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  • “Tillman on Values and Dignity”

    Posted by Jonathan on July 7th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman (posting also at The New Reform Club):

    I think many do not quite follow Justice Thomas.
    This might help.
    Seth

    The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.

    Justice Thomas in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ____, at *17 (2015) (dissenting) [pdf]

    ——————————

    Mrs Thatcher came only twice [to the Conservative Philosophy Group], once as prime minister. That was the occasion for a notable non-meeting of minds. Edward Norman (then Dean of Peterhouse) had attempted to mount a Christian argument for nuclear weapons. The discussion moved on to ‘Western values’. Mrs Thatcher said (in effect) that Norman had shown that the Bomb was necessary for the defence of our values. [Enoch] Powell: ‘No, we do not fight for values. I would fight for this country even if it had a communist government.’ Thatcher (it was just before the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands): ‘Nonsense, Enoch. If I send British troops abroad, it will be to defend our values.’ ‘No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed.’ Mrs Thatcher looked utterly baffled. She had just been presented with the difference between Toryism and American Republicanism. (Mr Blair would have been equally baffled.)

    The Right Honourable Enoch Powell quoted in John Casey, The revival of Tory philosophy, The Spectator, March 17, 2007 (emphasis added)

     

    10 Responses to ““Tillman on Values and Dignity””

    1. Whitehall Says:

      Please explain further. Which speaker held Tory values and which held American Republican values?

      I’m confused.

    2. Seth Tillman Says:

      Thatcher was an (American) small-r republican.

      Enoch Powell was a Tory.

      I hope that helps.

      Seth

    3. dearieme Says:

      It seems to me that Powell was right. She fought to repel an invader of British territory, who would have oppressed a British population and suppressed their British customs and way of life. (She also fought to make sure that nobody else decided Britain was a patsy that could be attacked with impunity.) Talk of “values” is usually highfaluting hooey. With Mrs T the distinction probably didn’t matter much since her values were coincident with her interpretation of “British customs and way of life”. Powell’s point was that even if Britain had been under a dictatorship, and the Argentinian regime had been constitutional and liberal (British sense), rather than a bunch of violent fascists, he’d have fought. (It would be interesting to know why he would have fought in these circs.)

      It might be useful to compare her essentially defensive strategy with Tony Blair’s delight in aggressive warfare, especially if no vital British interest was involved.

    4. dearieme Says:

      On further thought: if Powell thought that you couldn’t fight for “values” he would presumably agree that you can’t fight “terrorism”. He’d have been right too; wars for or against abstractions don’t make much sense. I imagine that in The War he thought he wasn’t fighting Nazism but rather invasion-happy Germans and Japanese.

    5. ErisGuy Says:

      had attempted to mount a Christian argument for nuclear weapons

      Hilarious. The existence, creation, and use of such weapons is no different than the existence, creation, and use of any other weapon.

      I imagine that in The War he thought he wasn’t fighting Nazism but rather invasion-happy Germans and Japanese.

      We can’t ask him, but there is an intermediate position: while values are transcendental, to act in this world they must be incarnated. Germans incarnated them, but we fight Germans, not Nazism. (Lukacs, loosely interpreted.)

      Or perhaps Powell meant: my people, right or wrong, but may they always be in the right. In some ways, one doesn’t have a choice. In Sophie’s Choice, Sophie’s father was a Polish nazi who thought he’d be spared (IIRC) the German nazi’s plan for Poles. Obama is learning this lesson, or would, were he capable of learning. America’s haters hate America even though America’s governing elite hates America.

    6. Mike K Says:

      The “values” in question are Bourgeois values and they are under attack everywhere. Small r Republicans are trying to further libertarian values which are almost the same.

    7. Grurray Says:

      “And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.”

      Good thing to keep in mind now that the government has redefined marriage from a sacrament or covenant to a legal sanctioning of designated beneficiaries.

    8. Rich Rostrom Says:

      I’m not sure what Thomas means by inalienable dignity.

      During the Great Cultural Revolution, Mao’s minions held “self-criticism” sessions in which victims were required to denounce their own failures to live up to the latest definition of Mao-Communist rigor, and to beg forgiveness from the assembled group. Only the most abject grovelling was accepted. Furthermore, everyone in the group was expected to join in the denunciation of each victim (even family members), on pain of a similar fate. Outright defiance was punished with beatings, imprisonment, labor camps, or execution.

      Almost everyone submitted. I don’t see how one can do that and retain dignity.

    9. Texan99 Says:

      I don’t see how you get the “values” out of the equation. “My country right or wrong” is a value. The idea that you’d risk your individual life to save your country, because the country is more important than your parochial selfish interests, is a value. We’re always going to have to choose between that value and, say, the value that tells us we might have to oppose our own country because it was clearly in the wrong–the Nuremberg dilemma.

    10. vxxc2014 Says:

      ErisGuy is correct.

      “The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.”

      The Government can most assuredly take dignity away because for tens of millions it already has.

      That is one of the most notable idiotic statements ever, he should remember it if he’s ever arrested.
      For anything.