These days, no discussion on political equality and variety would be complete without turning to the subject of social justice. I hope to have demonstrated--
While the moral portrayed above may appear agreeable enough, what’s missing is a critical view of some inherent assumptions. It is true we are not all equal—a fact that’s hardly in dispute and seems adequately depicted here as three kids of varying heights. But what is meant by those three boxes? Are they voluntarily provided? Is it assumed that, unless some external force gives two boxes to the shortest kid and one to the kid in the middle, these kids would be incapable of arranging the boxes as they have in the middle panel?
And is it at all reasonable to apply this visual to an economic system or societal order? We may be able to arrive at some consensus about how to “fairly” divvy up three boxes to the kids shown above. But it doesn’t follow we’re equally capable of coming to some agreement on how much people ought to be paid or recognized or rewarded. All of this, of course, has been addressed in one manner or another in the previous posts. But what about that last panel? What assumptions are baked into the idea societal “support” or “accommodations” would no longer be needed if we simply removed the “systemic barriers” that supposedly led to inequality in the first place? In other words, who put the fence there, “the system” or human nature?
“Fixing” Human Nature
Let me suggest another picture that comes closer to depicting the moral as it would be applied to actual reality:
And there you have it. We can establish perfect equality without bothering with “support” or “accommodations” just by making everyone the same height. Problem solved!
The beauty of the picture above is that it captures the same idea as the first picture, but it—more accurately—suggests that the causes of inequality are not quite so easily discernible or altered or—most importantly—unjust. If we’re talking about tearing down “the system”—represented by a fence—why, that’s at least theoretically possible. But if we come to recognize that “the system” is no more responsible for the height of these kids as it is for what produces a multitude of other varieties, the only way equality could truly be established would be to alter human nature itself.
“There always must remain some individual deprivation or scarcity, which we are too prone to call ‘injustice,’”
But is that what the Left means by justice? Certainly not. The language and imagery of justice is often couched in a moral, not merely a legal, framework. That is, justice is a virtue which should be pursued with passion. Any limitations on justice would be an injustice. The stuffy, legal definition just won’t do as it doesn’t compel us to go about proactively addressing injustices. It only tells us what is or is not just according to the law and restricts our actions to law enforcement and the judicial process.
“If justice is a virtue, it’s a strange one,”
Defining Social Justice
The attempt to enforce some conception of justice as a virtue—not just as a legal matter—is what we might call social justice. But while justice in a legal sense is easily defined, social justice is not. “The idea of ‘Social Justice’…takes this concept out of its original legal context and attempts to apply it in an area for which it was not designed: society in general,” continues the
This point bears repeating; social justice is meaningless for the sufficient reason we can’t settle on a definition. As
“…has probably become the most confusing expression in our entire moral and political vocabulary…The confusion that it spreads, within the very area wherein it is most used, is partly due to its describing not only phenomena produced by various modes of cooperation among men, such as in a ‘society’, but also the kinds of actions that promote and serve such orders. From this latter usage it has increasingly been turned into an exhortation, a sort of guide-word for rationalist morals intended to displace traditional morals, and now increasingly supplants the word ‘good’ as a designation of what is morally right…factual and normative meanings of the word ‘social’ constantly alternate, and what at first seems a description imperceptibly turns into a prescription.”
Notice here again is the implicit idea that there’s something wrong with “the system” but no clear directive what we are to do about the matter or who, specifically, is to blame. If a legal injustice is committed—say, if Tom robs Jack at gunpoint—we can follow the legal framework to render justice on Tom and for Jack. But if Tom belongs to a class that earns more than Jack’s class, what do we do to change “the system” that imposed this “injustice”? Is everyone in Tom’s class equally guilty and everyone in Jack’s class equally victimized?
It is true there is more to justice than merely identifying what is legal and what isn’t. There was an era in which slavery was perfectly legal in parts of the United States, but that hardly made slavery “just”. Yet a distinction can be made between questions of justice that touch on fundamental ideas of what it means to be human, the limitations of State power, and our duties and obligations towards one another as fellow human beings and questions of justice that speak to an ideologically driven preconceived (and unproven) notion of what an ideal society should look like.
“Most policy questions do not rise to the level of fundamental matters of justice,”
But what of the question of societal equality? Does justice mean taking from those who belong to Tom’s class and giving it away to Jack’s class? Can white America achieve “justice” by apologizing for their whiteness and offering reparations to black America? Not so, argues Roger Scruton, for “duties of charity are not duties of justice.” Justice requires duty, not civility or generosity. “If we fail to perform a duty of justice we commit an injustice—in other words, we wrong someone.” Slavery is an injustice because it wrongs those who are enslaved and degrades those who own slaves. But the accident of our birth into a class or race does not create an injustice. It was that line of thinking that justified slavery in the first place.
