Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


Childlessness and Liberalism

posted by David Klinghoffer
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My post on childless Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor provoked some interesting misunderstandings among commenters.

I argued that the experience of raising kids potentially confers traits you’d want in a judge, more so than merely being Hispanic and female. Remember that it was Obama, not me, who raised the subject of an individual’s personal life story as a criterion in selecting a SC justice. It would not have occurred to me. The U.S. Supreme Court is not the Sanhedrin, where fatherhood was indeed a prerequisite, as noted in my earlier entry.
But once the question is raised, then yes, let’s consider it. Compassion and empathy are virtues. But so is having had people rely on you for their lives. So is realism. Having kids promptly dispels fond daydreams you may have about how daily life “should” be. Isn’t it interesting, then, that America’s most childless big cities are more or less identical with its most liberal cities? To the extent liberalism implies a lack of realism about human nature, this makes sense.
The pack is led by San Francisco with its enormous, sterile gay population, followed by my own dear Seattle where we have more dogs than kids. In the case of SF, homosexuality is not the cause but the correlate. A 2005 New York Times article on kid-free metropolises does a nice job of setting up the atmosphere of politically correct sterility. 

Dateline: Portland, Oregon:

The Pearl District in the heart of this perpetually self-improving city seems to have everything in new urban design and comfort, from the Whole Foods store where fresh-buffed bell peppers are displayed like runway models to the converted lofts that face sidewalk gardens.

Everything except children.

I never intended to suggest that every parent possesses wisdom or virtues that every non-parent lacks. Obviously not. A reader objected that if that were case, there would be no such thing as Child Protective Services. True enough. On the other hand, child abuse in a domestic setting is proportionately committed much less by fathers or mothers than by stepfathers and mother’s boyfriends.


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Steve Shay

posted May 28, 2009 at 9:15 pm


From David Klinghoffer’s article:
“The pack is led by San Francisco with its enormous, sterile gay population”
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From the New York Times article:
“New figures released this month showed North Dakota losing more children than any other state.”
———————————————————————-
So David, you are suggesting gays are flocking to North Dakota? hmm. By the way, my lesbian cousin in San Francisco had a baby and I, a straight man, have not been able to. Therefore I am the more sterile.
Another thought I am toying with is that if, in the case of San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, the large gay population correlates to the low population of children, it simply illustrates that gay people migrate to these cities for a sense of acceptance. Therefore, one could argue that mathematically there are fewer gay people in the American cities and towns from which they fled.



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DML

posted May 29, 2009 at 10:22 am


I think liberals have children just as often as anyone else, they simply don’t prejudge the childless. Population demography indicates that cities and their adjoining suburbs have considerably younger populations than rural areas of the US (those conservative places). Urban and suburban populations are significantly more affluent than the rest of the country and are more liberal also. I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to have a nice place to live, good food and high quality bell peppers. I suppose that they must have higher standards than conservatives.



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Maya Timmons

posted May 29, 2009 at 10:46 am


I couldn’t agree more. In fact, MarriageNewsNow today has a blog post about what arguments are best at defending traditional marriage – http://tinyurl.com/laqcsj
The point of the post argues that children are at the center of what makes heterosexual marriage unique. And doesn’t it figure that the lack of a focus on children and their well being is opening up gay marriage and the rated-R culture we have around us. People who have no children live in a different universe than those who do, so far as their thinking and approach to life are concerned.



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Charles Cosimano

posted May 29, 2009 at 11:30 am


People in trailer parks have more children than people who do not live in trailer parks for a reason. People who have lots of children deserve to live in trailer parks.



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Leah

posted May 29, 2009 at 12:20 pm


David, I think you intended to say just what you did. That parents are selfless and wise and non-parents cannot possibly be because they somehow lack humanity.
My street is populated by biological parents who ignore their children. They spend more time waxing their cars then playing with their kids. The kids play alone and are mere accessories. You seem unwilling to admit that parents cannot be anything other than wise and wonderful.
Having children did not “dispel fond daydream” that any of them had. They still do whatever they want and ignore their children. You cannot make such blanket statements about an entire class of people. No one likes to be stereotyped do they?



