Society Is Not a Social Construct


Regular readers of this blog know I've devoted a significant number of posts to exposing the faults inherent in Liberalism. That's not merely to say the political shorthand employed by the Generals to mock the Globetrotters. It refers to the broad category of Liberal political philosophy of which Conservatism itself is a subset.

The fatal flaw of Liberalism--aside from its failure to secure long-term material prosperity, never mind maintain the West's social cohesion--is that it's based on the false notion that freedom is an absolute good to be pursued for its own sake.

What gives the game away is that any appeal to freedom is susceptible to the question, "Freedom to do what?" Absent an objective good toward which it's directed, the concept of freedom is without content. The value of a given freedom entirely depends on the inherent value of the goods you can get with it.

Freedom detached from any grounding in the good has no limiting principle. That's the slippery slope the West has slid down from yeoman farmers defending private property to pink-haired witches demanding that everyone pretend they're female ungulates. If freedom is absolute, then any boundaries placed on individual self-expression--even the truth--must be a tyrannical imposition.

That's why the real opponents of Liberalism aren't Conservatives, but what author David Stewart has termed Optimates--men who primarily seek the common good. The Optimate response to wacko Liberal demands isn't, "How does this promote freedom?" It's, "How does this advance the common good and help people cultivate virtue?"

Inevitably, when this question is asked on social media, sufferers of a mutant strain of Liberalism will come out of the woodwork to utter predictable knee-jerk objections. The most common names for this disorder are Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism, but they both boil down to selfishness masquerading as a political philosophy.

A reliable way to set your watch is to make an argument for the common good and wait till a Libertarian shows up to disqualify the whole concept on the basis that different people define the common good differently.

Anyone who outgrew the Gen X coffee house hipster phase will immediately recognize this objection as an appeal to moral relativism, and a self-defeating one, at that. The whole point of politics is to decide how best to order society for the common good. By declaring their ignorance of what constitutes the common good, Libertarians admit that their political philosophy has no idea how to achieve the common end of all political philosophies. They forfeit the match before they even take the field.

Next, the Libertarian will try to handwave his way out of the corner he painted himself into by pointing out that a lot of evil has been done in the name of the common good. This is an even more glaring self-contradiction, since evil can't by definition be good. In effect, this argument is another appeal to ignorance bundled with a straw man that tries to conflate pursuit of the good with evils committed under the false flag of the good. It's the defining Libertarian category error of equating abuse with legitimate use.

To throw a wrench in the gears, simply point out the evils enabled by gun ownership.

As a last ditch defense, the Libertarian will try to define away any distinction between Liberalism and the Optimate position by redefining the common good as the cumulative result of each individual pursuing his own self-interest. Rather than resolving the Libertarian's problems, this argument only multiplies them.

First and foremost, this tactic is simply dishonest. It pretends that the Libertarian and the Optimate differ only on matters of semantics, not substance. That claim is ridiculous on its face, since one side bases its whole worldview on the premise that individual freedom is absolute, and the other insists that freedom is contingent upon the good. Attempting to equate the two just demonstrates the Libertarian's inability to critically examine his a priori assumptions.

Related to the preceding, the claimed equivalence is just plain false. When an Optimate argues for the common good, he doesn't mean the aggregate good of each individual in the society under discussion. The Libertarian views society as an epiphenomenon of individuals pursuing their own self-interest, that is, as a social construct. In contrast, the Optimate recognizes that society is not a social construct. He knows that families, neighborhoods, and nations are real things with their own purposes and destinies above and beyond those of their individual constituents.

Another fundamental difference between Liberals of all stripes and Optimates is that the latter rightly acknowledges the basic unit of society as the family, not the individual. Just as no amount of free electrons can form an atom, no number of individuals acting for their own exclusive ends can form a society.

This where the Libertarian will jump up and accuse the Optimate of wanting to impose tyranny on the individual by coercing him into subordinating his will to the whims of the mob. But that's another straw man--one that hinges on a false binary.