The State plays a role in administering justice, but it’s a necessarily limited role. As
Justice as Such
There is a distinction to be made between justice as a moral concept—what historian Garry Wills calls “justice as such”—and the limited justice pursued within institutions.
“The particular aim of the state is not to achieve justice, and certainly not to dispense it…This, of course, does not mean that the state is to be unjust, or free of the imperatives of the moral law. The state, like the family, like the corporation, like the labor union, is bound by the laws of morality that are incumbent on all human endeavor, corporate as well as individual. In carrying out its function, the state must act with justice. But its specific aim is not to enforce justice as such. The family, too, must observe right order—the child obeying, the parent avoiding undue laxity or severity; husband and wife helping each other, yet observing measure in their demands upon each other. This due measure, this order of right, is achieved by the observance of justice; yet the formal aim of the family is not sheer justice as such. Its aim is to give birth and education to new members of our race, to recruit partners in the human adventure. Only when this purpose is clearly understood can the order of claims and the areas of just activity be discerned in the life of the family. In the same way, the state must observe justice in its activities; but its aim is more limited, more concretely specified. And unless that aim is made clear, there is no way of knowing what justice is for the state; politics becomes an instrument for seeking every kind of good thing, for bringing ideal justice itself down to earth.”
As I’ve said so often in other posts, it isn’t necessary to be a theist to be a conservative, but it can sure help. If we accept that justice as such is not the role of the state, then we are left wondering how justice must ultimately come about. “To me belongeth vengeance and recompence,”
What then is the role of the state in regard to justice?
“The state, when it is made the source of justice,” Wills adds, “must be equally and instantly available to all citizens; and, in achieving this, in sweeping away the confusion of claims raised by families, economic orders, educational conventions, codes of conduct, natural gradations of privilege, the Liberal leaves society atomized, each man isolated, with all the weight of political power coming unintercepted upon him.” The conservative’s antenna goes up anytime the state is invoked as the solution to a problem. At times the state is the solution, but far too often it’s only capable of making a bigger mess of the situation. The heavy hand of the state cannot provide justice as such and we are further than ever from “justice” when the state takes on the mitigating roles of the institutions Wills mentions. The same power exercised by the state to end slavery can be used to enslave if limitations are not imposed on the state.
When Social Justice Turns to Revenge
Up to this point, we have been considering the notion of achieving “social justice” by establishing equality or by removing the alleged “systemic barriers” that caused inequality in the first place. But some social justice advocates go further still. For, they argue, the injustices perpetrated by “the system” are so egregious that it’s not enough to simply make things equal as they ought to have been all along. It’s no longer adequate to take from Tom and give it to Jack so that they’re even because Tom has had it far too good for far too long. Justice demands that we make Tom and Jack uneven to settle the score. “To me belongeth vengeance and recompence,” saith the State.
“In the eyes of some of its advocates, social justice is a way of addressing grievances that can’t be adjudicated by a legal system that is blind, by design, to historical injustices suffered by groups,”
Clearly, we are far from the conservative’s understanding of justice and equality when “justice” is no longer blind nor interested in balance as understood between individuals. In the view of social justice warriors, Lady Justice is a ruthless vigilante more interested in retribution than reconciliation. “Modern social justice advocates have no interest in a colorblind society,” continues Rothman, “Nor would they accept the notion that just institutions can be trusted to maximize collective benefit. They are suspicious of institutions in general, in fact, since those institutions are invariably the flawed inventions of corruptible men. They are unconvinced that perfect equality is desirable…because such a naïve ideal ignores historical injustices. We must all bear burdens that are passed on to us at birth by our parents. These are obligations we cannot shrug off, no matter how hard we try.”
Centuries before these “modern social justice advocates” found fault with a blind judicial system,
None of this is meant to suggest the conservative ignores the cries of those who have genuinely been wronged. Nor does it mean identifying inequalities and discrepancies between groups are of no value or cannot point to instances of injustice. But the conservative will always seek to move these generalizations to specifics that can be used to comprehend who—that is, which individuals—are responsible, what actions they have taken or not taken, and who they have victimized. In so doing, the conservative hopes to preserve the variety of life that allows each of us to flourish while working to eradicate injustices. Justice and variety, not retribution and equalizing, are the spice of life.
