Liberty, Prudence, Imperfection, and Law
Nomocracy In Politics is a new web magazine dedicated to exploring Liberty, Prudence, Imperfection, and Law. These core themes will be examined within the subject areas of Politics, Law, and History. Here we hope to make a unique contribution because few social-political-legal websites now specifically focus on all such themes in tandem. Thus, we will strive to address many topics that would otherwise be left insufficiently examined. Our focus on the above themes is elaborated below.
Law is a primary theme of the site. A political order marked by the rule of law is a necessary condition for liberty. The freedom of individuals and communities, vis-à-vis one another and vis-à-vis the government, is significantly enhanced when intervening processes and procedures govern the intercourse of such parties. Even more, a government that is not constrained by tentacles of elaborate processes and procedures is one that is left untethered to commit mischief against the citizens and communities that it putatively serves. Furthermore, we are guided by Oakeshott’s insight, which has also been incorporated by American thinkers such as M.E. Bradford and George W. Carey, that nomocracy (a polity ordered primarily by the rule of law and NOT one constitutionally committed to apriori ideals and normative ends) should be the guiding criteria for evaluating political order.
Here law and nomocracy function to protect human Liberty, which we consider primarily in terms of the negative freedom of individuals and groups within a political order. Such freedom is often conceptualized in terms of individual rights and a healthy respect for protecting citizens’ freedoms and realms of privacy. This seems especially important given the ever growing panopticon character of today’s nation-state governments. Nevertheless, such negative liberty should also be conceived as the rights (in varying degrees) of human communities within a political order especially vis-à-vis the highest level of government in a given constitutional system. These groups, themselves, can vary significantly in their degree of rightful political autonomy: from those that lack law-making discretion to those that are rightful sovereign entities, even though they may function within a larger political order (e.g., a federation of sovereign states). Guarding the liberty of such sovereign political communities against the centralizing tendencies of the federal-level government is a very important manifestation of protecting valuable liberty.
Even with nomocracy, law, and the protection of liberty, however, the human political order will inevitably be marked by Imperfection. This includes the existence of various tragic implications that, although not intended, often must be tolerated to avoid even more unacceptable tyrannical implications for the political order as a whole. Recognizing this, braces one to avoid gnostic fancies about realizing an ideological vision of perfection here on Earth. When one recognizes that tragedy (often in the form of miscarriages of justice) is often inevitable to the human condition, one becomes more patient about the rough and tumble of worldly imperfections that manifest themselves in different human associations to varying degrees. One is definitely less prone to think in terms of pursuing certain ideals and manifestations of justice independently of considering likely unintended consequences.
In other words, such awareness of imperfection (i.e., a tragic vision of politics) makes one better equipped to rely upon Prudence, as opposed to a criteria of idealistic ideals, to guide and resolve the ordering of human affairs. Prudence includes one’s capacity for practical reasoning, but it also can become highly improved and refined via the course of human experience. Such refining experience can be either in direct form—e.g., a life lived deliberately to glean practical wisdom from personal experiences—or indirectly—e.g., vicariously acquiring practical wisdom through the study of others and through (as Burke famously discussed) relying upon the latent wisdom inherent within time-tested institutions. The depths of such latent wisdom can transcend the capacity of any one mind in one lifetime. The priority of prudence also stands in contrast to an over reliance on idealistic, philosophical principles as normative guides to human behavior. Such a priori approaches to politics tend to stifle the consideration of important factors that prudence in conjunction with a full non-ideological openness to reality can appropriately identify and guide.