Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Now Peggy Noonan Feels Santorum’s Love

Noonan joins her follow moderately Republican columnist Brooks in singling out the Pennsylvania senator as the kind of person the senate needs.

Discussions - 15 Comments

The Santorum love-fest at NLT needs to stop. Santorum should not be supported by anyone, be they Republican or Democrat.

The man is entirely against individualism and the pursuit of happiness. He said

"This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone.

It’s unbelievable that a man like Santorum, who believes in an active, big government that severly limits the rights of individuals, gets so much praise here at NLT. Santorum is the kind of Republican that is ruining the party.

Well, we know Santorum is not a libertarian! Still, the list embedded in the quotation is an interesting one.

Wasn’t this really the argument put forth by George Will in Statecraft as Soulcraft, oh so long ago? That made a big impression on me, though I’m sure the ideas therein weren’t new.

I noticed a steady increase in support from that time of people willing to admit that yes we can and DO legislate morality.

Yes it sounds *authoritarian* and could lead to *scary* totalitarianism, I suppose. But at the same time I believe that we have the right to try to influence the type of society we live in.

I refuse to abandon the field to those who will do ANYTHING for their pleasure and to alleviate their subsequent guilt over it. Remember the end to the film Chinatown, when the old publisher says men will do anything if they think they can get away with it.

cassandra - I agree, and yes that’s how I remember Will’s book. Our constitution is not neutral. It was intended to encourage one form of life over others. Within its normative framework, we find a range of possibilities, but not all possibilities, and certainly not absolute freedom (which is how Santorum interprets "autonomy"). Traditional conservatives and traditional liberals can agree on that much, if not on all of Santorum’s views. I wonder if, on reflection, Interested also agrees.

I agree that a little governmental influence is a good thing. At the same time, I take issue with the Senator stating that Conservatives do notbelieve government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low.

The current amount of government intrusion into our private lives is unacceptable. That doesn’t matter to Santorum, since he doesn’t believe in a right, implied or otherwise, of privacy.


It doesn’t just sound authoritarian. It is.

Yes, our constitution was intended to encourage one form of society. A society where an individual’s rights are limited only where they infringe upon those of other people. Unfortunately, it looks as though I am one of the stubborn few who still believe that.

On a different note, thank God for the bill of rights. I can only imagine what our country would look like if Hamilton and the Federalists had got their way.


I think the old libertarian/liberal (old variety) saying that one may exercise his rights until infringing on the rights of others is so broad and vague to be pointless.

It sounds good in the abstract, until one realizes that almost every action has a small degree of harm. I imagine many libertarians would disagree with a smoking ban, yet 2nd hand smoke has some harm, so it would fall under your saying.

In order for the saying to have any meaning we have to determine what harm is in reference to its magnitude. I do not believe anyone has tried to do this, but it would be very interesting. All it would mean is that no right is absolute, no absolute right to do something (provided its harm was large enough) and no absolute right to not be harmed (provided the harm was small enough).

The radical Left, through their political incarnation, the Democrat party has repeatedly tried to shape the contours of American public AND private life. Pretending that the Left hasn’t done immeasurable damage to the fabric of the nation isn’t going to cut it. Santorum realizes that we need some governmental involvement in our attempts to, resorting to a cliche, "turn back the clock."

Here is a for instance. When Bill Clinton disgraced the White House, his Justice Department didn’t bring a single, not one indictment on obscenity violations. Thus, America’s Porn industry experienced a flourishing without precedent in our society. Porn went from a very marginal pursuit, to something mainstreamed, something that can be found in just about every major hotel chain in every major American city. Did the American people overturn existing obscenity laws through their elected representatives, was there some widespread public demand that porn be decriminalized? Of course not. Nonetheless, Clinton rammed an entire new attitude towards porn down America’s throat. In sheer dollar terms, Porn is now larger than America’s pastime, football, and is larger than hockey, basketball, baseball and football COMBINED. And that’s all happened, within a decade. There were reasons why the porn people lauded Clinton as the President most favourable to their "industry."

Is that a positive development, is that a indicator of increased mental health throughout America. Supposedly, psychologists now say that porn addictions is one of the foremost problems they have to deal with. Just another dubious gift from the Left to the United States.

