Christopher Manion
LRC Blog
March 14, 2012

A year ago, Mark Levin took umbrage when I pointed out his ignorance regarding utopias. Apparently, he has doubled down, this time targeting Plato’s Republic as the intellectual font of  communism. Both Levin and his dazzled reviewer, Andrew McCarthy, openly embrace the modern positivist view of the Republic — positivism, we recall, rejects the possibility of philosophy altogether, as well as natural law — indeed, anything “natural.” Even Leo Strauss admits that.

So what is left for Levin’s Facebook followers? Drivel, masquerading as intellectual history. This current brand of pompous conservatism (OK, Limbaugh is the competition) denies the possibility of any higher law by which man can take the objective measure of good and evil. That leaves us prey to the Obamas — and to the neocons, by the way — and allows power to be its own authority (a view which Socrates roundly rejects: see his dialogue with the sophist Thracymachus in Book I of the Republic [336b–354c]).

Much of what passes for “conservative” these days is actually materialism: The “defense” leg of conservatism’s famous “three-legged stool” (defense, social, economic) of conservatism often demonstrates no “values” other than its own desire for plunder. “Democracy” simply becomes a fig-leaf for the lust for power. And the banksters of “business” are hardly better.

Hans Kelsen, the father of legal positivism, observed that Auschwitz and the Soviet Gulags were valid law. He could not criticize them as unjust because justice, he said, is “an irrational ideal.” [Hans Kelsen, “The Pure Theory of Law, Part I,” 50 Law Quart. Rev.474, 482 (1934), cited by Charles E. Rice, Commencement Address, Christendom College,  May 15, 2010].

Kelsen — and Levin’s version of him — represent what Pope Benedict XV has called the “Dictatorship Of Relativism.” It is supposedly conservatism’s task to preserve the “permanent things,” not to destroy them and hand over the shards to the Leviathan, as Levin, the neo-cons, and many Democrats and Republicans merrily do.

For those desiring a sane and coherent view of Plato, read Eric Voegelin’s masterful treatment here.

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