The so-called American conservative movement is not conservative in the sense that many of its proponents would suggest. In reality, American conservatism, in many ways seeks to preserve and reassert classical liberalism. In fact, the entirety of the American political spectrum is liberal in different ways and varying degrees—but it is unmistakably and manifestly liberal.
This should come as no surprise since many of the Founding Fathers were men of the Enlightenment and there is no more obvious case than that of Thomas Jefferson, the author of that quintessential Enlightenment masterpiece The Declaration of Independence. The philosophical paradigm by 1776 had already shifted—anthropology was evolving toward an increasingly false view of man and the natural law (because the philosophical concept of “nature” was changing) was something different than that articulated by classical philosophers, which had been incorporated into the Christian tradition.
The American legal tradition seeking to adhere to the letter of the social contract, i.e. The Constitution of the United States of America, seems to have individual liberty at issue in every question of law. This, to be sure, is not something to be regarded as a problem in and of itself, insofar as the operative definition of liberty is not philosophically false and the norms of justice, in the classical sense, are not contradicted.
To the learned mind, it is patently clear that the predominant philosophical paradigm, anthropological assumptions on human nature, concept of the nation-state, view of society, of freedom, of responsibility, and so forth found in the Western world is undoubtedly borne of Enlightenment thinking. The United States is most certainly no exception. In America, across the political spectrum, there is a dubious philosophical premise, that of an abstract ideal of autonomy, which, no matter how admirable or attractive it may seem, is radically incomplete. Indeed, man does possess a free will, but the form of freedom requires content. Continue reading
Here is a good portion of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis written in 1987 and is followed up by Pope Benedict’s most recent. It is a relevant passage because it deals directly with the subjects dealt with in the ongoing discussion on “Guatemala” et al, on the debated need for apology/examination of our American conscience for abuses- or some would argue not- by our American leadership and elite interests, in regard to other nations- particularly poorer, weaker ones. There seems to be the idea floating around in conservative political circles that Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan were cut from the same cloth. I do not believe the approach to foreign relations by those who praise the Reagan/Bush years, holds up to Catholic scrutiny. But here are the words of our previous Holy Father- and no I do not accept the argument that we can distinguish where the Peace and Justice crowd at the Vatican is speaking and where the Pope is- that sort of treatment of these official Encyclicals is beneath my contempt. I will offer commentary on the latest encyclical after I have time to digest it, I refuse to rush my judgment on such important Church offerings. : Continue reading