May 8, 2020

IF YOUR IDEAS WERE UNPOPULAR YOU'D HATE DEMOCRACY TOO:

Classical Liberals vs. National Conservatives in the Age of Coronavirus (JOSEPH LOCONTE, May 8, 2020, National Review)

Despite their differences, liberalism's right-wing critics are united in their fierce antagonism to John Locke, whose doctrine of government-by-consent inspired the American Revolution and informed the Founding. According to Yoram Hazony, the Jewish philosopher and author of The Virtue of Nationalism, Locke's account of human nature amounts to "a far-reaching depreciation of the most basic bonds that hold society together." Similarly, Patrick Deneen, a Catholic political scientist and author of Why Liberalism Failed, denounces Locke's theory of consent as "one of liberalism's most damaging fictions," a solvent of community, morality, and religious belief. [...]

Locke's critics, who often appear not to have read his actual works, see only mindless and clawing consumption at the root of his worldview. But the Second Treatise leaves no doubt about the divine prerogative and the moral obligations that flow from it: Our equality "by Nature" forms "the foundation" of "that obligation to mutual love amongst men" and "the duties they owe one another," namely, "the great maxims of justice and charity." Locke then cites the golden rule to insist upon "a natural duty" to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. In a slap at political absolutism, he invokes the authority of the God of the Bible: "For men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker . . . sent into the world by His order and about His business; they are His property, whose workmanship they are made to last during His, not another's pleasure." Locke's conception of human flourishing ultimately depends upon his belief that every person is endowed by God with creative powers and is called -- in freedom -- to engage in meaningful, honorable, productive work.

The fact that Locke grounds rights in Christianity makes the attacks bizarre enough, but even more demented is treating him as the originator.  After all, even Magna Carta, which requires the participation of the taxed in decisions about taxation, states that it is just recognizing ancient liberties. But, the fatal hammer blow is that the Founders hadn't read nevermind depended on Locke's Second Treatise.  Indeed, when they cited him at all it was for his essay on human understanding.

Posted by at May 8, 2020 8:28 AM

  

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