Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Offsite Post: ‘Rights or Self-Sacrifice?’


Conservatives are trying to politically defeat progressive Leftists using the methods of the latter and are utterly failing.  Mr. Jude Russo also falls victim to this in his essay on the failure of the pro-life cause at the ballot box.  He believes it has failed because it often speaks in terms of restricting rights:

Framing things in terms of curtailing rights in any respect is a loser. The pro-life movement has failed to instill a positive vision of its goals into the American people. It has accepted the pro-abortion framing of abortion laws as a curtailment of rights, rather than the protection of a class of persons that ought to be protected.


Every major change in American politics has been framed in terms of the expansion of rights (or the recognition of rights that were there all along, given our national ideology’s sort of fuzzy fundamental understanding of what a “right” is). The massive entitlement expansions—Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Obamacare—have been framed in terms of granting de facto rights to freedom from want, to health-care, or the like. The Reagan revolution and its sequel, perhaps the last era in which those entitlement programs faced a serious challenge, was built around the expansion of economic rights. (This was part of the wisdom of the first generation of fusionism, unfashionable as it is to say now.)

His solution is therefore predictable – conservative pro-lifers must find a way to convince Americans that they will personally benefit from supporting pro-life measures:

The pro-life movement must do the same. It must articulate itself in terms of rights expansion—ideally, not just for the unborn baby, but for the voting public as well. We must speak to the nation about itself as a nation. This unfamiliar dialect does provide certain natural advantages. The possibility of demographic collapse threatens the health of entitlement programs, which depends on an expanding pool of payors. (Do you want to bet on per capita GDP increasing quickly enough to keep Social Security afloat?) The old conservative analyses of those programs’ solvency can be repurposed for the cause of population growth, a cause that has as a component restrictions on abortions. Existing entitlement programs give us another tool. The de facto right to healthcare can be extended to a right to free birth; such proposals already have some legislative traction. Finally, the most difficult and least concrete: We must be tireless in our arguments forwarding the humanity of the unborn. We must convince the American people that the unborn are Americans, too.

Most of this is nothing but secular materialism intended to appeal to individual self-interest.  Only at the end, with appeals to recognizing the humanity of unborn children, do we get into different metaphysical territory, something savoring of the spiritual, of the image of God in man.

Sir Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, warned against accepting things like rights and utility as the criterion for judging the goodness of political actions.  Dr. Russell Kirk, summarizing Burke’s views, writes,

What other basis exists for realizing the natural moral order in society? “Reason,” Voltaire might have answered; “Utility,” Bentham was to declare; “material satisfaction of the masses,” the Marxists would reply half a century later. Burke looked upon reason as a feeble prop, insufficient to most men; utility was for him a test only of means, not of ends; and material satisfaction he thought a grossly low aspiration.

Burke’s solution lies not in materialism as such, but in the religious sphere:

Another foundation for social principle is Burke’s. “Obey the Divine design”—so one might paraphrase his concept of obedience to a natural order. How do we find the means of dutiful obedience? By a proper regard for prescription and prejudice. The collective wisdom of the species, the filtered experience of mankind, can save us from the anarchy of “rights of man” and the presumption of “reason.”

Most importantly is this thought of Burke’s:  ‘Man’s rights exist only when man obeys God’s law, for right is a child of law.’

A remarkable 20th-century Californian, Father Seraphim Rose (+1982) of blessed memory, builds on this.  Remarking on the insights of an arch Spanish conservative, Juan Donoso Cortes (1809-53), he writes,

 . . .

The rest is at https://thehayride.com/2023/08/garlington-rights-or-self-sacrifice/.


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

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