Burke?

The most revealing things in this election are what Theresa May says when she doesn’t have to and what Jeremy Corbyn refuses to say. There was no need for Theresa May to make the declaration she made in the Tory Manifesto. She clearly feels an ideological imperative to shift the Conservative Party away from Thatcherite Whiggery and back towards Anglican Toryism. This is not pleasing to a great many in her party and while she might have felt the need to change the mood music somewhat in order to appropriate Brexit, the theoretical declarations carry no obvious political advantage and plenty of risk. So perhaps she believes them to be true.

The problem is of course that Anglican Toryism is incoherent. Pragmatic paternalistic traditionalism backing Francophile would-be absolutism to avoid non-conformist anarchy. The traditionalism is more edifying in many ways than the Francophile would-be absolutism but the problem is that many of the goods the Whigs purport to defend are key to the tradition the Tories seek to preserve. The one thing James II was right about is the Creed (and its rights) which is the only principle truly capable of the integral reconciliation of authority and liberty. Acton’s claim that St Thomas was the ‘first Whig’ is offensive nonsense. Samuel Jonson was much closer to the mark (cf. Libertas §14). Nevertheless, if the Steward were to read his Summa (and De Regno) with more attention then what is true in Whiggery might be extracted and what is false in Toryism eliminated and the King could come back over the water. In spirit anyway (but who knows…).

Which is an obscure way of saying that the the state is not a necessary evil but a system of order willed by God and inherent to human nature with a vital role, indeed the vital role, in achieving man’s natural good. However, the natural good for man cannot be attained in this order of providence without man’s supernatural good. Consequently, there being no habitual grace outside the Catholic Church, a state with takes a proactive role in solving society’s ills outside the Church will simply become the first and most terrible of those ills.

The spontaneous organic structures of human society can only develop (and so indicate by their natural limitations the areas of the state’s proper activity) when the law of man’s nature is generally observed and this is impossible without habitual grace. This, incidentally, is why some conservative Catholics irritated at the (in the absence of heroic sanctity) multigenerational project of converting an entire society and looking to some dynasty or strong-man to do the job for them, are drawn to implicitism. They would do better to pursue heroic sanctity. The bloated state that seeks to remedy society’s ills without grace triggers a withering away of those organic structures that have been able to take root in the poor soil of fallen nature and so it, and its task, grows until nothing else remains.

Which brings us neatly to Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn rightly perceives that the state as it is concretely organised everywhere in the world is a system of oppression and exploitation. (Indeed, even a truly Catholic state would remain a system of oppression and exploitation insofar as its subjects allowed themselves to fall into mortal sin). He perceives that every expansion of the state in order to remedy the ills of man (which he wrongly supposes arise from this oppression and exploitation) creates inequities and further disorders. He thus desires the seizure of the state by the oppressed and exploited, or rather by their enlightened representatives, and its expansion until the distinction between society and the state is abolished. The Irish Nationalist and Islamismist are, for Corbyn, just the incoherent mouthpieces of the oppressed and exploited, the unenlightened foot soldiers whose true interests can only be understood and articulated by Jeremy, John and Diane (who are none-the-less grateful for the pawns’ sacrifice).

They correctly recognise that those who now hold onto the organs of power would never relinquish them without violent resistance and (falsely imagining that this civil brigandage is the essential curse of humanity) they suppose their violent acquisition of them will inaugurate utopia. They seek the overthrow of the United Kingdom and its replacement by a peoples’ republic and are willing to ally themselves with each and anyone who shares the first of those goals.

Their cynicism about the state is entirely accurate their error lies in their atheism and their situating of the ultimate malady in the macrocosm instead of the microcosm. The essential curse of humanity is laid upon the heart of each individual and the latrocinium is merely its inevitable consequence and expression. It must be lifted one soul at a time. The use of any and all means to obtain the levers of power by the vanguard of the oppressed will only redouble the curse and create an even more terrible leviathan, as history has shown.

One of the great paradoxical advantages of the Whig settlement is that it establishes the principle that theological truth determines legitimate rule. The creed in question is false but the principle has guarded the United Kingdom against the scourge of laicism. Ultimately it is a principle that makes sense only in the light of the Catholic Faith as Burke himself, perhaps, came to realise before his death. So, in the end, better Burke Bungled than a Marxism which however insightful is never lite.

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