Thus proposals that the government adopt a strict neutrality towards values, during a time in our history when values and morals are rapidly unraveling, is profoundly unwise. Government was part of the problem, and thus government is going to need to be part of the solution. We need a crackdown on crimes that many believe to be nothing more than lifestyle "choices." Such as ecstasy, drugs, pornography and prostitution, we need a crackdown on the sex slave trade. We need our government funding documentaries about how brutal that sex slave trade is, how dehumanizing it is, and how suggestions that porn and prostitution are "victimless crimes" are nothing more than a sick joke. We need a reassertion of those values, Judeo-Christian, by the government. And we need our government to identify and maintain America as a Judeo-Christian nation, and that needs to be reflected in our immigration laws, and who we grant visas to. Thus Central and South Americans will be welcomed because they hale from Christian cultures, Indians will be welcomed because they hale from a non-violent culture, and a culture and society that was allied to Great Britain, Australia and the United States during the Great War, and the Second World War. But immigrants originating from the cosmology of islam, must find the door shut in their face. We must make it clear that they are not welcome, and that our government is going to maintain the religious tone of the nation.

The times, "they are a changing."

Thank you all for the (so far) civil discourse.


An increase of porn supply has resulted in more addictions...So what? Why should I care? Unless your argument is that somehow these addictions are lessening the respect people have for the Constitution and for our laws, why does it matter?

Of course opening our society to more choices (legalization of drugs, etc.) could lead to potentially more vices, but I don’t see a problem with it.

If you’re worried about temptation to our high moral standards, why not go all-out? Ban fatty foods, slutty clothing, contact sports, and such.

I’m not claiming our government should not promote values. I only argue that these values should be the proper respect of individual rights.

What’s "the fabric of our nation?" It’s not Christianity. It’s an understanding and belief in the principles of the Declaration and Constitution.


I agree that the hardest thing to recognize is where your rights interfere with mine. In an ideal situation, we’d have a wise judicial branch to deal with problems.

Well that’s a 64,000 thousand dollar question: "what effect does this type of behavior have upon respect for American law, and Constitutional order?" But I think you’ve taken a very narrow view by asking that specific question, and suggesting that THAT question is the be all and end all of the discussion. Is the question merely what impact private pathologies have upon the observance of law? I’m not sure that’s the case. A more penetrating question might be how long before law reflects widespread private pathologies. Actually Thomas Aquinas writes upon this very subject, you might want to go check out what he has to offer on the subject.

But I didn’t really want to get lured into this thread, because these are the types of questions that one needs to write upon at some length, and develop at length. I mean the questions you posed to me would require a small essay to even roughly answer. Yeesh!

Which work by Aquinas?

I agree with you Steve...but you are simply defering the question...if rights are vague then determining what harm is in reference to its magnitude is also vague. That is you are either going to end up with an equilibrium that swings too far in one direction or the other...and that is what we already have with respect to understanding rights. The question of magnitude will always be relative and are going to have a living constitution to accompany such an understanding. Your epistemic foundation/tool/ontological structure for determining magnitude is going to end up shaping what is and is not a essence Libertarianism is just an ontological structure that assigns low magnitude to harm...that is you are going to require a legislating morality even from within your positive structure. To legistlate is to legistlate set down a dominant idea as foundational. So what is the dominant idea...can there be a dominant idea that is positive...that is not normatively biased from the get go...or more importantly can we all agree on a standard for measuring the magnitude of harm and by extension what is and is not a right? If we can’t all agree then we will find that claims such as this will abound..."the Democrat party has repeatedly tried to shape the contours of American public AND private life." A democrat would no doubt say the same about republicans...see Fung... And Cassandra says this "But at the same time I believe that we have the right to try to influence the type of society we live in." She also says this "I noticed a steady increase in support from that time of people willing to admit that yes we can and DO legislate morality." So both Democrats and Republicans and Libertarians and X, Y and Z and the ideology du jour are all trying to shape society...and they all do...and what we end up with as far as rights go depends upon the foundational idea that finds the most adherents. And if this is the truth about how things work and how plastic rights really are then whoever is in power will do the best they can to guard against interference from foreign cosmologies... a la Dan who says this "But immigrants originating from the cosmology of islam, must find the door shut in their face. We must make it clear that they are not welcome, and that our government is going to maintain the religious tone of the nation." So for a whole host of reasons that I have enumerated indirectly elsewhere I prefer the simple conceptualization of rights that is roughly congruent with interested despite its apparent broadness, and vagueness.

Perhaps Santorum and those like him are just being realistic. We have this monstrous government, and no one in power, neither elected nor appointed, seems at all inclined to divest the power of this administrative machine. Perhaps it is merely realistic to say that what matters at this point is who you put in charge of administration and that someone with traditional conservative social values is preferable. Truly I think I would prefer a traditional Christian government on the fascist model of mostly private ownership of the means of production, with government control. Such a government seems to me to be more likely merely authoritarian and not totalitarian. Consider all of the options to which we would prefer it. Think, from communism to sharia and it might come to look good.