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Marian

posted May 29, 2009 at 12:57 pm


I suspect one of the reasons Sotomayor has not had children is that she has Type I diabetes, which makes pregnancy difficult and sometimes dangerous. It’s really not fair to pick on her for that.



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Turmarion

posted May 29, 2009 at 9:19 pm


Marian: Excellent point, speaking as a fellow diabetic (though male) whose wife experienced gestational diabetes during her pregnancy with our daughter.
As to the post as a whole: I think there are two separate issues here. One is whether childlessness can or should be one factor of many that could reasonably be taken into account in the process of selecting or confirming a justice. It could be argued that this is the case. The other is whether a childless person ought on principle be excluded from serving for that reason alone, regardless of other qualifications. This, I think, would be unreasonable.
The problem is that there has been some eliding of the distinction between the two questions here. I think that people of goodwill can make the first assumption, and I think that David is making an interesting, if not uncontroversial point in discussing it. On the other hand, he clearly seems to hold the second idea, as well, evidenced by this quote of his from the other thread (emphasis added): “On the other hand, when we are given the choice of a leader or a judge, I would certainly feel better about choosing someone who had the experience of raising kids….” If this is just David’s personal feeling, well, he’s free to hold it. However, if he’s saying that he believes that childlessness, in and of itself, should somehow make one unacceptable for this office, I think he is egregiously wrong and unfair in this matter.
On a different topic, I might point out David’s quote here, emphasis added: “To the extent liberalism implies a lack of realism about human nature, this makes sense.”
It seems to me that it was conservatives who said that some races were inferior to others, who said that some were “naturally fit” to be slaves, who said that women ought not to own property or have the vote, who said that poor people deserved to be that way, and who persecuted the Jewish people. All of these attitudes are, I submit, lacking in realism about human nature!
Really, no ideology is totally realistic about human nature–people are much too complex to fit into any ideology or system. Just don’t dump it all off on one side!



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Brian Beckman

posted May 30, 2009 at 1:59 am


Some of this weirdness comes from the urban, corporate economies we live in. When you make your living by interacting all day long with people who are NOT your family, in an office far from your home, kids are a definite economic liability. You park them for the day — when they’re little — in the day-abuse-center, and when they’re bigger, in the government brainwashing center. When you get home, you’re too worn out to interact with them. When they get to be teenagers, you don’t even know them.
In an agrarian or burger society, kids are a definite asset. You make your living close to home in the fields or in a shop, and the more helpers you have the better off the whole family. You teach your kids your craft, they spend all day working with you, and when they grow up, you hand them the business.



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Harrietb98

posted May 30, 2009 at 3:01 pm


Where does New York City fit in to this mix? We are considered pretty “liberal” but I see plenty of people with children.



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LazerA

posted May 31, 2009 at 3:50 am


Turmarion wrote:
“It seems to me that it was conservatives who said that some races were inferior to others, who said that some were “naturally fit” to be slaves, who said that women ought not to own property or have the vote, who said that poor people deserved to be that way, and who persecuted the Jewish people.”
In American political discourse, the term “conservatism” refers to a political ideology that developed in the mid-20th century with roots in both classical liberalism (in the sense the term is still used in Europe) and the “liberal” conservatism of Edmund Burke (in the 18th century). Modern American conservatism (as well as, by and large, its ideological predecessors) has never had any association with slavery, which runs entirely counter to its ideological premises. Racism has far stronger roots in the supposedly liberal Democratic party than it does in the Republican party which was founded largely for the purpose of combatting slavery. The same is true for anti-semitism (which, in America today, is far more common and accepted amongst “liberals”). Social Darwinism (and eugenics) has never been a feature of American conservatism and, on the contrary, is strongly associated with the “progressives” of the early 20th century. The issue of women’s suffrage is one that, in America, was initially opposed across the politcal specturm and was gradually accepted by all political parties. Modern American conservatism has never been involved in that issue, as it only arose after women’s suffrage was established.
Modern Anmerican “liberalism” is a slightly older ideology, rooted largely in socialism and progressivism.
Turmarion’s comment displays a great deal of fuzzy thinking and a lack of historical knowledge about the political ideologies he is criticizing.



