, isn't it?

      “if by "central authority" you mean government regulation, then yes, vast improvement was possible with a central authority.” Free markets and incentive are not antithetical to government regulation, it’s just that they aren’t the same thing. In a centrally planned economy, they are.

      No difference “in the long run between a Western government and a Western corporation doing the honors.” There is all the difference in the world—in principle—between an entity that must entice you vs. an entity that can coerce you. And principle is important.

    29. Oh, seriously, TN. In the real world, and not in your alternative universe, there exist things like:

      1) Negative externalities.
      2) Monopolies/monopsonies.
      3) Rentiers (e.g. unproductive parasites on the economy).
      4) Cartels (similar to 2) and artificial barriers to entry.
      5) Unequal bargaining power.
      6) Important public goods that nevertheless cannot be sold at a profit.

      The government can and MUST regulate these things in order for the "free market" to function as advertised. Uber is losing money hand over fist and their business model is simply unsustainable. The hope is that they undercut all the taxi companies and drive them out of business, and then they will have a monopoly and be able to charge whatever they want. That is not a "success" of the free market. It is a failure, and a highly unethical and immoral business practice. Similarly with Amazon, which has destroyed two jobs for every one it has created.

      Now consider me unconvinced by your "free market" piety. In a pure "free market", Microsoft could not exist as it does now, for everyone could freely sell pirated copies of Windows at a fraction of the cost charged by Microsoft. The government (via copyright law) FORBIDS such transactions. You have the government telling you you CANNOT engage in an otherwise purely voluntary transaction. So you don't ACTUALLY hold government "intervention" in the economy in horror. It's only the "wrong" type which benefits the relative powerless over the powerful.

      But, you will say, in a pure "free market" without copyright protection Windows would never be developed, for Microsoft could never even recoup its production costs. My point EXACTLY. Government involvement is NECESSARY to ensure the free market delivers the advertised benefit. But, that being the case, it is just that a certain portion of Microsoft profits (and Gates' fortune) be confiscated and directed for the common good, for without such public authority such profits couldn't exist in the first place.

    30. T.N., you strawman my claims repeatedly. I'm not saying rural life in developing countries is a utopia. Where did I imply that? You implied it was so bad organically that people are just waiting to work 14 hours a day in the first sweatshop that opens up. I'm just pointing out that historically it has taken a good bit of coercion and pressure to get people en masse to leave the land for sweatshops. This suggests your Indonesian story is a simplistic fairy tale.

      Are you seriously suggesting buying up competitors to shut them down is the sign of healthy and natural competition? That GM had money is not in dispute. All I am disputing is the fairy tale they won out simply due to free and fair competition.

      Who is arguing for central authority? I lean towards Distributism, which incidentally need not be simply a matter of returning to a pre-industrial idyll. I don't want socialism. All I am pointing out is you are doing the usual libertarian thing of projecting abstract free market philosophy onto real capitalism, which is not free market. When this is acknowledged libertarians then just claim, without argument or proof, that all the good things about real capitalism are due to the market and all the bad things are due to the state. This is bs. You can't claim the 250 years of state capitalism as showing the benefits of free markets that never existed without doing a lot more work.

  27. Perhaps the worst symptom of our time is the belief that our problems are political and that the solutions are, therefore, political.

    1. Silly argument. I suppose politicians should do nothing about crime since crime is not, at bottom, a political problem?

    2. Politicians do politics - it's given to police to solve crime and suppress criminality, no?

  28. T N,
    Perhaps the worst symptom of our time is the belief that our problems are political and that the solutions are, therefore, political.

    The redistribution of wealth away from black neighborhoods toward white neighborhoods was accomplished politically. I agree there are other problems that are not political in nature and have no political solution.

  29. The abysmal choice between Trump and Biden should be an opportunity for Catholics in the United States to reflect on the evil Enlightenment philosophies which have been the life blood of the Republic from the start. Sane people won't have much difficulty rejecting leftism but the chances of them stumbling upon any solutions are next to impossible.

    This is because when they look around for alternatives, most of what they see goes under the name of conservatism. Unfortunately this ideology is committed to defending the status quo and philosophies of the eighteenth century (the US republic, the British settlement, and the French Ancien Regime - depending on national environments). Conservatism is the arch-defender of contrived institutions like the sovereign market and the modern state, both of which have overseen the progressive destruction of true subsidiarity.

    The regimes defended by conservatism put an end to the ages of society oriented by Christian revelation, religion becoming instead a private idea or a social convention; Conservative ideology respects religion as as something created by society over time, not as something revealed by God. It is imperative that Christians in thew United States and elsewhere escape the corrosive influence of this ideology.

    1. Conservative ideology respects religion as as something created by society over time, not as something revealed by God.

      Not true. This is a false and degenerate theory ABOUT conservatism. It is not what conservatism is properly understood.

      A good understanding of conservatism can be seen at the following discussion:

      and bolstered by this expansion:

      For example, the first one has this item:

      (4) The religious conservative holds fast to the religious truth that has been held out to him by his forbearers as a gift.

