The One Thing We Agree On

This either represents great progress… or it doesn’t. One thing that the Left and the Right seem to agree on is that the rule of law, the political community and its institutions, are basically nothing, and that all that matters is the individual and how other individuals treat them morally. (I could cite countless pieces of evidence in favor of this, but one of them is the blitheness with which Republicans are dismissive about the constitutional right to citizenship through birth, and the blitheness with which Democrats are dismissive of lack of citizenship through naturalization… but today I’m thinking of course about Kim Davis). Of course no one can agree on what morality requires, which is a slight inconvenience… but for the time being it seems sufficient to seize control of the State and impose one’s moral beliefs on those around one. Show me which major political party is not committed to that in principle and in fact, while at the same time being utterly dismissive of the very idea of the rule of law.

The idea of the rule of law obviously means nothing to people; the idea of citizenship obviously means nothing to people. Well, no worries. All we have to do is make sure all of humanity (yes, all: since citizenship means nothing, there’s no reason why either rights or duties stop at the border–“we” [whoever has the power to do so] must “care” for all of humanity, and at the same time demand that all of humanity behaves properly by “our” lights, and obeys the correct morality, as discovered by… well, we’re working on that.

The fundamental truth on which our style of political community is based on is not that there is no objectively correct morality, but that there is no prospect of everyone in a community agreeing on what its content is… and that in the name of peaceful relationship, we impose on ourselves peaceful means of conflict resolution which do not require this agreement. Unfortunately, not only do we not agree on even that, but most people seem to be unaware of the very idea–it’s something our ancestors came up with from which we benefit but which we have forgotten about. Another way of putting this is, we are eating our political capital, our political seed grain, and will someday reap an awful harvest as a result. In the meantime, enjoy your dinner.

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