Private Scruples, Public Squalor

For all its pomp and pageantry, for all its history and nobility, maybe the greatest feature of hereditary monarchy was completely unromantic. All the backstabbing, fratricide, and adultery which were and are part and parcel of all political strife were once quarantined to a small group of elites. Monarchy restrained the inherent squalor of politics to a fairly small class, liberating a great bulk of people from having anything to do with such trash.

Men in the era of kings were by and large more moral than men of our day. Yet they could love their personally wicked kings with such a love that even the most upstanding man does not garner in a republic. This is surely owing to the nature of the duties themselves. All earthly kings necessarily stand in (poor) comparison to the King of all creation. In contrast, presidents, governors, prime ministers are men of our own creation. Kings must always fall short of ideal justice and wisdom. In a democracy, ideals themselves are seemingly the creation of the people, and the people the ultimate judge of whether leaders are faithful to them.

One of the most disgusting effects of liberal democracy is the belief that our moral judgments of private matters should have weight in assessing public officials. This was on display the during the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh. It was also on display with regards to the doomed Alabama Senate candidate, and bane of the sodomite, Roy Moore.

It was no surprise to see our propaganda class and other leftists apoplectic over the sexual assault allegations leveled against both men. It is another thing to see Christian men and women of goodwill agonizing over the same ultimately fatuous morality plays. Particular facts aside, the problem posed by Kavanaugh and Moore is simple. How can moral men support and vote for immoral men?

Off the bat, there are two things worthy of note:

  1. If Kavanaugh and Moore were purely private men, it would be morally egregious not to forgive them for their past transgressions. All men of goodwill would privately disdain judging a man’s moral character based on (even serious) actions committed four decades ago.
  2. No one has made a convincing argument that Kavanaugh or Moore’s alleged misbehavior affected the performance of their public duties. It is one thing to claim that unscrupulous private behavior is a bellwether of public duplicity (as may be the case with, say, a philandering real estate mogul running for office). But no one has made this claim convincingly about Kavanaugh or Moore. Their records are thorough and speak for themselves

Rejection of Kavanaugh and Moore arrives at an astounding result. Upright people find themselves acting towards a public official in a way they would not act towards a private man, all to the detriment of their own interests. I know of almost no Christian who would be content to judge a middle-aged man based on his high school improprieties, but I know quite a few Christians who would use a man’s high school improprieties to keep in place a judicial decision used to murder millions of babies. It would be difficult to find a better example of Christians showing the wisdom of doves and the gentleness of serpents. I repeat, a truly astounding result.

This disordered result arises from a disordered act: that of scrupulosity, i.e. an obsession over right-acting which ultimately weakens or debilitates one’s moral sense. Scrupulosity is endemic in democratic republics. For the modern democrat seemingly cannot abide by his role as elector. The democrat must assert his ability to say what true morality is, and he will abstain from supporting any man who doesn’t live up to this. True morality, that standard against which we will be judged on the last day, is doing what we must in the situations we find ourselves in. Democratic man seems to feel the need to go beyond this.

Let’s take a harder example of our presiden.: Voters who fundamentally agreed that Americans faced a “Flight 93 election,” but who regardless “couldn’t vote for” Trump because of his character, were behaving like fools. They behaved as if their vote was determining whose names would be written in the Book of Redemption. This attitude was egotistical hogwash. They wanted a moral situation besides the one they actually faced, and in response failed to do what they actually should have done in the situation at hand. It would’ve been one thing if a voter thought Trump would fail to appoint men like Kavanaugh to the bench. But absent this, bogus morality, if generally followed, would have left us without the likely prospect of overturning the abhorrent Roe.

Accordingly, even if we took every allegation against Kavanaugh seriously (of course, they were not serious), it would not warrant opposing his nomination. If within his heart Kavanaugh is a wicked slobbering rapist who has managed to evade the law for four decades, then there is not much that can be done beyond praying for him and hoping for his conversion. No one knows what is in this Black Kavanaugh’s heart, and no one knows what earthly means could convert him. Our knowledge of him is left to his outward show, and this includes his sterling judicial record. In contrast to those judgments we make of men’s hearts, we have every right to judge public officials based on their public records. In this capacity, Kavanaugh returns as good as gold.

