My take on: Why “Liberalism” Needs Natural Law
The issue as I take it with liberalism is not the radical autonomy as the extreme embodiment of liberalism, but the problem of liberty as the object of political action.
“The only liberty that is valuable is a liberty connected with order; that not only exists along with order and virtue, but which cannot exist at all without them. It inheres in good and steady government, as in its substance and vital principle.”
In this sense, liberty connected to order is restriction, constraint and limit. There may be a meaning of the term liberty that is coherent, but this only exposes the ambiguity of using the term in the first place. Liberty rather often takes on a question begging way of establishing what restrictions ought to be put into place.
Liberal conservatism continues to submit to this ambiguity in embracing some notion of liberty. Conservatives used to realize that Christianity was superior to other religions and necessary for good society with other religions tolerated, but restricted in their ostensible opposition or interference with Christianity. This is now taken as illiberal nonsense and in the name of a question begging liberty an order is imposed which restricts, constrains and undermines Christianity’s objective superiority and goodness for society. Similarly, conservatives used to believe murdering children was something absolutely to be restricted, however, in the name of liberty even conservatives now embrace that women may murder their children if their conception was sufficiently violent.
It is odd that conservatives do not realize that embracing virtue and the natural law have devastating consequences for liberalism. On the contrary, virtue and natural law become a nice polite conservative way of accepting unprincipled exceptions and question begging. “Look we aren’t embracing ‘radical autonomy’, that’s a straw man. We’re talking about virtue, natural law and order, but not that absurd illiberal virtue. Natural law opposes abortion (except in cases of rape, incest or some other unprincipled exception), but it has nothing to say about the proper ordering of religion, speech, markets, etc., or at least in a way that displeases me.” However, by a consistent natural law, error has no just claim to authority and while it may be tolerated for the common good, it has no claim to be owed empowerment.