“According to Truth”

One of the most curious features of life under political liberalism—for present purposes, the doctrine that the central task of politics is to promote individual autonomy and to secure its preconditions—is that all politics and political conversation happens at one step removed, one meta-level up. Instead of pursuing substantive excellence and justice, we have circuitous conversations about statistical properties like “diversity”; instead of deciding what ought to be permitted, what condemned, we debate “civility”; instead of discerning truth, we quarrel over “religious liberty”; instead of protecting the most vulnerable, we conceal our vices and crimes under the rubric of “choice,” in both market and non-market spheres (although to be fair there are almost no non-market spheres left any more). When we ask about Truth, liberalism answers “What is ‘Truth’? Your truth is not someone else’s truth, and it is no more legitimate to make your truth into public policy than it would be to force your taste in ice cream upon everyone else. All this is solely of private concern.”

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Liberalism’s Fear

By Adrian Vermeule

In honor of Prof. Ryszard Legutko and his book, The Demon in Democracy,  the Consul-General of Poland, Maciej Golubiewski, convened an event on May 9, 2018, to address the following topic: “Democratic Reformers or Illiberal Backsliders? Poland and the challenges of sovereign politics in the West.” Professor Vermeule has kindly agreed to allow us to publish the illuminating remarks that he delivered at this event. One need not think democracy is the best form of government to realize that it is not, in and of itself, liberal. Liberalism, however, needs democracy, or more precisely it needs the “periodic ceremony” of democracy.
–The Editors

I want to thank the Consul-General for arranging this event. It’s always a pleasure to have a chance to honor Prof. Legutko, whose book helped to awaken so many of us from our modernist slumbers, into the light of a new dogmatism.

The title of the panel is “Democratic Reformers or Illiberal Backsliders?” And my answer is “Both.” Let me start with a puzzle. I know, or know of, a number of U.S. and U.K. academics, journalists, and other intelligentsia who spend their careers in a state that can only be described as professional hysteria, particularly directed at Poland, Hungary, and Brexit. In this state of hysteria, the meanings of words are redefined. The Polish election, although free and fair, represents a threat to “democracy”; the passage of legislation according to constitutional procedures, such as the Polish parliamentary law on the judiciary, becomes a threat to the “rule of law”; and so forth. What is the root cause of this extraordinary reaction?

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Ralliement: Two Distinctions

by Adrian Vermeule

A few analytic notes on ralliement — a notion stemming originally from Leo XIII’s 1892 encyclical Au Milieu des Sollicitudes, which urged French Catholics to rally to the Third French Republic in order to transform it from within. The idea has become more general, suggesting that Catholics would do well to rally to and work within a liberal-democratic political order. I have two conceptual distinctions to sketch, merely in the hope of clarifying the terms of the conversation. Continue reading “Ralliement: Two Distinctions”