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Brian Beckman

posted May 31, 2009 at 10:46 am


+1 to LazerA. What a breath of fresh air. Enough with the smearing of conservatism by bogusly associating it with racism, sexism, hatred-of-X etc. BOGUS



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Turmarion

posted May 31, 2009 at 4:13 pm


LazarA: Actually, I’m quite aware of the distinctions you make–the very terms “liberal” and “conservative” in political discourse originated during the Enlightenment in France, and “liberal” originally meant what we now would refer to as “classical liberalism” (which describes both of our current parties to some extent and economically, at least, is closer to the GOP) and “conservative” meant “monarchist”. The use of the terms has taken numerous twists and turns since then, and the extent to they have been associated with the various political parties has varied, too. I assumed, one, that it would make the post far too long to go into that in detail, and two, that the readers would have some awareness of this and not require a lesson in political history, since I do not assume that the fact a person is speaking compactly indicates that he must not know what he’s talking about.
As David tends to use the terms, “conservative” means “traditionalist” or “holding to traditional beliefs in morals and ethics”, whereas “liberal” means “those who reject traditional beliefs on morals and ethics”. As is the case with many others in modern-day America, David also conflates “conservative” in the above-mentioned social ethics sense with “free-market, small-government, low-tax” economics (which is really “classical liberalism” but is now usually thought of as “economically conservative”) and “liberal” with “social-democratic, large-government, trade-regulating, high-tax” economics (typically called “fiscal liberalism”, though it’s more like watered-down socialism, as you correctly point out).
Whether such conflation is valid is another matter. One could be a conservative in social mores and sexuality while advocating socialist economics, and free-traders of the libertarian stripe actually are “socially liberal”. One of the ongoing discussions over at Rod Dreher’s “Crunchy Conservative” blog here at Beliefnet is whether, in fact, “conservatism” as modern Americans tend to define it (free trade, strong defense, traditional social mores) is coherent. He sees free-market consumerist capitalism (“conservative” economics) as destroying the very conservative social values (community, localism) that traditionalistat the present time tend to be espoused more frequently in right-wing circles (e.g. the VDare crowd and fellow travelers, though usually it’s put more obliquely).
Yes, the Democrats were the racists back then, but in the pre-Depression era, Democrats were socially conservative and Republicans were socially liberal–thus it still holds to say that racism, and before that slavery, were supported by conservatives. Certainly anyone with eyes to see would have to agree that most open racism today occurs among groups that self-identify as “conservative” or “traditional”.
There certainly is anti-Semitism on the Left, but one could hardly call the Nazis and other allied groups “leftist” (unless, I guess, you happen to be Jonah Goldberg). Certainly, there are plenty of anti-Semites on the right today, too, sufficiently that I submit that it is at least an open question whether, as you state, anti-Semitism is “far more common and accepted amongst ‘liberals’.”
My basic point, which was apparently too truncated to be properly understood, was that David is setting up a straw man by defining all liberal beliefs as “lacking realism” about human nature. My point was that many beliefs held at various times by self-described conservatives (of whatever party–notice in the original post I never used the words “Republican” or “Democrat”) were manifestly “lacking in realism” about human nature. I went on to point out that any ideological system, to the extent that it tends to simplify things to make them fit the system, is “lacking in realism” about human nature. This seems to me an obvious point.
This post is rather long, and as I said before, I was being brief before in order to avoid such a long post on the assumption that people would understand what I was getting at. Obviously, this assumption was wrong, as evidenced by statements that I am “smearing conservatism”, etc.–though by me, David was smearing, and often does smear, liberalism. Hopefully any areas of murkiness have been clarified now.



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LazerA

posted May 31, 2009 at 7:08 pm


Turmarion wrote:
“Actually, I’m quite aware of the distinctions you make…. The use of the terms has taken numerous twists and turns…. I assumed… that the readers would have some awareness of this and not require a lesson in political history….”
If you are at all familiar with the current American political discourse, then you would be aware that this assumption is absurd. The frequently assumed connection between American conservatism and the extreme right-wing is a commonplace in both the media and academia.
…I do not assume that the fact a person is speaking compactly indicates that he must not know what he’s talking about.
When the comments appear to parrot commonly held misconceptions, then it is a reasonable assumption. The next most likely alternative is that the comments were disingenuous.
“…many… in modern-day America… conflate… “conservative” in the… social ethics sense with “free-market, small-government, low-tax” economics… and “liberal” with “social-democratic, large-government, trade-regulating, high-tax” economics….
Whether such conflation is valid is another matter. One could be a conservative in social mores and sexuality while advocating socialist economics, and free-traders of the libertarian stripe actually are “socially liberal”.”

