By James Kalb, ISI Books, 317 pages.
James Kalb, an American Catholic lawyer, closely examines the new, feminist-liberal paternalism under which most Western countries, including Canada, have fallen. This movement has created a bureaucratic mindset that empowers the state against the family. Procedure firmly pushes people to act in certain ways, as in accepting many forms of sexuality that were once considered aberrant and sinful.
Education is used to form secular, even anti-Christian mindsets. It guides people towards hyper-individualism and a romantic view of careers, leaving traditional family and community behind.
A case in point is the changing notion of rights, which were originally seen as a limitation of the government's power over the individual. Rights limited power. The police could not arbitrarily throw someone in jail. Then liberals interpreted rights in a way that expanded the power of individuals: “I have the right to do what I want with my body.”
The problem here is that the rights of 1 person could clash with a second person (such as the unborn) or with the community (through a dramatic drop in the birth-rate). The left tries to solve such contradictions through interest group politics, where governments use bureaucratic control such as Canada's notorious Human Rights Tribunals to empower itself against a freely-acting person.
Repeatedly, Kalb explains how this bureaucratic intrusion into our daily lives goes against the normal flow of human and communal interactions: “Terms such as 'zero tolerance,' and 'political correctness' reveal how an official outlook deeply at odds with normal ways of thinking has become oppressive while claiming to have reached an unprecedented level of fairness and rationality.”
The left has decided that through interest group and entitlement politics it will use the notion of rights to actually empower the government against the individual, thus upending the very notion of rights. With this new power, the state has taken the place of the family, as Kalb writes, in “a wholly abstract and radically depersonalized order that abolishes connections and distinctions by which humans have always lived in favor of more formal ones such as wealth, education, and bureaucratic position.”
Kalb identifies the hypocrisy of such thinking. The very people who claim to be inaugurating this new society in the hopes of an egalitarian, free society, are simply setting up their own hierarchies and restrictions. Their state and corporate hierarchies are no less democratic, and it is not clear that meritocracies, much less sexual confusion, flimsy drug laws, and anti-family attitudes, are good for people and community.
Our market-oriented, bureaucratic society believes that the utilitarian principle is the best ideal by which to live – to give the most things to the most people in the most efficient way possible. This mindset allows for the abortion of millions of unborn as well as the horrendous conditions of factories around the world, as people in the first world frantically pursue careers, vacations, and new cars; in other words, as they frantically climb their way up the new hierarchy.
This is where Kalb's Catholicism comes in handy. He asks again and again if there is anything more to life than spiritless consumerism and careerism. The Tyranny of Liberalism calls for a return to traditional values, but even more, the author warns that to be human is to search for meaning. Ideally, it is the very nature of Catholics and Catholic societies to spend a great deal of time thinking about the meaning of life.