The Optimate affirms both that the common good is more than aggregate enlightened self-interest and that it is fully compatible with the individual's good. He squares this circle by rejecting the Liberal conceit that each individual lives solely for himself. Instead, the Optimate affirms that each man's life is naturally ordered toward the good of others. Unlike the Liberal, the Optimate can define the good and consistently assert that the individual good at least partly consists of serving the common good.

Think of a sports team. The New York Yankees are a ball club--a small but real society composed of individual players, coaches, and support personnel. Yankees society is directed toward achieving a particular common good--victory in baseball games. The individual players engage in activities such as practice, exercise, and dieting which advance each man's particular good while helping the club attain the common good of winning games. There's no contradiction between the two.

That's why Liberalism can't produce the conditions required for human flourishing in the long run. The Clown World we currently live in is the direct result of that inevitable failure.

To break through the societal dead end we've run into, we'll need a political force capable of shifting the paradigm away from the figment of absolute freedom and toward the reality of the common good.

You can make a small but significant start by withholding money from those who hate you and supporting people who are committed to your good.

Don't Give Money to People Who Hate You - Brian Niemeier
Read it now!


  1. Thank you, and Mr Stewart, for this explanation and terminology. I can see I still have some classical liberal kruft to dig out of the corners on my mind, but I agree with you in very large part.

  2. Another intention for the Rosary: the hasty conversion of libertarians.

    1. Bless you. They really need it. Lately a lot of them have dropped all pretense of human bonds and descended into petty vandalism.

  3. Liberalisms's demons are Legion, but the big three I'd put on top are freedom as an absolute as you discuss, equality as an absolute (and its stillborn: a government/legal system that feigns neutrality on serious moral issues), and its glaring consent problem.

    On another note, I've discovered an alternative to woke, nihilistic Hollywood garbage: Korean films. Check out Train to Busan. Zombies on a train which has protagonists in which you (gasp!) care whether they live or die and doesn't rely on over-the-top gore.

    Also: The Grand Heist where thieves with hearts of gold fight corruption with a wild caper. A bit silly but lots of fun.

    1. Don't forget that Train to Busan also has a pro-fatherhood message, something anathema to the Death Cult.

    2. Well said. Freedom is not absolute. There is no such thing as equality. Consent is not the sole criterion of the good.

    3. I've long appreciated Korean films. They have the innovation of Japanese film without the wooden acting, the craft of Bollywood without the gratuitous dance numbers, and the quality of Hollywood without the poz.

  4. Exactly right in that "Freedom detached from any grounding" is what we have now. And it's been enshrined in jurisprudence thanks to Anthony Kennedy and the like.

    Liberals are projecting when they say "X is a social construct." Since they have no touchstone for absolute truth, EVERYTHING is a an artificial construct, brought about by force.

    1. Kennedy basing a SCOTUS ruling on the patent absurdity that everyone is free to define his own reality would have sent the citizens in a sane nation into the streets with torches and pitchforks.

  5. My only contention here is that the death cultists are in power. Giving them the power to order society would have them confiscate our children to turn them into degenerates like the Ottoman köçeks. Don't give money to people who hate you, and don't give them power, either. It's got to come from the ground up with a restoration of noblesse oblige and the knowledge that evading justice in life is far worse than getting caught.

    I also think "democracy" needs to go on the chopping block. The idolatrous idea that voting on something first makes it moral has proven as disastrous for the 21st century as the idea that technological advancements would automatically come with moral advancements was for the 20th century. No invading army has been as cruel or tyrannical as 50% of voters +1 since the Assyrians, and nothing is quite as laughable as thinking that forcing Muslims to hold an election would turn them into Western style secular, liberal states.

    P.S. The American founders knew this, which is why the U.S. is not a democracy and a majority of votes nationwide will not get you the presidency.

    1. This line of reasoning seems to be the last line of defense for the Classical Liberal types before things finally give way.

