Thursday, May 12, 2005

MH - What's In a Label?

Gracias to Lane at A View from the Core, who brought to our attention this excellent article from the always interesting Fr. James Schall, “On Being Neither Liberal Nor Conservative.” Borrowing Lane’s excerpt:

The division of the world into "liberal" and "conservative" on every topic from politics to our taste in cuisine, clothes, or automobiles is one of the really restricting developments that has ever happened to us. If we are not what is considered popularly a "liberal," then we must, by some convoluted logic, be a "conservative," or vice versa. No third or fourth option is available as is usually the case in the real world. It has to be, we are told, either this way or that.

Such a view makes things very simple, I suppose. But it also reduces our minds to utter fuzziness. We are required to define everything as either liberal or conservative even when the two allowable terms of definition are not adequate to explain the reality that they are intended to describe.

This is precisely the point I’ve tried to make in my Distributist series – that labels can be wholly inadequate. For the most part, I fall into the category considered “conservative,” but I strongly reject the idea that to be a conservative one must totally embrace capitalism and the free market, come what may. To enforce the economic bottom line at the cost of degrading the humanity of the worker or the consumer is, to me, too high a price to pay. This doesn’t mean I’m anti-capitalist; like Bishop Wilhelm Emmanual von Ketteler, I believe we have to live with and work with the system we have. But we have to do precisely that - work within the system to restore the dignity of the worker, to make corporations more accountable , to keep them from becoming societal preditors.

Now, some people would accuse me of being a socialist, or at least a liberal, for saying such things. Of course, the very definition of Distributism puts the lie to socialism, but you get my point. There are those who think being a conservative or a liberal, a Republican or a Democrat, requires a consistent, if not singular, school of thought. To stray from that agenda somehow endangers your credentials. Conceivably, were I still active in politics, I could be drummed out of the conservative movement for my opinions on Corporate America. I certainly wouldn’t get much from them in the way of campaign contributions.

To me the only consistency I must pursue (I prefer to think of it as a holistic approach) is that of the Gospel as taught by Our Lord and handed down by the Church. Every decision I make must be informed by that teaching and naturally flows from the combination of “Faith and Reason” that JPII talked about. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for disagreement within the Church in some areas. It does mean, as B16 has stressed, that there is such a thing as real truth, and that truth cannot contradict itself.

While I find much in conservatism that is compatible with this teaching, I don’t think you can make that a blanket statement. That’s why, to use the buzzwords that are so popular today, I can’t see myself fully as either neocon or paleocon. I’ll accept Fr. Schall’s description as a pretty good way of how I look at myself – as should we all:

If we are what is classically called "orthodox," we are neither liberal or conservative as these terms are used today. We are wildly radical and revolutionary. No one is radical as we are over against a culture that has embodied these practices into its very soul. This is what Pope Ratzinger meant by observing that it is the world, not he, that has changed. When Benedict XVI is called a "conservative" or an "arch-conservative," he is in fact nothing of the sort. He is much more "radical" than the wildest theory on the left or the right, however it be designated.

Again, read it all here.

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