July 31, 2020 at 02:49PM - Josh Lewis
The Spice of Life – Part 5 (Justice vs. Social Justice)
Click the headline to see the full report at Saving Elephants, with Josh Lewis
To the conservative, the idea that variety is the spice of life is not just a colloquial idiom but an understatement. On its face, it suggests variety provides excitement that saves us from blandness and boredom. Indeed. But it’s more than that, for the absence of variety would mean stagnation, poverty, and possible extinction.
Standing opposed to the conservative’s view of variety is the Left’s notion of diversity and equality. The ideologically-driven Leftist celebrates a world of pluralistic identities where everyone is freed of the restraints of tradition, customs, associations and external pressures and can live as they want, marry who they want, partake in whatever activity they want, consume or experience whatever they want. They just can’t choose to remain in those traditions, customs, associations, and external pressures because then they wouldn’t be—in the Leftist sense of the word—“free”.
And in this world of diverse ethnicities, fluid sexual identities and orientations, and uninhibited self-expression there would also exist perfect equality: the disabled, homosexual union worker, the transsexual African American authority on feminism and queer theory, and the straight, and white male who works in finance would surely earn about the same and be just as likely to be as satisfied in their life and personal relationships as anyone else.
ut where a diversity of sexual and ethnic expressions would be celebrated—even if that celebration were compulsory—a diversity of opinions or lifestyles that called this paradise into question would most certainly not be tolerated. The Leftist seeks diverse inputs that result in roughly the same outputs, so long as “diverse” is intended in the rather narrow celebration of anti-traditionalist lifestyles.
Traditional Variety and Anti-Traditionalist Diversity
The conservative, on the other hand, desires room for pluralistic traditions from the rich—sometimes competing—heritages of Western civilization, and never expects equal outcomes precisely because that sort of variety would prevent equality. To the conservative, the fact that the average straight, white male who majored in finance earns considerably more than the transsexual African American who majored in Women’s Studies is not because of systemic racism or bigotry, or an oppressive patriarchy where the market enforces some outdated code of morality through compensation, but because the variety we find in life means some people will choose to pursue occupations and interests that naturally result in different outcomes.
And just as the Left celebrates anti-traditionalist diversity, the conservative relishes the variety each individual brings within their traditions. Variety makes possible a flourishing culture and prosperous economy, as
“The development of variety is an important part of cultural evolution, and a great part of an individual’s value to others is due to his differences from them. The importance and value of order will grow with the variety of the elements, while greater order in turn enhances the value of variety, and thus the order of human cooperation becomes indefinitely extensible. If things were otherwise, if for example all men were alike and could not make themselves different from one another, there would be little point in division of labor (except perhaps among people in different localities), little advantage from coordinating efforts, and little prospect of creating order of any power or magnitude.”
If we were all of similar athletic ability such that the distinctions that set competitive athletes apart from the rest of us ceased to exist, so would the enjoyment of watching these athletes in action. It is precisely because we celebrate the athletic abilities of some as greater than most that sports as a profession can even exist. So too with intelligence, beauty, strength, and abilities of all sorts. The varieties that set us apart allow for a market where our abilities are profitable not only to us, but to those who lack such abilities and will happily compensate us for our services.
But beyond material prosperity, variety also allows for growth of the individual. “I think that men are better than beasts, and that life is something more than the gratifying of appetites,”
The Uniqueness of Cities
I think this idea may be easier to understand if we take a step back and substitute cities and towns for individuals. Much of what attracts people to a certain city or what instills a certain pride in belonging to a city are the variations that make it different from all the rest. All cities aspire to address poverty, civil unrest or discontent, and the perceived needs and wants of its citizens, but they all do this in remarkably different ways and—as one would expect—with significantly different results. Even where two cities have professional sports teams, similar amenities, and near identical ethnic mixtures, they will still produce massively different lived experiences for their citizens. To be a part of a city—or any region for that matter—is something one “feels” in their gut, and no amount of uniformity can erase these regional distinctions.
We might demand that all cities address poverty the same way or rid themselves of some social malady, but—I suspect—most of us recognize that such gargantuan endeavors are only going to be realizable to the extent the citizens within the city find a way to answer the challenges in a manner that’s uniquely theirs. In the same manner, each individual may fail or succeed at life by any number of metrics. But they can only flourish if they are afforded the opportunity to operate within qualities that are unique to them. The same variations that make New York City much different than Branson, Missouri are related to the variations that make Janice different than Sam. When we try to reduce these metrics to economic outputs or cultural affluence, we do each a disservice because we don’t recognize the vast complexities that form each person.
