A political belief

Almost everything we call politics is superficial compared to the well-known political principle Kant lays out in Perpetual Peace: 

The problem of organizing a state, however hard it may seem, can be solved even for a race of devils, if only they are intelligent. The problem is: “Given a multitude of rational beings requiring universal laws for their preservation, but each of whom is secretly inclined to exempt himself from them, to establish a constitution in such a way that, although their private intentions conflict, they check each other, with the result that their public conduct is the same as if they had no such intentions.”

Or, as Mandeville put it: private vices [are] public benefits. Not only do we not need virtuous persons to make a healthy state, we count on them being intemperate, irrationally self-absorbed, always desiring to consume more, etc. How else can we have an economy of perpetual growth without perpetually increasing consumption?

True, Kant, Smith and other liberal thinkers thought the system would create moral and temperate citizens. But morality was no longer foundational to politics or economics, but was produced by a purely scientific system. Politics and economics stopped being developments of the cardinal virtues and became pure developments of intellectual virtues. It becomes irrelevant whether an economist or political theorist is good, we want one that is scientific.

The two great responses to this liberal theory were Marxism and Catholic Social Teaching. The first doubles down on the scientific character of politics and economics, identifying intrinsic contradictions in liberal thought that it claims will work themselves out in an organic development towards a communist utopia. CST appears to want to triangulate both the scientific system and the moral foundationalism of the ancien régime. This leaves CST with, by definition, less scientific systematic consistency. It can’t be another system, but will always be to some extent the rejection of systems.

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