Socialism – the root of fiscal liberalism – is historically secularist. While you can find those with genuine traditional/religious values who support various liberal economic policies, the opposite is a much rarer breed. Secularists as a group are overwhelmingly liberal both socially and fiscally, if not outright socialists.
The connection between social conservatism and fiscal conservatism isn’t immediately obvious, however the connection is clearly there. There are several reasons for this. Perhaps the most obvious is that the concept of private property is a basic traditional value which is explcitly endorsed by Biblical law. All of socialism and fiscal liberalism can be summed up as moving away from the principle of personal ownership and financial autonomy.
In any event, this is all aside from the point.
“To the extent that one takes “conservative” to mean “social traditionalist” or “promoter of the status quo”, I would stand by my statements.”
I will address the specifics of your claim in a moment. At this point I want to address a basic flaw in your reasoning. There can be no such thing as a basic ideology of “social traditionalism” or “promoter of the status quo” – there can only be ideologies that promote a specific status quo – a specific tradition. One can only judge a given conservative ideology by assessing the specific tradition it is attempting to uphold. To do otherwise is to assume the absurdity that 17th century monarchists, American conservatives, Communist conservatives (in the former Soviet Union), Islamic conservatives, and Jewish conservatives are all somehow just variants of the same theme.
“True, it was the progressivists of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries who originally promoted eugenics and social Darwinism; however, such views at the present time tend to be espoused more frequently in right-wing circles….”
The ideas of social Darwinism, and especially eugenics (with its historic ties to the abortion movement), are clearly morally repugnant to the moral traditionalism of the American conservative movement. The social engineering aspects of these ideologies are also fundamentally opposed to the classical liberalism of the American conservative movement. In other words, these ideas are entirely foreign to American conservatism.
That various “right-wing” groups may endorse these ideas does not surprise me, as the term “right-wing” is extraordinarily broad and generally applied arbitrarily.
“Yes, the Democrats were the racists back then, but in the pre-Depression era, Democrats were socially conservative and Republicans were socially liberal–thus it still holds to say that racism, and before that slavery, were supported by conservatives.”
This brings us back to the point I made earlier, conservatism “A” does not equal conservatism “B”. It all depends on what they are “conserving”. There is no ideological or historical line to be drawn between the pro-slavery conservatism of the Democratic party and the classical liberalism of the modern American conservative movement. They are ideologically and historically opposed ideologies.
“Certainly anyone with eyes to see would have to agree that most open racism today occurs among groups that self-identify as “conservative” or “traditional”.”
Any serious neo-Nazi or white supremacist will tell you that their ideology has nothing to do with modern American conservatism which they see as an ideological threat. (See below.)
(This is asides from the question of the racism implicit in many liberal social policies as well as the blithe unconcern for the real damage many of these policies cause to those they are supposedly intended to help.)
“There certainly is anti-Semitism on the Left, but one could hardly call the Nazis and other allied groups “leftist”….”
The issue of where the Nazis (a group with strong ideological roots in socialism – thus the name) belong on the political spectrum is irrelevant. They were not, emphatically and explicitly not, traditionalists. They were radicals who sought to remake the world in a new image of their own creation. They were not conservative in any sense and generally had nothing but contempt for traditonal values. The same was true, generally speaking, of all the fascist movements (with varying degrees of sympathy for traditional values and institutions) and continues to be true of their ideological descendants today.
“Certainly, there are plenty of anti-Semites on the right today, too, sufficiently that I submit that it is at least an open question whether, as you state, anti-Semitism is “far more common and accepted amongst ‘liberals’.””
Again, much depends on our definition of “the right”. The modern American conservative movement is overwhelmingly pro-Israel. So much so that it is virtually a litmus test for acceptability within the movement. While opposition to the state of Israel may not necessarily indicate anti-semitism, strong support for Israel is not the position of anti-semites.
So again, there may be various “right-wingers” who are anti-semitic. They may be traditionalists of various types (as in the Catholic Traditionalists made famous by Mel Gibson), and they may have common cause with the American conservative movement on certain issues (e.g. abortion) but they are not the same.
“My point was that many beliefs held at various times by self-described conservatives (of whatever party–notice in the original post I never used the words “Republican” or “Democrat”) were manifestly “lacking in realism” about human nature.”
And here we see the error I have pointed out stated almost explicitly. Conservatives of “whatever party” simply cannot be spoken of as a unified whole. Attempting to apply the delusions of various different traditionalist groups to conservatism as a whole, as opposed to liberalism, is simply unreasonable. This is doubly true given that, historically, many of these errors are more closely related to the “liberal” side of the politcal spectrum.
“I went on to point out that any ideological system, to the extent that it tends to simplify things to make them fit the system, is “lacking in realism” about human nature. This seems to me an obvious point.”
An excessively obvious point in that it effectively makes the issue of realism meaningless. As thinking people, we have the right and responsibility to assess any given politcal ideology for validity. One of the most basic criteria for such an assessment is realism – does the ideology conform with the way the world really works or is it a utopian fantasy. David’s assessment (which, incidentally, I agree with) is that liberalism – as the term is used in America today – is based on “a lack of realism about human nature.” He did not bother explaining or defending his assessment (at least in this post).
Your critique, that “conservatism” – by which you mean “traditionalism” – is also unrealistic, is simply meaningless, in that it criticizes one form of traditionalism for the failures of other, entirely unconnected, traditionalisms.



