MacIntyre’s excellent thesis is that we have turned the concept of dignity into something for which it was not built, and we’ve turned away from an objective account of justice which Cicero defined as “giving each his due.” The paradox is that we’ve lost both justice and dignity in the migration of meaning where dignity shifts from something socially established by familial and nobiliary bonds to something inviolably equal in all. We’ve managed to trade ancient ennobling principles for the thinnest gruel of “dignity” used to secure subjective rights in a tyrannical war of all against all.
The abuse of justice by the prosecution in the case against Kyle Rittenhouse is as good an example as one can find — whether one looks to the badgering prosecution that ends in a panic attack, or the trigger finger on that rifle aimed at jurors, we find the very gestures which reveal to us our problem: the standard which is seen has become not justice but the power to condemn.
But there’s a major problem: While it might have felt like a return to normalcy, it wasn’t. We’re not going back to normal — at least not without a hard and vicious fight.
Why not? Because the past two years have witnessed the very things that kept those stupid marches largely confined to just stupid marches: our society’s apparent decision to sacrifice liberty on the altar of fear and the triumph of timid technocrats over bold citizenry. This had been building behind the scenes, mind you, but with the excuse of COVID was it ready to be revealed.
Back in 2019, before the global shutdowns, there was a lot of internal debate within conservatism about which direction our society ought to go. Should we stick with our collective devotion to libertine individualism and cheap goods, as lawyers like David French preferred? Or should we move past the modern liberal consensus, and turn to a more involved government that tries to actively reorder society toward the higher good, as Sohrab Ahmari, Tucker Carlson, and a few of us here at The Federalist proposed?
One of the most common charges is that UATX, as it’s known to friends, is somehow a right-wing project. Wrong: The institution stands confidently in the liberal tradition. In his launch statement, UATX President Pano Kanelos decried the “illiberalism” besetting much of academia these days. The answer, he argued, is greater “freedom of inquiry and civil discourse.” That such rhetoric codes as “right-wing” doesn’t make Kanelos any less of a liberal—it only reinforces his lament for the modern university and the elite culture it has bred.
The ideological composition of the founding members and advisory board is also telling. There are neoliberals (Larry Summers, Bari Weiss), conservative liberals (Arthur Brooks, Bill McClay, Leon Kass, Niall Ferguson), libertarians and classical liberals (Tyler Cowen, Deirdre McCloskey), progressive liberals (Kathleen Stock), and others who best fit in the various interstices of these categories (Peter Boghossian, Caitlin Flanagan, Glenn Loury).
Then there is me, the only member who can be described as fully and unapologetically a non-liberal, even an anti-liberal. Why did I join UATX’s advisory board?
“Masks don’t work” is a proposition, like all propositions, that carries implicit definitions. In this case it means mask mandates don’t reduce the spread of respiratory diseases. It does not mean that a thick impenetrable rubber body suit with Jacques Cousteau-like air filtration and oxygen delivery system cannot slow infection rates.
This has to be said because there’s always some frightened ackhusally guy out there who believes he has found a loophole in the first proposition, and so can continue to demand all must wear flimsy paper, plastic, and cloth patches on their chins so as to quell ackshually’s fears.
Now that that’s out of the way, there are several more papers of interest, showing again what we have known for a century. Masks don’t work. Take them off and breathe free.