The Priority of Order over Liberty
The right will begin to redeem itself and begin to be taken seriously when elected officials begin to establish patronage for their constituents. As the left has EBT cards, student loan forgiveness, and cushy university jobs for Fauci et al...the right must mandate manufacturing jobs returning to the rust belt (using tax incentives, straight cash payments from the treasury, and tariff penalties for noncompliance), income tax exemptions for large families, and expansion of social security into ironclad pensions for those 65 and older, just to name a few.
Given that order and liberty are in natural tension (as one waxes the other wanes), there are two central issues on your position (following Kirk) that order must predominate over liberty. One is the matter of HOW MUCH (i.e., to what extent) order must predominate. Granted, in any society liberty without order means total chaos, but order without liberty in a society means total oppression. In order to reverse our current "disorder," in a postliberal society how much liberty will need to be surrendered for the society to be properly ordered--that is, how far does order-over-liberty need to go? The second issue has to do with WHAT KIND of liberty will need to be surrendered, that is, what specific liberties, and whose liberties, will need to be constrained (and perhaps eliminated?) for society to be properly ordered?
I never made the connection between cultural Marxism and the imposition of disorder. I frequently stand accused of "authoritarianism" (knowing full well I am by no means a 'conservative', let alone a Libertarian) in political discussion with friends and not knowing why I disagree with the accusation, this is enlightening to me.
I like the idea of leaning on liberty within order- it reminds me of an image Fr Mike Schmitz (iirc) used to describe the need for moral rules in the Catholic Church. In short, his image was that we are allowed freedom on a grassy plain which has a sheer cliff on all sides, and the commandments are the fence that keeps us from falling. It makes perfect sense to me that this sort of order is lost in a society so bent on 'personal freedom' at all costs.
Looking forward to part 2!
Thanks, Patrick, for this interesting discussion.
It occurred to me that maybe what's missing here is reflection on anthropology. It seems like what enables the confusion in how order relates to freedom is how virtually no modern political groups think seriously about how order can yield freedom only if and when both concepts are – *per classical tradition* – affirmed as teleological in nature.
The idea of order would have to be that "x is intrinsically ordered toward y," correct? To advocate reducing or eliminating x's constraints (i.e., its ordered-ness) then gets into a problematic notion of freedom. Or is there some other way seriously to speak of what you call "bad freedom?"
Brilliant analysis of what has become a dichotomous relationship between liberty and order. I'm right on board with you, but may I make a verbal-linguistic observation? Over the past several decades the word "order" has acquired a heel-clicking sound that may turn off readers who would otherwise be much attracted to your thesis. What if, instead of "order," you used the term "freedom"? In an article entitled "Liberty to Do What?, which I wrote for an anti-abortion journal (The Human Life Review, Fall 2022) I made an argument in some ways similar to yours, but instead of "order" I used the term "freedom." What inspired that was my reading of the giant 2004 book by historian David Hacket Fischer, Liberty and Freedom. His analysis of the two ideals, especially the tension between them, was very similar to yours, and he supplied a creditable linguistic history of their very different usage.
I do, very much, like order, but perhaps some of your younger readers may need to be led into its bracing waters more slowly.
Thank you for another elucidating text Professor.
I would like, however, to raise two questions which arose to me while reading your article:
1) I agree that Anglo-Saxon conservatism in the 20th century was highly influenced by the rise of totalitarianism and tended since then to favor freedom instead of order. Nonetheless, I believe there was a modern reaction which favored order: fascism. Though it was a revolutionary movement, its main aim was to violently impose order following the failings of 19th century liberal-capitalism and the communist insurgences of the second half of the 19th century, which were movements that focused mainly on freedom or liberation.
There is however a main difference between the fascist and the classical understandings of order: the former was based on power over others and the transcendental elevation of the state, while the latter was focused, as you state in the present article, on the moderation of the individual, in his education in virtues and vices, which would reflect on the life and health of the political community. Is this interpretation correct?
2) Could the invocation of order be associated with a continental conservative tradition, mostly present in the 19th century and early 20th century France and in some countries in Europe throughout the 20th century (Portugal, Dolfuss’ Austria, Spain)? Is your use of the concept of order extracted, for instance, from the works of Joseph de Maistre, who painted the real world in catastrophic disastrous terms?
I understand the superficial appeal, but foreign isolationism, economic protectionism, and anti-immigration will just lead to economic stagnation and military weakness. It would be constant recession or even depression, which eventually leads to revolution.
Promotion of capitalism, rule of law, individual rights, and democracy is the basis for the United States being the most economically and militarily powerful, stable, and successful country in the history of the World. I am fascinated that the founders of the Post-Liberal Order (very intelligent people) would throw that away for some dreamed authoritarian utopia that has never existed. Based on your picture, you seem young (I am a baby boomer), so maybe some time will bring wisdom.
Been reading your book, then got bogged down a bit (instead reading Substack articles). Loved this piece and will get me back to finishing the book and probably re-reading again. Thought provoking article that stirs some thoughts about my own personal disorders (not medical ones or arguably psychological ones; simply the importance of keeping one’s personal and professional universe in order).
Yes, I realize this article is not intended as motivation for self-help, but it does speak to me that way. Look forward to the next installment.
Fantastic piece. Thank you.