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Turmarion

posted May 31, 2009 at 11:02 pm


LazarA: The frequently assumed connection between American conservatism and the extreme right-wing is a commonplace in both the media and academia.
How would it be any different if you switched “conservatism” for “liberalism” and “right-wing” for “left-wing” in this sentence? Of course there are gradations–it’s a spectrum. Just as moderate conservatives are sometimes annoyed to have “wing-nuts” who also claim to be “conservative”, moderate liberals are often not happy with “radical wackos” who claim to be fellow “liberals”.
One can only judge a given conservative ideology by assessing the specific tradition it is attempting to uphold.
Change “conservative” here to “liberal” (and yes, there are “liberal traditions”, e.g. Marxism, social democracy, New Deal Democrats, etc.) and the point remains valid, right?
[T]he term “right-wing” is extraordinarily broad and generally applied arbitrarily.
Change “right-wing” here to “left-wing” and it’s still valid, right?
Conservatives of “whatever party” simply cannot be spoken of as a unified whole. Attempting to apply the delusions of various different traditionalist groups to conservatism as a whole, as opposed to liberalism, is simply unreasonable.
Change “conservative” to “liberal” and “traditionalist” to “modernist” in this sentence and you’ve made my argument against David for me.
David’s assessment (which, incidentally, I agree with) is that liberalism – as the term is used in America today – is based on “a lack of realism about human nature.”
It’s interesting that you want to parse the exact gradations of meaning of “conservative” down to the nth degree, but are amazingly willing to use “liberalism”, in your words, “as the term is used in America today”. Hmm–as the term “conservative” is used in America today, it was conservatives who opposed the Civil Rights act, who opposed giving women the vote, who opposed giving union rights to workers, etc.–but we’re not allowed to call people who did that “conservative”, because conservatives “simply cannot be spoken of as a unified whole”. Apparently unlike liberals.
Really, you’re making the “No true Scotsman” argument. If conservatives have supported X, which is unpleasant or nasty, you’re saying those people weren’t really conservatives, or that it’s abusing the definition of “conservative” to call them that, or that they’re really “right-wing” which isn’t the same thing at all, or that they’re one type of conservative whose views are irrelevant to other types of conservatism, or that they’re really left-wing, etc., etc. By this definition, of course conservatism (as you don’t say but seem to imply) is never incorrect about human nature (since it isn’t even really an ideology), whereas liberalism often is. However, such an argument is specious.
Your critique, that “conservatism” – by which you mean “traditionalism” – is also unrealistic, is simply meaningless
See, now you’re misrepresenting what I said. My exact quote, emphasis added, from the above post: “My point was that many beliefs held at various times by self-described conservatives (of whatever party–notice in the original post I never used the words “Republican” or “Democrat”) were manifestly ‘lacking in realism’ about human nature.” This seems to me to have plenty of the nuance you seemed to imply I was lacking!
Basically, I think it boils down to wanting to have your cake and eat it, too. You seem to be arguing that “conservatism” has to be nuanced to the point where, in effect, no criticism of it is valid since anything being criticized is not what you mean by conservatism (in your words, my argument “criticizes one form of traditionalism for the failures of other, entirely unconnected, traditionalisms.”). However, if we’re going to do like Humpty Dumpty and say that words mean whatever we say they do, then I reserve the right to deflect all criticisms of liberalism on the grounds that what’s being criticized is not what I mean by liberalism! On the other hand, both David and you appear to me (hey, look! Nuance again!) to be happy to paint with the largest and broadest possible brushstrokes in defining “liberalism”; but if that’s true, then blanket statements about “conservatism” are legit, too. You can have it either way, but not both at the same time, and the rules apply to both sides.