      The mistake your making here is that the left is reactive, meaning they are waiting for the right to make the first move. They're not. The left does not need us to give them power at all, all they need from us is for us to do nothing which, ironically enough, is what you are advocating. If we do something the left will use our actions to further their goals so we must do nothing except you put yourself in a no win because if we do nothing they'll advance their own goals unimpeded and they won't care whether or not we paved the way for them - they're perfectly willing to trail blaze their own path to power.

    2. Thus, we must do nothing in the most constructively subversive manner possible: by fasting and prayer. They believe in nothing, least of all prayer and fasting, so they'll never see it coming, until the Church rises to her vocation again, and offers herself to the Father as a living sacrifice, and then the world as a sacrifice of praise.

    3. It's a quandary, that's for sure, but as long as the Death Cult has the keys to power, I'm voting to give them as little as possible. The real work is, I think, more ground level. Win people to Christ, and you cut off the cult's support. If the nation at large turns on the Death Cult, it may be possible to promote laws that encourage virtue.

    4. Scripture and history attest that God chastises His people's worst sins by setting the most loathsome possible conquerors over them.

      The way to think of America now is enemy-occupied territory. Dissidents are in a similar position to the Irish or Indians under British rule.

      The ultimate enemies are sin and Satan. Prayer, fasting, and evangelization are indispensable weapons in this fight. At the same time, rejecting all other nonviolent options out of hand means succumbing to a false binary.

      I'm here to win. I will shun no licit means to this end. Our enemies are feeble and stupid. If they beat us, it will only be because we are that much worse.

    5. Thank you for that reminder.

      I have no faith left in the legislatures or the the courts, but that doesn't mean our options have run out. We can still take the fight to the Enemy, as it were, with real hope of rescuing and preventing casualties along the way. If the Death Cult has ritual desecrations - means of damnation, one might call them - abortion is one of them. 40 Days for Life has been quietly working through prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil to end abortion in the United States. They seem to be rescuing many from despair and death: babies, parents, and even abortion workers. I think God is blessing their work, because they've grown far beyond their humble origins.

  6. Another great post.
    It's time to re-read the classics starting with Plato of course. The medievals really need to be given read again. Not just St Thomas Aquinas but also St Ramon Penyafort and other jurists of the time period.
    We also need to recover forgotten writers like early modern theorists who were grappling with this very issues of authourity and legitimacy ever since the discovery of the new world.


  7. O/T: but I was hoping Brian or one his erudite readers would know something about symbols.

    Tonight, I was out for my run. I run on a bike trail and along the trail I saw a red symbol taped to the utility poles. The symbol looked Lila combination of symbols. Or a variation on any one of them. It’s similar to a peace sign. It’s similar to the anarchy symbol. It’s also similar to the Blair Witch stick figure shape.

    It was a red circle. It had one horizontal line crossing the center point. It had one vertical line going from the center point to the top. It had two lines extending diagonally down from the center point, to the 7 and 5 o’clock points (perhaps a tad higher, between those and 8 and 4).

    It was painted on white paper and the paint was red, as if painted with a brush 1.5 inches wide or so. The paper was duct taped to a number of utility poles along a municipal bike path in my city.

    I run on that path every evening and to I guess the first time they appeared. I saw 3 on my route. It’s seems odd to me and I get a very witchcraft feel from it. But it’s outside my knowledge or experience and an internet search did not help. For all I know, it could be a local band’s dumb advertisement.

    1. It sounds like the Japanese character for the number 6.

    2. Or "Big".

    3. Sounds like a description of the inverse of the symbol on here supposedly representing light


    4. It looks almost like the ‘big’ character on a circle. That’s the closest Ivy seen to it. I wonder what the significance is.

      The suggestion that it is big or six makes me wonder about Big Hero 6 but I couldn’t find any representation of symbols from the IP that look like this.

    5. It's interesting you mention the Blair Witch stick figures, because the "big" kanji represents a man in a spread eagle position.

    6. The Blair Witch thing is the first thing that came to mind. And why I got an odd feeling from it.

  8. This is another post that again, not only will need to be re-posted in the future so that readers don’t forget it...but this post and others like it eventually need to coalesce into a book by our host that focuses on the errors of Liberalism and why it must be discarded.