Such alternative definitions must find a way to deal with the rampant inequalities found in any society. And, many of these “alternatives” have advocated the enforcement of equality to provide for the sort of “just” and “legitimate” society advocated. Yet forced equality kills the variety that allows for material prosperity and the development and flourishing of the individual.
We do not know how to enforce the creation of geniuses or those with artistic brilliance. But we can enforce a great levelling where those with unusual talents and abilities are brought down to where the rest of us dwell. “Society ought to be designed to encourage the highest moral and intellectual qualities in man,”
Equality Enforced by the State
A further problem arises when we set about to end inequalities: such an endeavor, necessarily, involves trifling with individual liberties and requires a very unequal power to enforce. Even those who are of the mindset that inequalities only exist due to some injustice or oppression must face up to the fact that such perceived injustices and oppressors will continue to produce inequalities unless than are forced not to. If there’s one thing the conservative and Leftist can agree on it’s that inequalities aren’t going away if we simply do nothing about them.
But what’s necessary to “do something” is a very unequal force: the State. “In order to establish equality, we must first establish inequality,”
This is what Thomas Sowell referred to as promoting “equalitarian ends by unequalitarian means”.
“Who but a tyrant,”
The desire for equality is not—in and of itself—rotten. But it may fester into an unthinking, immoral pursuit of equality at the expense of the liberties and unique qualities of others. The French observer of American society,
“There is, in fact, a manly and lawful passion for equality which excites men to wish all to be powerful and honored. This passion tends to elevate the humble to the rank of the great; but there exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom. Not that those nations whose social condition is democratic naturally despise liberty; on the contrary, they have an instinctive love of it. But liberty is not the chief and constant object of their desires; equality is their idol: they make rapid and sudden efforts to obtain liberty, and if they miss their aim resign themselves to their disappointment; but nothing can satisfy them except equality, and rather than lose it they resolve to perish.”
As we discussed in
The Democratization of the Equalizers
Is it any wonder then that advocates of equality are often the strongest advocates of ever-expanding democratization? Rather than the uniqueness found in each individual person, the radical equalizers look on humanity as an interchangeable, faceless mass. “When all are uniform the individuality of each unit is numerical only,”
Sanders shares Marx’s faith that equality is the natural order of things in absence of--
Unsurprisingly, the conservative disagrees. The atomization, democratization, and dissolution of the individual into some faceless mass collective does not make us better off. It does not allow for the individual to flourish, strips us of liberty realizable through tradition, and makes us vulnerable to the ever-expanding power of the State.
“Breaking apart all the connections that stand between the individual and the state and leaving equal but separate individuals alone would expose them all to the raw power of the state directly. The people would also have no protection from one another or from the mass of citizens, in such a situation. Burke worries that this would leave them unable to defend their freedoms and subject to even more brutal and dangerous abuses of power than the ancient despotisms could have been capable of. The social institutions that stand between the individual and the government are crucial barriers to the ruthlessness of public officials and the occasional cruelty of majorities. They are essential to liberty.”
But surely the conservative cannot mean—in all this haughty talk about liberty and the value of variety—that there is no place for addressing inequalities if that means ignoring those who are in poverty? If you’re in need of food and shelter, does it really matter that you just happen to live in a society that’s happy to leave you alone to “flourish” in your own unique way? This is where we’ll pick things up in Part 4.
The Spice of Life – Part 3 (Enforced Equality or Valued Variety?), Read this full article, at Saving Elephants, with Josh Lewis
Josh forgoes the podcast guest this episode and offers some thoughts on how the conservative worldview differs from the worldview of secularism, scientism, and materialism.
Secularism can mean the belief that governments should remain neutral on the matter of religion and should not enforce nor prohibit the free exercise of religion, leaving religious choice to the liberty of the people. However, this describes a viewpoint held by many religious and nonreligious people and is not wed exclusively to a materialistic worldview. Secularism, for the purposes of this discussion, has less to do with whether a person has fine feelings about government neutrality on religious matters and everything to do with whether or not they believe religious matters comport to reality or hold any weight beyond mere private superstitions.
Secularism, then, is more than the principle of separating institutions of government from institutions of religion—though that idea is present. But the secularist also possesses an indifference, rejection, or exclusion of religious considerations or appeals to supernatural explanations. This would include both a person who rejects all supernatural explanations as well as a person who—though they may consider themselves to be religious personally—for all practical purposes behave as if all that exists is the material world.
