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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Left and Right

Orthodox Catholic political reason cannot be either of the right or of the left (or of the centre for that matter). The reason for this is that the ideas of right and left are derived from an error inimical to orthodox Catholicism: Nominialism.

If there is no reality to universals, if man has no nature, then there is no good-for-man common to all men. The end of any given man (if such a concept can be retained at all) therefore differs from the end of all other men by the very fact that they are many. Perhaps by more, perhaps by less but it differs. There can be no common good between all men. It might appear that the common good is the facilitation of the widest range of unconstrained action for the individual compatible with the unconstrained action of all other individuals (liberalism). But this is false, for in a nominalist universe some or all men may require constraint upon other men in order to obtain their ends/desires (authoritarianism).

Thus the logic of nominalist political reason is either to create a liberal society in which to pursue one's vices openly, or pretend to create a liberal state and secretly exercise constraint in the pursuit of private vices, or to create a frankly authoritarian state for the benefit of those who share one's vices, or to create a frankly authoritarian state based on a mythical realism in which one does not believe in order to secretly exploit it in pursuit of one's private vices.

Here we have the full modern political spectrum. The extreme right-wing position is the most honest and the most evil the moderate left wing position is the most seductive and so the most dangerous. Ill catechised Catholics unfamiliar with the perennial philosophy obsess about one particular issue actually or purportedly dear to one of these groups (anti-abortion, anti-poverty, anti-death penalty, anti-war, state recognition of religion, anti-communism, anti-capitalism) and align themselves with that group. They accordingly fail to recognise the group they have chosen agrees or pretends to agree with Catholics on some of these issues for ideologically incompatible and usually abhorrent reasons. They then accuse the Catholics who have fallen in with the other camp, of not really caring about the issues their camp cares (or pretends to care) about and of obsessing about the others.

Generally, the Holy See avoids this nonsense and so everyone is confused as to how it can be anti-abortion and anti-war and anti-death penalty and anti-poverty and anti-socialist, refuse to condemn war or the death penalty in theory or to endorse capitalism. This is seen as inconsistent or opportunist when in fact the Holy See is proceeding on the basis of a completely different world view to that of almost everyone else including a lot of 'Catholics'.

Marxists are a bit of an exception to this general rule and do not fall into the right-left dichotomy (which is why their regimes appear to be both) because they are actually realists, extreme realists who think that the common good is separated from and potentially incompatible with the good of the individual. They are also very badly wrong about what that common good is.

The logic of these reflections is that Catholics should join political parties on the basis of their practical proposals, try to reverse and refuse to co-operate in their immoral policies, and strive through evangelisation to place political culture on a sound intelectual basis. In the case of some parties this may be practicaly impossible as their official ideological basis may already be incompatible with the faith. They will just have to be fought. But my enemy's enemy is not necessarily my friend.