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LazerA

posted June 1, 2009 at 12:34 am


Turmarion, even if your point regarding switching the terms around were true (which I don’t believe it is), you appear to be missing the main point.
David’s critique of “liberalism” is that it is based on “a lack of realism about human nature.” This is a criticism he has put forth about modern American liberalism as a living and current ideology. It is true, of course, that, as in any criticism of any ideology, it uses a “broad brush” – in that, of course, there are many variant forms of modern liberalism. Regardless, by and large we do know what the ideology is that he is critical of.
A valid defense of of liberalism might include a demand for evidence for David’s critique (which he did not provide) or arguments that liberalism is, in fact realistic. In such a defense, a critique of modern American conservatism as unrealistic based upon its own professed principles would be legitimate. One could argue that conservatism is unrealistic in its trust of the free market, its confidence in the decisions of private individuals in issues such as gun control, its moral expectations from the general population, and so on.
This is not what you did. Instead you assembled a collection of unpleasant attitudes, from across the ideological spectrum, labeled them “conservative” and attempted to deflect the criticism of liberalism with this fictional ideology. Your comments relied upon the general popular misconception, mentioned earlier, that equates the term conservatism with all of the unpleasant ideologies of the past (including even many of the unpleasant excesses of the left – such as eugenics). It is intelectually dishonest to condemn an ideology for ideas and attitudes it fundamentally opposes.
Your attempt to apply the “no true Scotsman” fallacy is misplaced. Precision in language, especially in politics, is essential to rational discourse. To throw around the word “conservative” (or “liberal”) without defining what you mean results in utter absurdities. It is not hard to define American conservatism, you already did so earlier. We know exactly who the “true Scotsman” is! The issues you raised have nothing to do with American conservatism.
You wrote: “as the term “conservative” is used in America today, it was conservatives who opposed the Civil Rights act, who opposed giving women the vote, who opposed giving union rights to workers, etc.–but we’re not allowed to call people who did that “conservative”, because conservatives “simply cannot be spoken of as a unified whole”.”
The above statement is a step forward in that you have omitted the issues of racism, slavery, social Darwinism and anti-semitism, which were never associated with what we would call conservatism today. Instead you are forced to turn to much less exciting issues such as unionism and the Civil Rights Act (not to be confused with civil rights, per se). I guess that is progress. In any event the statement remains severely flawed. Whenever any significant social change is proposed, there will always be a “conservative” group that opposes it. This does not make these people representative of an ideology which, largely by historical accident, is today called “conservatism”. In fact, in many cases the conservatives in one case may not be the conservatives in another case. (For example, many abolitionists were strongly opposed to women’s suffrage.) Similarly, in many cases these changes were opposed by different groups for very different reasons. (For example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was opposed by both Southern Democrats because of their support for segregation and also by some conservatives because of constitutional concerns.) To equate the existence of opposition to a major social change, in many cases across all political lines and for divergent reasons, to a single ideology is ridiculous.
Ok, so we are beginning to go in circles. If you want to actually criticize David’s comment about liberalism, then you should do so on its merits, instead of attacking conservatives for ideas they oppose. If you want to attack conservatism, then do so based on what it actually is, not some bizaare fictional ideology that only exists in the fevered imagination of the left. If you want to attack traditionalism, then bear in mind that every form of traditionalism only exists in connection to a specific tradition. You can attack any actual tradition you wish, but traditionalism, in of itself, is a phantom.