Some secularists ascribe to scientism; the belief philosopher and theologian
In fact, many would describe religious truth claims as not only nonsensical, but destructive to the form of modern, Western society we live in today. The conservative staunchly disagrees with this notion. For, while conservatism isn’t a religion, it is interested in conserving things of value in our culture (among which are certain religious traditions). That is, the conservative defends religious convictions not out of some sense of loyalty or nostalgia, but because the conservative believes religious convictions play an important role in the formation of culture and—even more importantly—comport to reality.
Are reason and science sufficient for acquiring knowledge?Can they sustain a society of ordered liberty?Can they provide us with a moral code rivaling religious doctrine?Can they fulfil humanity’s desire for the transcendent?Can they answer our deepest questions?The secularist says “yes” the conservative says “no”.
Episode 062 – Is Truth Found with Reason and Science Alone?, Read this full article, at Saving Elephants, with Josh Lewis
“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” begins the most famous line of political text in American history, “that all men are created equal.” Quite so, says the conservative. But what sort of equality did the Founders who signed the Declaration of Independence have in mind? For as we explored in
No one can seriously argue that equality means all humans are the same in the sense we are all the same height or have identical athletic abilities, levels of attractiveness, or intelligence. But does equality imply we should be the same in some sense we’re currently not? Does equality mean we are all equally capable of achieving the same if given the same opportunities? Does it mean that the idea of granting us all the same opportunities is meaningless because there’s no way to alter all the historical grievances and societal and economic conditions that cause inequalities and, therefore, the next best thing is to enforce equal outcomes? Or does it go even further and suggest that the mere presence of those historical grievances is justification for retribution against a class or group of people who have wrongly profited off the rest of us?
The conservative advocates none of these definitions of equality. Rather, the conservative professes the equality of all humans before God and before the law. Let’s take a closer look at each:
Equality Before God
Equality before God is not a theological assertion about the existence or presence of God; rather, it is the recognition that humans are—morally, spiritually, and substantively speaking—on an equal footing. The religious tone of the idea can be derived from the Christian understanding of humanity, which teaches that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34) and, as such, neither should we be (James 2:9).
In other words, while humans are prone to recognize inequalities in things like wealth, ability, intelligence, skin-color, even personalities, and assign some value accordingly, none of that ultimately changes our worth. “[Equality] is an absolute of morals by which all men have a value invariable and indestructible and a dignity as intangible as death,”
The doctrine of equality before God would hold racism or sexism—that is, viewing someone as inferior or superior on the basis of their race or sex alone—to be both wrong and intolerable. There is space for recognizing differences between the races and the sexes, and for debating what responses or roles or functions those differences may warrant or suggest. But the basic substance of the individual is all the same, regardless of the color of their skin or the number of x chromosomes in their genes.
And, while it is true some humans have a greater ability to lead, equality before God also dispels any notions of certain individuals having some inherent right to lead. American conservatives—following the example of the Founders—have long been hostile to privileges and positions granted on the basis of one’s bloodline. Although previously subject to the British monarch, the Founders found claims of nobility and honor afforded merely due to the accident of one’s family background most repugnant.
And even pro-monarch conservatives, such as Edmund Burke, vehemently rejected arbitrary rulers. It is true Burke was a fierce defender of the British monarchy, particularly as the radical revolutionaries in France threatened to spill over into England and topple the government. But Burke was defending the ancient and historic institution of the state, and not the idea that some humans are simply born to rule other humans. “Do not imagine that I wish to confine power, authority, and distinction to blood, and names, and titles,”
It is to our benefit that we have leaders who are virtuous and wise. But virtue and wisdom are only qualifying attributes for leadership, not an actual claim on leadership. That is, the presence of virtue and wisdom does not give anyone the right to lead, and certainly the mere accident of which family or race or group you were born into is even less of a reason. Nor do our elected officials deserve to hold their office on the basis that it’s “their turn” or because they’ve had a particularly harrowing or heroic story, though they may—and we may expect—this to be the case.
Equality before God would also mean—or at least, heavily suggest—that it may not even be possible to successfully appoint leaders of ideal virtue and wisdom in the long run, nor would that guarantee a nation will be led in a right and wise path.