It makes me feel sick just to write that. Yet it seems plain that the public at large desires a government that controls, protects from every perceived harm, and increasingly manages us. As we have become more democratic, adjusting our Constitution in the direction of democracy, we have also elected to increase government. Isn’t it merely realistic to accept that this is where democracy has brought us?

Interested, the bill of rights has come to seem a flimsy hedge. You never know what a legislating court, in its wisdom, might make of what is in there.

Dan, It is the rare place in America where people are any longer concerned with "understanding and belief in the principles of the Declaration and Constitution." This is one place, which is why I love to come to read and write here.

I think Christianity IS part of our foundation. So, if we have no choice but a large and administrative government, I would prefer a Santorum running things, and for those reasons Noonan offers as to why she likes him.

Interested, you asked which work by Aquinas, and I can’t recall the specific, I just recall studying the topic, it was some time ago. He was writing about the problem caused by the passage of laws that the citizenry does not respect, and frequently breaks. He wrote that the state quickly falls into disrepute with the citizenry, and that lack of respect for the state becomes a problem.

Must have been either the Summa Theologica, or the Summa Contra, I don’t think we studied any of his other works.

But the fault lines between Conservatives and Libertarians usually isn’t something I comment on. But I do think that Libertarians are little too enamored of their theoretical abstractions. Man is more than the sum of his economic calculations, and a state can be more than the arbiter of conflicting faction. At least that was the founder’s view of this new experiment in ordered liberty. We were intended to be an "empire" of liberty, where our power would naturally grow because our society would reflect the better angels within man’s nature. Sure our founders were wise enough to make provision against faction, against ambition and greed, against the populace making a run on the Exchequer, {through the Senate, where only a third are up for election at any one time, and especially through the Electoral College}. Our founders would probably be shocked and scandalized by the arguments of the modern libertarians.

They did not scoff at morality, nor did they mock religious belief, nor did they mock organized religion. They had suffered too much in the struggle for our independence, and seen too many men cry out to God, seen too many family members and neighbors find solace in religious belief due to the vast suffering caused by the war.

Here is a for instance, you suggested that the state should only act in support of "individual rights." What of a parent’s right to raise a kid in an atmosphere that isn’t saturated by sexual immorality, what of a parent’s right to turn on the Super Bowl and not have their kid watch some tawdry peep show. What of a parent’s right to walk the streets of any bit city, come up to a newspaper vendor on a corner, and not have vast amounts of porn prominently featured for anyone to look at who might walk by. I don’t know about where you live, but porn is prominently featured on many a street corner in Philly. I remember once I took a nephew to see the USAF Thunderbirds at Atlantic City, and I found a parking spot, and pulled in. We get out, and start walking towards the beach, where the show takes goes on. And what do we pass when we turn the corner, a whole block of half-naked women with some of the largest breasts in human history, again, all prominently displayed. Damn near knocked my eyes out, one can only speculate upon the effect on youth.

Now, those comments are only porn, but they could be made on many another subject as well.

Immigration for instance. Europe has refused to take account of the religiosity or culture of the millions of immigrants who’ve hit their shore since the 70’s. They’ve followed a strict libertarian line upon such things, making a strict economic calculation of the supposed windfall effect that such human capital would have upon their society. A Conservative would have tossed the economic prism, and zeroed in on jihad, islam, and a long track record, 1,300 hundred years worth to be precise, of violence, of supremacism, of a cast system.

Now of the two vying approaches towards islamic immigration to Europe, which of the two, Conservative or Libertarian, captured better the essence, the gist of the problem.

Seems to me a no-brainer, the multicultural Left and the Libertarian right has led Europe up the gallows, and Mark Steyn writes that Europe isn’t going to find a way off the gallows other than by taking the swift drop, with the sharp tug at the throat.

Sorry I couldn’t be more specific about Aquinas, perhaps one of the authors at NLT could chime in on that topic. I’m sure Lawler knows a thing or two.

I think these things that you are writing about are a subtle and unmentioned reason why people have despaired of Republicans in this election. There was some hope, six years ago, and some promise, too, I think, that electing a Republican, heck, a whole mess of Republicans, would change those social things you decry. It surely did not happen. I’m not sure that politics can have much effect on the culture. It seems to go all the other way around. It is such a conundrum in a free society, this problem of the current popular culture. It seems as if we are drowning in it, preoccupied with it, so that threat like jihad seems a distraction to those so immersed.

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