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Husband

posted June 1, 2009 at 4:41 pm


“The pack is led by San Francisco with its enormous, sterile gay population”
Unless there’s something in the water in SF that I’m not aware of, this is a blatant lie. (Not an unusual occurence in these parts, sad to say.)
I do believe you meant to say that homosexual sex is inherently non-reproductive. (I agree, but so what?) Homosexuals, unless they’ve had a vasectomy or a tubal ligation are every bit as fecund as you are.
As DML pointed out, “liberals have children just as often as anyone else, they simply don’t prejudge the childless”. Is this prejudice inherent in the heterosexual blogista, or just the hateful ones?



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Husband

posted June 1, 2009 at 4:48 pm


MAYA tIMMONS TYPED:
“The point of the post argues that children are at the center of what makes heterosexual marriage unique.”
Say what? I know at least 2 dozen gay or lesbian married couples with children. You’re not as “unique” as you think yourself, Maya.
“And doesn’t it figure that the lack of a focus on children and their well being is opening up gay marriage and the rated-R culture we have around us.”
No, Maya, it “doesn’t figure”. Certainly no more than all the many heterosexual childless couples I know ‘figure’ in the ‘opening up of marriage’ and this supposed “rated-R” culture. Such a selective (and profoundly myopic) worldview is heterosexism at its worst.
“People who have no children live in a different universe than those who do, so far as their thinking and approach to life are concerned”
So what? You aren’t the boss of us, as the kids used to say.



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Husband

posted June 1, 2009 at 4:50 pm


“You cannot make such blanket statements about an entire class of people.”
Of course he can, Leah. He and Rod Dreher and Erin Manning are famous for it on this site. In fact, I’d wager it’s what they get paid to do.