Scrupulosity is tinged with not little bit of pride, of course. It feels good for the average man to be able to condemn his rulers. Such empty and ultimately inimical moralizing seems to be necessary for republican government. After all, English republicanism was founded on the pillage of the Church and the murder of a king. The notion that the public officials who usurped the thrones of Church and State were advanced in morals versus their predecessors allowed Puritans the delusion that their crimes ultimately served a worthy end, playing into the high ideas the Puritans had of themselves.

Nor is republican scrupulosity a mere historical artifact. There are no material interests to check the power of our ruling class. Ancient kings had to beware they did not lose the support of nobles. Nobles had to beware they did not lose the support of their peasants, lest they lose their own source of wealth and authority. Medieval man was not so dependent on the individual characteristics of those who ruled over him because he had shared and complementary interests with his masters.

In modern times, our masters are lawyers and bureaucrats, and always have an incentive to exploit us. The same lawyers populate every branch of government, towards which the same class of usurers and thieves apply similar pressure. The artificial “checks and balances” of our system can only be enforced by those trustworthy enough to enforce them. Hence the near obsession with the morals of our officials.

There is something uniquely terrible about this recent spate of moral outrages leveled against Judge Kavanaugh. We no longer have a proper republican government, after all. Modern man is now completely beholden to technocrats. Even the most basic principles of republican government—the charade of “checks and balances”—has broken down so that no political or legal claim has any weight against the usurpers of the system. Almost every momentous court decision of the past 60 years has been illegal, and adds proof that the system is irredeemably broken. Among a historically free people, this leaves two options: revolution, in which case man would attempt to reclaim his political freedom, or pointless moralizing. Of course, we know which one he has picked.

The average Christian man has no control over his substantive interests. The collapse of private sector unions has stripped him of any freedom over his work life; civil rights laws control the makeup of his neighborhood; the lives of him and his children are run by bureaucrats. Modern man has no legal protection against divorce, but he does have a way to strike against divorcees. He has little functional power to keep his children away from pornography, but he does have a way to punish a sitting president who slept with porn stars.

Scrupulosity is against his interests, but modern man has so little real say over his interests that it does not much matter. It is phony morality, but against the technostate, a man’s moral autonomy is the only autonomy he has left.

The ruling class has great incentive to stimulate feckless idealism. No liberal politician is serious about the “me too” movement. But the solipsism that movement has fostered keeps voters occupied, and the feelings it engenders are enough to blind citizens to the fact that sexual improprieties are an inevitable result of our present material conditions.

The Kavanaugh hearings have been the greatest example of this delusion. “Morality” is supposed to guide our feelings on Kavanaugh’s alleged improprieties, but not go so far as to condemn the murder of children—which is really what the hearings were all about. The hearings offered the spectacle of a Stalinist show trial, inflating men’s egos and deterring them from actually engaging in moral actions in the public sphere. They degrade both his morality and his perception of his interests.

No matter. Citizens of a liberal democracy require more than bread and circuses. They need the high-minded consolation of having condemned the circuses (even while they drain all the money for bread). There seems to be no material degradation which man cannot endure so long as he is able to find a way to feel high-minded about it. The high-mindedness necessary to keep our republic functioning has, after that republic’s collapse, increased our ambivalence towards our subjugation.

Yet after all this, Kavanaugh got the job. Men of goodwill were not fooled, and scrupulous panic did not deny us the good result. Still, who can be without a fear of the next attempt to pit scruples against real morality? There is no perfect guard against this. There is a partial remedy to this. One which flies in the face of the phony moralizers and remedies some of the harm they have already done. This rehabilitates one man and lends an iota of legitimacy to our institutions, which will drive the left so insane they will never try a moral offensive again.

That remedy: Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore.


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