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On ‘social conservatives’ - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
On ‘social conservatives’

As you will be aware, Betty Ford, President Gerald Ford’s widow, has just been buried. Some of you will recall that President Ford – hardly a rabid Rightist – warned, presciently, that a government that was sufficiently large and intrusive to give constituencies what they wished for in the way of bung or ‘pork’ was eo ipso sufficiently large and intrusive to plunder the public at will.

This applies, mutatis mutandis, to moral legislation: if one erects a government that is given the power to impose at least outward adherence to a particular morality, one has created a government that, when next the polls turn against one’s own vision of virtue, can then impose a wholly alien and repugnant philosophy.

It is quite true, as was pointed out by the late Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion at the University of Oxford, Professor Basil Mitchell, who died last month, that civil society depends upon a core, irreducible moral foundation, arising from the religious impulse.

But this does not suffice for the ‘social conservative’. That it does not, is all the evidence one wants to realise that the problem with the ‘social conservative’ is that ... he isn’t. He is as unconservative as he is, in the old sense, illiberal. That he can make common cause with the Left, who now trade under the label of liberalism in hopes of deceiving the public, should come as no surprise: for the ‘social conservative’ is at heart a statist, with totalitarian inclinations. Where he differs from the statists of the Left is not in his seeking, even as they do, to create a Republic of Virtue that should make Robespierre pause, but is rather in his different conception to theirs of in what virtue inheres.

In fact, the ‘social conservative’ is mislabelled: ‘social conservativism’ is not merely an oxymoron, it is a deception. The ‘social conservative’ is in fact a theocrat. And as God does not govern directly nor does he stand for office, this means in this sublunary sphere that the ‘social conservative’ is in fact even worse than a theocrat: he is an ecclesiocrat. It is his fervent aspiration to set up a government of the elect and the Unco’ Guid, the sort of people who are so lost to elementary morality that they conceive that they speak directly for God in governing human affairs, be they cardinal-inquisitors, ayatollahs, the Party of God, canting Covenanters, or Noll Cromwell. The ‘social conservative’ does not believe that men should be allowed a private sphere or trusted with their own consciences – even though the Guardians of Virtue whom he would have rule over us are but men, whose unsuitability to be trusted with their own consciences is amply demonstrated by their willingness to act as dictators. To give that sort of power to such creatures is as mad as, say, taking pronouncements upon economics from a homeless person who has been reduced to acting the mendicant to his friends.

The ‘social conservative’ has learnt nothing from the sad story of the Protectorate – or that of the Taliban. He is acutely aware that, as that old expat in Virginia, Mr Madison, wrote, other men are not angels, and require governance, but he will not accept checks and balances in a free and liberal (in the old sense) constitution: he prefers Inquisitors, whom he rashly believes, in defiance of all historical precedent, shall be beings of angelic unselfishness. In this, he shows that he has not understood the economics of public choice, and, like his fellow statists and hopeful totalitarians, believes that a chosen dictatorship, here of reverend rather than proletarian stamp, will and shall conduct themselves selflessly. (I am indebted here to the capacious memory of my Texan publishing partner, who can recite the document from memory, for a passage from the Texas Declaration of Independence 1836, which decried a religious settlement carried on ‘in the temporal interest of its human functionaries’, ‘the most intolerable of all tyranny, the combined despotism of the sword and the priesthood’.)

For whatever reason – perhaps from his knowledge of his own incapacity for self-discipline – he seeks to create a state in which the state disciplines all, regardless of the simple fact that there is no virtue in a compulsory virtue. He cannot conceive that such a state, once created and dowered with such tyrannical powers, can ever pass out of the hands of his friends and into the hands of his enemies, who should then proceed to turn upon him the attentions of those skilled in the art of the rack and the thumbscrew. As is true of his fellow statists of the Left, he should, in a perfect world, be given what he wants and left to suffer the consequences of his own ineradicable and uneducable stupidity; alas, however, to teach such a fool by example were to condemn the innocent also to being subjugated. One can only hold him, then, hostis humani generis, and thwart him and his schemes at every turn. Let us resolve to do so.

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18 comments or Leave a comment
From: creme_bun Date: July 15th, 2011 09:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I now believe it is impossible 'to teach such a fool by example' or by any other means. They simply can not or will not understand.

Perhaps I am just tired of trying. :(
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 16th, 2011 08:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Oh, people eventually learn from experience.