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Turmarion

posted June 1, 2009 at 7:15 pm


LazarA: This is a criticism he has put forth about modern American liberalism as a living and current ideology. It is true, of course, that, as in any criticism of any ideology, it uses a “broad brush” – in that, of course, there are many variant forms of modern liberalism. Regardless, by and large we do know what the ideology is that he is critical of. (emphasis added)
Having read David on and off over the years in other places as well as here, and many others with similar views, I’m not sure I’m clear on “what the ideology is” that they’re critical of. David et. al. often use such broad-brush criticisms as a way of lumping anything they don’t like under the rubric of “liberalism”. In any case, you contradict yourself in the course of two sentences, speaking of “modern American liberalism as a [presumably single and monolithic] living and current ideology” which “we do know”, while at the same time admitting that “there are many variant forms of modern liberalism.” As I said, it seems as if you are comfortable pigeonholing all so-called “liberals” while taking issue to any broad statements at all about conservatism. That, to say the least, is inconsistent.
It is not hard to define American conservatism, you already did so earlier.
If you mean “small government, lower taxes, free markets”, that was just a crude, impressionistic rough idea that I gave. People who vehemently call themselves “conservative” would take issue (in part at least) with any of these. E.g. the formation of Homeland Security is by no conceivable means “small government”, some fiscal-responsibility conservatives have taken issue with the lowering of taxes in times of deficits, and most paleoconservatives are at best ambivalent about free trade. Moreover, there is sharp debate as to what role, if any, social issues (gay marriage, abortion, etc.) should play in contemporary conservatism. Really, you ought to read The American Conservative and authors like Ross Douthat, Daniel Larison, and Rod Dreher if you think it’s that obvious and that easy to define American conservatism. Larison in particular has accused the current GOP of being more to the left than it has been in a long time, and has written extensively on what should be defined as truly conservative. He sure doesn’t think that most self-described “conservatives” know who the Scotsman is!
To throw around the word “conservative” (or “liberal”) without defining what you mean results in utter absurdities. We know exactly who the “true Scotsman” is! The issues you raised have nothing to do with American conservatism.
So humor me. Define exactly and unambiguously what you mean by “liberalism” and “conservatism” in the contemporary American context (I notice you haven’t done so thus far). I think there’s less certainty out there about the Scotsman than perhaps you think.
One could argue that conservatism is unrealistic in its trust of the free market, its confidence in the decisions of private individuals in issues such as gun control, its moral expectations from the general population, and so on.
Not so much regarding guns, but in general I would make these arguments.
To crystallize it, I think, although it’s hard to be sure, that David is saying something like this: “Conservatism is the repository of the wisdom of the ages regarding human nature. It is the body of observations about what truly ‘works’ and what doesn’t regarding human morality, sexuality, and in an ancillary way, politics. It aims at the good of the individuals through the good of the traditionally ordered community. Liberalism, by hedonistically seeking the greatest indulgence for each individual at the expense of tradition, community, and inherited wisdom about human nature, shows its ignorance about human nature, and tries to upend the very foundations of true human happiness and prosperity.” I don’t think this is an unfair reading of where he’s coming from.
Now this is the exact same argument that has been used by those who favored slavery, who opposed women’s suffrage, who in short supported all the unpleasant things I’ve mentioned (I will make a partial exception for eugenics, although the Medieval Spanish idea of limpieza de sangre in some ways wasn’t far off). Slaveholders thought that the collective wisdom of the ages about human nature showed that blacks were just inferior and suitable to be slaves. Anti-suffragists thought that the same collective wisdom showed that women couldn’t be trusted with the vote. It is true that not all such people could be conflated into some form of “conservatism”, or that they would fit into, say, the GOP or the conservative movement today. However, the mode of thought and argumentation is extremely similar, which is why I feel a certain justification in using them all as examples. In other words, to appeal to some body of collective and presumably obvious and infallible wisdom about human nature is flawed since previous such appeals throughout history have come to be judged wrong in hindsight. It is on these grounds that I criticize David’s comments on their merits, since they are based on what seems to me to be specious and overly broad reasoning. Also, while I find some points of agreement, I don’t necessarily think his definitions of “conservatism” and “liberalism”, at least as described above in the way I think he means them, are correct. At least they’re not what I would tend to mean by those terms.
If you want to attack conservatism, then do so based on what it actually is, not some bizarre fictional ideology that only exists in the fevered imagination of the left.
I’m not doing that–but gee, it seems to me that, based on conservative media, there’s plenty of “bizarre fictional ideology that only exists in the fevered imagination” of the Right out there!
Anyway, I’m not “attacking” conservatism. I consider myself a moderate, holding some “conservative”, some “liberal”, and some freaky views. I think David is attacking liberalism, or at least his definition of it, based upon reading much more of his writings than just this post. The basis on which he does so seems to me to be unfair. It seems to me that if one can attack liberalism for being unrealistic about human nature, there are ample grounds for doing the same vis-à-vis conservatism, of whatever stripe you prefer. I don’t think there is some mystic, non-ideological body of truth about human nature that doesn’t require the hard intellectual work of thinking, debate, and development over time; therefore I think that both “liberalism” in its various forms and “conservatism” in its various forms, lack realism about human nature in some respects. That was my point, which you seem to think illegitimate.



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jw

posted June 5, 2009 at 9:05 pm


Lovely false dichotomy at the end: step-parents can and often do have non-step children. One of the most spectacular abuse cases I can recall, from several years ago in eastern Pennsylvania, was a case where the couple had children together and reserved abuse for the step-child alone.



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TaoFrog

posted June 12, 2009 at 2:38 am


Where does child abuse come in to play with liberalism and cities with a low child population? Did he just throw that in there so everyone would focus on that and not realize that this entire article is a pointless heap of crock? Honestly, what point does this article make, and what purpose does it have except to fuel debate and controversy?
Everyone has their own code of ethics to live by. Its your decision to deem something right or wrong. Not the law, or major religious corporations. Make up your own mind! Stop being brainwashed and dependent by willful ignorance! The Universe is ultimately good. As people are. Its the ideas of man that created evil.



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Husband

posted August 11, 2009 at 4:28 pm


“My post on childless Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor provoked some interesting misunderstandings among commenters”
Then perhaps you should learn to write more clearly David. Seems almost all of your ‘columns’ provoke ‘misunderstandings’.



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