Today we continue our examination of Most Worshipful Doan’s enthusiasm for Masonry’s wholehearted embrace of Progressivism. I should note that Doan is not alone here. He is merely the messenger. Many brothers share his view, even if not with the same historical and intellectual vigor. And why not? Everyone is Progressive these days, though most don’t know their own history; it was simply handed to them. All good people believe these things, after all. Most Republicans and Democrats would agree with Doan.
And what is wrong with public education? Or equal opportunity? Universal healthcare? All of these wonderful things for which Progressives like Doan so fervently advocate?
My objections are moral ones. I object to these things being provided through the use of force, and force is exactly how they are provided. But what is the alternative? For that we must look to the past. A brief overview on the topic of rights is in order.
Positive and negative rights
These days we hear about “rights” to everything: health care, education, a mortgage, etc. Classical Liberals – these days called libertarians in America – talk a lot about rights. John Locke, an inspiration to many of our Founding Fathers, did too, but in a different way. You may never have heard the term “Negative Rights,” or Natural Rights (from Lockean Natural Law), but in a nutshell, these are protections you have from others. Life, liberty and property. They exist independently of any ruler or government. The only obligation is to refrain from acting against another person’s life, liberty or property. Refrain=negative.
When you claim a “right” to education, medicine, welfare, etc., you are placing a (positive) demand on another person: someone must treat me, someone must teach me, someone must give me money. Positive=obligation. So-called rights such as these have no place in our Constitution and no place in Masonry, or in a Masonic publication.
Ends: does it work? Means: is it moral? Intent: are my motives pure?
Good intentions don’t matter. We briefly touched on the ends vs. means test in the last post. Allow me to quote myself (Rand would approve):
Nor is there consideration of the ends vs. the means. This is unsurprising and deliberate, for Progressive policies routinely fail both the ends test and the means test. In other words, the problem we set out to solve isn’t fixed, and the means were immoral, but hey, our motives were pure! For Progressives, the (hoped for) ends always trump the means, and we are encouraged to ignore what Bastiat called “that which is not seen” (meaning the unseen consequences of these policies).
But your motives don’t matter. Intent matters in determining whether someone has committed a crime; it is not a basis for good social policy, particularly when that policy is proved to be ineffectual. Why then is the Craft so committed to Progressive ideals, rather than simple charity?
Of course, the teachings of Masonry leave much for the individual Mason to contemplate for himself. Doan is not alone in seeing his own Progressive values reflected in Masonry. I often see some of my anti-Progressive values as well. The question, dear reader, is whose interpretation do you think is closer to reality? Reality will always outsmart ideology in the end. A century of Progressive policies is slowly coming to a close, as it comes home to us that all of those policies (despite the ideals behind them), education as the great panacea, stealing wealth from some for the benefit of others and forcibly leveling society, have not worked, and in many cases have exacerbated the original problems.
Doan goes further still, and with all the skill of a Supreme Court Justice “discovering” some heretofore unknown right in the Constitution, gives to us some new dimensions of Masonic teachings. As you read, ask yourself, “is it within the power of one man to make innovations in Masonry?”
The right to improve yourself – I have never heard of this in any philosophy including Masonry. We will call this a Doanism. I hear in our lessons a moral obligation to improve ourselves, to constantly chip away at our own rough ashlars, but nothing about rights. Doan is blending these related, but distinct concepts. If you must have a “right” to improve yourself, it stands to reason that someone has denied you improvement (probably by failing to provide public schools – what else can this mean?). We can only hope to hear more on this groundbreaking topic as the Doanian corpus is more fully developed.
Next up: equality. Is the ideal of “equality” the same thing as “equality of opportunity”?
Don’t equivocate. Yes or no?
Are they related? To a degree. Are they the same? No. It is not the same thing to 1) acknowledge another as equally deserving of the dignity as a child of God, and 2) crafting means of ensuring that A has the exact same opportunity as B. Do you see the difference here? Can you point me to the Masonic lessons on equality of opportunity? I may have missed them.
Equality of opportunity vs equality of outcome
Equal opportunity sounds great, but it didn’t work as intended, so further measures were needed by our Social Planners (who probably agree with Doan on most things). What they really want is equality of outcome, though they never admit this. Progressive, almost punitive tax rates, forced bussing of school kids, racial quotas or handicaps on college admissions, keeping a smart kid in class with the below average, handouts to the able who choose not to work, favoring immigrant children over your native-born son or daughter, and refusing to clean up our streets are all the result of our attempts to guarantee outcomes for all.
Why is this important?
Masonry is important to me. It is an institution that was influential in America’s founding. Yet, so much of that original America has been lost. This is not about immigration, though that hasn’t helped. This is about Masons jumping on the bandwagon of Progressivism, when there is no need. We can still be a force for good without supplicating to the State.
Masons support education. That’s a good thing. But public education is poor, and it is not because we don’t spend enough money on it (spending has risen five-fold (when adjusted for inflation) in 60 years. Something isn’t working. Why do we prop up a failing system? Why not redesign the system?
Masons teach equality, but only the Classical Liberal equality before the law. Equality of ability? Rubbish. Equality of Opportunity? Impossible in a free society. Equality of outcome? Take a guess.
In the end
We must cultivate a culture that encourages charity – not theft from the capable to the incapable – but true charity as taught by Masonry. Stay tuned; Most Worshipful Doan is against immigration!