Those who survive it.
fpb From: fpb Date: July 15th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
For a construction of an Aunt Sally of your own designing and making, and with no relation whatever with reality, this really takes the cake. But then you're the fellow who can't remember Page Three Land's support for Margaret "Abortion at the seventh month" Thatcher.
tiferet From: tiferet Date: July 15th, 2011 10:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't believe you ought to be chiding anyone else about their relationship with consensus reality, FPB.
fpb From: fpb Date: July 16th, 2011 09:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Reality is not about consensus. If your nose hits a wall and bleeds, that's reality. If ten of your supposed friends agree on a stupid reason why the wall wasn't there and you are only imagining your nose is bleeding, that's consensus. And you're welcome to it.
tiferet From: tiferet Date: July 17th, 2011 03:47 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm sorry, that's not what I meant by consensus reality (I meant the reality that people who actually live in the real world generally agree upon), but it does seem to be what you and your other little theocratic friends (for instance, John C. Wright) mean by "objective" reality.
fpb From: fpb Date: July 17th, 2011 05:10 am (UTC) (Link)
You don't live in reality if you call me theocratic (John can defend himself). I don't know whether you were born stupid, but your ugly culture of insulting and demonizing what you regard as enemies has certainly made you a lot stupider than you would be if anyone had ever taught you to try and understand what a person says and then criticize them on THOSE bases. You conjure up imbecilic party lines, plonking anyone who disagrees with you in them, and then insult them for belonging to idiotic categories that you alone recognize; which is one step in folly below racism. That makes you very, very thoroughly idiotic, incapable of understanding, incapable even of attacking an opponent for things they actually hold. You invent your own ugly Aunt Sallies and project them on those you selected as enemies. And you feel superior in doing so (little theocratic friends) when in fact you're being ridiculous. And if you had the brains to understand what I am saying, you would see that what I said about reality is very much to the point.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 17th, 2011 06:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Right, that's enough.

Let's not descend to personalities on either side, and no, I am not interested in 'who started it': I'm stopping it, both of you, without taking sides or apportioning quanta of blame.

Edited at 2011-07-17 06:17 pm (UTC)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 17th, 2011 06:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Right, that will do for now.

Let's not descend to personalities on either side, and no, I am not interested in 'who started it': I'm stopping it, both of you, without taking sides or apportioning quanta of blame.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 16th, 2011 08:59 am (UTC) (Link)

I implore, I beseech, you -

- as one who means you no ill - to get shed of this solipsism. Yours is not the face in every glass, nor are you the queen of all Argyll. Or had you forgotten that the Americans are already in the fever-throes of their impending general election? I assure you, had this been to yr address, I shd have been more likely to have tapped out, say, the Garibaldian rhythm, dot-dot-dot-dash-dash, of Roma o morte, than have prayed in aid The Federalist and the Texas Declaration (MSP tells me that he who is known as Governor Goodhair is assuredly standing for the nomination). It was not yr recent use of the label that reminded me to post this.

As for yr derivation of the conclusion, that a politician on a winning trajectory is reliant upon redtops that joined the winning side or left a sinking ship, from the premisses of the redtops' having scrambled to rat and to join the winning side, I continue to be unimpressed with the (il)logic of yr contentions, but there's evidently little point in our flogging the dead equine further.
fpb From: fpb Date: July 16th, 2011 09:06 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I implore, I beseech, you -

Pardon me, but this sudden outburst of hate and imagination - the one feeding the other - comes immediately after certain expressions of mine which it fairly obviously echoes. POST HOC may not be PROPTER HOC, but at this point it's up to you to prove it's not; the clues all point in the other direction.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 16th, 2011 09:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Fortunately, I do pardon the nearly unpardonable.

All of us being from time to time in want of pardon.

Over the past fortnight, I have written of Reagan, his legacy, and his detractors; of the political class' seeking advantage in the midst of scandal; and now of a political philosophy. This is hardly out of the common run of things, and it really cannot be reduced to an imagined, to use yr term, series of responses to such asides as you may make in passing in yr various posts. You're not a bad fellow, old boy, but you're truly not the pole-star of my commentary. If it answers yr need, somehow, that you, rather unpardonably, give me the lie direct in m' own journal, well, there's nothing one can do abt that in these thin and piping times, save to regret the chill in relations. The fact remains that it is not in fact up to me to prove otherwise. I strongly suggest a cuppa, a nice biscuit, and a lie-down: you're becoming overexcited.

PS: If it's all the same to you, I shd like to watch the Open now.

Edited at 2011-07-16 09:21 am (UTC)
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: July 15th, 2011 11:18 pm (UTC) (Link)


This favorite word of American children since the last millennium can and should be worked into this debate somehow. I believe that besides the fact that every child now knows how to spell it, the fact that nobody can use it in a sentence is the reason it has sadly faded from spelling bee favor. Or favour.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 16th, 2011 09:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Scrabble points?

Quite so.
absynthedrinker From: absynthedrinker Date: July 15th, 2011 11:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
As you will know well, the problem with Ford was not Ford.

And the problem with social conservatives is not true conservatism but zealotry,diviseness and the foul odour of self-righteousness.

Ford's name will forever be linked to Nixon and it seems "social conservatives" have now irrevocably hitched their wagons to the "Christian Right"(or in this case Wrong)and 'The Tea Party"(Baggers)

A shame for them both.

wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 16th, 2011 09:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Let us be fair.

The Tea Party as such - w wh I like Hannan and Carswell sympathise - doesn't really mind what you do so long as you reduce the debt by doing it, and don't do it in the street and frighten the markets. Of course, not everyone who is now piling on to that bandwagon, reflects that, and it's not as if the US press hacks can be arsed to report truthfully on it.
eliskimo From: eliskimo Date: July 16th, 2011 11:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Let us be fair.

I like your turn of phrase here.
pathology_doc From: pathology_doc Date: July 16th, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Hitched their wagons" to the Christian Right? I thought that's pretty much what they were from the start. Although that's possibly more like "Pharisee Right" in my eyes...
18 comments or Leave a comment