Liberal Fascism, Islamism and the 21st century
Hugh Hewitt interviews Jonah Goldberg about his book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History Of The American Left From Mussolini To The Politics Of Meaning. Hewitt goes over the evolution of liberalism from its impeccable fascist pedigree with Goldberg, a kind of spoiler of the book. But what's really interesting was this exchange:
HH: And you know, it’s the same temptation over and over again, and it’s one abroad in the land right now, which is why I want to pause on this, which is Rousseau believed that man was good, you know, that the state came along, or that society came along and screwed things up, but that actually, that men were innately good. And that’s simply not a conservative view, Jonah Goldberg. It’s anti-conservative. It’s also anti-theology in most senses.
JG: Right. I mean, I think the fundamental difference, the difference that defines the difference between American, Anglo-American conservatives and European welfare states, leftists or liberals, is Locke versus Rousseau. Every philosophical argument boils down to John Locke versus Jacques Rousseau.
JG: Rousseau says the government is there, that our rights come from the government, that come from the collective. Locke says our rights come from God, and that we only create a government to protect our interests. The Rousseauian says you can make a religion out of society and politics, and the Lockean says no, religion is a separate sphere from politics. And that is the defining distinction between the two, and I think that distinction also runs through the human heart, that we all have a Rousseauian temptation in us. And it’s the job of conservatives to remind people that the Lockean in us needs to win.
This exchange captures the link between the 20th century struggle against Communism and Fascism and the 21st century's epic battle against radical Islamism. The key difference between those ideologies and the Lockean view is where they put God -- or if you prefer Ultimate Legitimacy -- in relation to society. Both liberal fascism and Islamic fundamentalism put God on earth; both are theocracies in the sense they believe that God actually rules temporally. In the first case the Deity takes the form of an enlightened vanguard; in the second case Allah rules through the Caliphate via Sharia law.
But the price of putting God on earth is dragging Him through the mud of politics. If one truly believes that God looks like Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama one eventually comes to the view that the Almighty isn't everything He's cracked up to be. By contrast, locating God outside of politics is, to use a current buzzword, "de-weaponizing" the numinous; removing what is too great and awesome for our complete understanding from the sphere of political manipulation.
That doesn't mean the Lockeans remove God from the Universe. On the contrary they keep him there. But when God is invoked, it is always as our understanding of Him rather than as God Himself. In other words human organization can never attain to the sanctity of the Koran or the Communist Manifesto. It never becomes a divine instituion. It is only ever a government -- by the people, of the people and for the people.
And only if we keep it so shall it never perish from the earth. The words "My Kingdom is not of this world" preserves both God's Kingdom and our freedom. We may come to God, through the perils of life and danger of damnation. But we arrive before Him as free beings. Sans the muttawa and sans the scourge of political coercion.