      Note that the conservative does not hold on to the religion of his forefathers if that religion has been shown to be false, such as pagan religion. The conservative holds on to religious TRUTH that he receives from his forefathers. He prepares to expand upon that truth when able, but he does not let go of the truth he received. The Christian conservative does not "respect" the true religion because it was something created by society over time, but because it is received through his forefathers, who received it from God. As his forefathers did before him, he is prepared to allow the true religion to make manifest its bona-fides, so that its truth can be (as ever) re-confirmed, so that he ultimately receives it through his forefathers AS THEY received it: from God. Thus the Catholic Church has always taught that the truth of the Catholic Church is attested, and always has been attested, by the dual evidence of its holy saints and the miracles done by God to show forth his approval. The Christian conservative does NOT believe in Christianity merely because it is something handed down as a social custom, and asserting so is an utterly wrong portrayal of conservatism.

  30. Ed, I've been following this blog for about a year now and this is quite simply your best essay that I've read. Well done.

    1. Hi Jack. I have asked these questions several times but so far none of the good folks here have been so kind as to provide responsive answers to my inquiries.

      Since you find the OP to be so well done, could you please...
      Name one public official who was "enamored" of lockdowns.

      Name one public official who failed to take action against looting and arson.

      Name one public official who condoned or in any way rationalized or legitimized looting and arson.

    2. Hi SP.

      I think you're getting hung up on the term "enamored". Of course no one loves lockdowns, however, many are clearly strongly supportive of them. Joe Biden, for example, said that he would not hesitate to reimpose lockdowns if that's what the science dictates. This proves Ed's point about the triumph of scientism.

      Public officials in Seattle and Portland have taken a hands-off approach to the looting and lawlessness and they have angrily rejected federal assistance for law enforcement.

      The Seattle "CHAZ" zone went on for several lawless weeks before the city finally shut it down. Gov Inslee had described the CHAZ as mostly peaceful. A day later, Seattle's police chief said police can't go there and that many serious crimes were occurring in the zone. Quite a contrast.

      Failing to do anything to stop the looting and arson is effectively the same thing as condoning it.

    3. Stardust,
      In addition to Jack's comments, the comments by Modus Pownens a couple of days ago answer the questions which you raised.

    4. Jack,
      “I think you're getting hung up on the term "enamored"”
      Nope, that is a very specific (false) claim of the OP.

      “Of course no one loves lockdowns”
      So the OP is wrong, you and I agree about that, very well then.

      “many are clearly strongly supportive of them”
      As the least bad alternative, yes, of course, people globally have arrived at that conclusion, that in case of an out of control pandemic some temporary lockdowns might be needed while other mitigation measures are put in place.

      “Joe Biden, for example, said that he would not hesitate to reimpose lockdowns if that's what the science dictates. This proves Ed's point about the triumph of scientism.”
      How absurd, that because a public person expresses that decisions will incorporate scientific evidence then somehow there is some real thing called “scientism”. “Scientism” is a nonsense term made up out of whole cloth. There is no public official person who is a scientismist, name one.

      Public officials in Seattle and Portland have taken a hands-off approach to the looting and lawlessness”
      That is a Trump lie.
      *Portland fires, vandalism, looting as protest turns into riot; at least 13 arrests*

      Note, at least 13 arrests in Portland just for that particular event. The Portland police responded to looting and arson by making arrests. Nobody took a “hands-off approach”. You are just making that up out of thin air.

      After a Night of Destructive Portland Protests, Including Fires and Looting, Mayor Ted Wheeler Declares State of Emergency and 8 pm Curfew

      How is declaring a state of emergency, an 8pm curfew, and sending in the police to make arrests somehow a “hands-off approach”?

      The Seattle "CHAZ" zone went on for several lawless weeks before the city finally shut it down.”
      Yes, large numbers of people took over some city blocks. Police could have moved in for an immediate confrontation, but lacking the numbers for overwhelming force that could easily have led to large scale loss of life. That is the problem with riots and large crowds, local police are never staffed in numbers capable of effectively confronting such large groups of law breaking citizens.

      After a few weeks of standoff the police gathered in large numbers and made an early morning sweep with overwhelming force, pushing out the lawless, restoring order, with a minimum loss of life and property. That approach did not provide the emotional satisfaction of immediately attacking with guns blazing in a knock down battle, but the approach taken was the prudent approach the resulted in overall relatively low casualties.

      "and they have angrily rejected federal assistance for law enforcement"
      Right, instead they brought in large numbers of state police trained in civilian policing, and they brought in the National Guard under state control integrated into relief functions so those officers trained in civilian policing (the National Guard is primarily a military force) could do their jobs more effectively.

      Officials did not need or want Trump led goons coming in to attack local people, so they told Trump to shove it, and good for them.

      “Failing to do anything to stop the looting and arson is effectively the same thing as condoning it.”
      Hypothetically, sure, except that did not happen anyplace in reality. Name one, and no, not just some vague repeat of an idiotic Trump tweet, I mean show some specific evidence of official inaction in response to looting and arson.

  31. The military man, rather than the Platonic philosopher, is its ideal, and virtues like courage and self-sacrifice are the ones most honored. Because it puts honor above the disinterested pursuit of truth, it is inferior to the reign of the philosopher-kings.

    L.O.L. Tarzan king of the apes, the noblest of the pithecine.