“The weak point in the whole of Carlyle's case for aristocracy lies, indeed, in his most celebrated phrase. Carlyle said that men were mostly fools. Christianity, with a surer and more reverent realism, says that they are all fools. This doctrine is sometimes called the doctrine of original sin. It may also be described as the doctrine of the equality of men. But the essential point of it is merely this, that whatever primary and far-reaching moral dangers affect any man, affect all men. All men can be criminals, if tempted; all men can be heroes, if inspired. And this doctrine does away altogether with Carlyle's pathetic belief (or anyone else's pathetic belief) in ‘the wise few.’ There are no wise few. Every aristocracy that has ever existed has behaved, in all essential points, exactly like a small mob.”
If it’s true that we are all equal—that is, equally prone to vice and folly—then that leaves us with a bit of a mess on our hands. There is no sure bet; there is no system of government or arrangement between groups and individuals or “political” solutions that will ensure virtuous and wise leaders, or the peace and prosperity we would hope would come of being led by such individuals. When we speak of equality, our hearts may well up with pride in the hope for some common goodness and decency. But that equality cuts both ways, for we are just as prone to evil as we are to good. And a political system that does not take that into account is prone to destruction far greater and faster than a political system that works to mitigate against our human imperfections.
Conservatives have lauded the Constitution of the United States for this exact reason. Indeed, James Madison wrote, in defending the Constitution in
Equality Before the Law
If it’s true all humans are of equal worth and dignity and that we are all capable of virtue and wisdom but also vice and folly, and, as that would further suggest, no human can claim a right to rule, then we might reasonably ask what implications this has on our political outlook and legal framework. The great observer of American society, Alexis de Tocqueville,
The same Christian teaching that we are all equal in the eyes of God and ought to treat one another with a similar outlook provides the justification for a legal system that treats everyone with impartiality. This is commonly referred to as the Rule of Law—the idea that no one is above the law and, as such, ought to be treated equally under the law. The legal framework applied to each citizen, therefore, should not differ for reasons such as a person’s wealth or class or station. The President of the United States should be no less free to break the law or evade punishment than someone who is homeless or poor or a minority.
And, while there may be special cases for unique treatment of certain groups, such exceptions are not arbitrary and are applied uniformly to anyone who falls under the provisions of these unique cases. For example, the law may be applied unequally in certain circumstances such as reaching a certain age to be eligible to vote, or being grandfathered in to an older provision of a law, or a priest, attorney, or spouse not being made to testify against a defendant in a trial. These special circumstances do not violate the Rule of Law. But it would be a violation if we allowed an underaged citizen to vote on the basis they were related to a certain political leader, or only some were grandfathered into an older provision of a law because they were white, or a judge felt it was particularly important the spouse of a certain defendant testify in this one particular case.
Successfully administering the Rule of Law is a tall order. And, while the United States has come closer than most nations in achieving such legal impartiality, it cannot be denied that rampant impartialities exist. There is no simple nor easy solution for addressing these impartialities, and much of that discussion stretches far beyond our topic at hand. What the conservative insists, is that equality before the law and the Rule of Law means we treat alterations, additions, and deletions to the law as a near-sacred procedural process and not by executive or judicial fiat. A law may be good or bad, but of equal—and sometimes greater—importance is how we arrived at that law, how it is enforced, and how it is interpreted.
To the conservative, the law is not some plaything or a means of pursuing the latest theory on “justice”, but the very foundation on which our political structure is built. Either we live under the Rule of Law, in which case we respect and follow the proper procedures for altering the law, or we live under the rule of men, in which case the law is altered on the prejudices and preferences of our leaders or the mob.
Throughout the twentieth century and on into the present, conservatives have long fought against the growing tendencies of both the executive and judicial branches of the Federal government to step outside of the established procedures to enact law. And, while it may be true that plenty of Federal and Supreme Court justices and past presidents have had the greatest of intentions and the most altruistic of attitudes, the conservative is understandably wary of handing over the keys of law itself to the goodness and wisdom of a handful of unelected magistrates or single individual.
Just as Chesterton chided Carlyle's call for an “aristocracy of talent” the conservative’s rebukes leaders who step outside of established procedures on the basis that something is the “right thing to do” or that it’s time to “get things done”. Equality before the law is needed precisely because we have equality before God. Democratic institutions are needful not because of the common “goodness” of humanity, but because of our common wickedness and potential to do harm.
Recognizing and defending these dual equalities is what makes the variety of life that conservatives celebrate possible. But enforcing a broader understanding of equality above and beyond this limited view squelches the variety of life, as we will explore in Part 3.
The Spice of Life – Part 2 (Equality Before God and the Law), Read this full article, at Saving Elephants, with Josh Lewis