Objectivity, impartiality, universality—these are three of thernhallmarks of the liberal creed which tells us to regard ourselvesrnand our friends as if we were an impartial spectator, as if wernwere making our judgments from behind a veil of ignorance.rnThis indifference to the particularities of affection—the whiffrnof bitter almonds in the wine of liberalism we have been drinkingrnfor centuries—culminates in Thomas Nagel’s demand thatrnwe take an off-world perspective on our own life and its obligations.rnViewed from Mars, my life, the fate of my family, thernhappiness of my friends are a paltry affair compared with thernsum total of human misery on the planet.rnEven if I were silly enough to think that by devoting all myrnenergies to the world’s welfare I could do some good, I shouldrnstill reject the premise. The impartial spectator turns out to bernthe judge handing out a death sentence, and the veil of ignorancernis the blindfold they put on just before the officer shouts,rn”Ready, aim, fire!” Who says I should treat everyone the same?rnIt cannot be God, because liberal philosophers either do notrnbelieve in Him or else, out of professional courtesy to their colleagues,rnthey agree to “bracket” His existence as irrelevant.rnWhat if I say that blood and love are all that matter in thisrnworld? Will you send in the FBI, with a warrant drawn up byrnthe philosophy departments of Harvard, Yale, and Berkeley, tornarrest me for thought crimes? N.B.: This is just a joke and notrna prophecy. Back in the 60’s, I made the mistake of asking, “Ifrnwomen have rights, what’s next—rights of children, rights ofrnhomosexuals, rights for animals?” You can’t tell a joke anymore,rnno matter how fantastic, without it coming true.rnNo, I am not impartial toward my wife and children, whom Irnlove and take care of, nor to my friends whom I honor and respect,rnnor to my fellow citizens whose politicians rob me of halfrnmy income every year in taxes which I pay as meekly as a lambrngoing to the slaughter. If I am not allowed to make distinctionsrnbetween my country and anywhere else in the world, then Irnmight as well hold onto the money. So, I admit it: I have madernthe Serbs my friends, and although I will not lie for them, myrndefense of their cause has not been entirely rational, any morernthan it is rational for a man to fight for his country.rnSo, if you like, I am an agent of the Serbs. This admissionrndoes not make me automatically a criminal. To find me guilty,rnit is not enough to prove that I have done something, if thatrnsomething is not a crime. If I am going to be convicted ofrnkilling the Jabberwock with my vorpal blade, the prosecutorsrnshould have to produce the blade and at least describe the featuresrnof the dead Jabberwock. In my own defense, I think Irnhave a right to demand to know just what these human rightsrnare that I—the presumed beamish boy—and my Serbian paymastersrnhave supposedly violated.rnTo speak truthfully, I have never understood this whole businessrnof rights. There are, of course, specific rights guaranteed byrna Constitution or a legal tradition, but those are “civil rights,”rnwhich can be altered or abolished by statute or decree or judicialrninterpretation. The Constitution of the United Statesrnspells out a freedom of religion which Congress, i.e., the nationalrngovernment in its lawmaking capacity, may not infringe;rnand yet, the federal courts, acting as lawmakers, have forbiddenrnAmerican citizens even to pray in the buildings they have paidrnfor with their own money. So there is obviously nothing sacrosanctrnor absolute about civil rights.rnHuman rights or natural rights are another matter. They arernsupposedly universal, built into the constitution of human naturernand the universe, like the laws of mathematics and physics.rnIf they are not—if they were, for example, simply the latestrnstate of progressive thinking—then they could only serve asrnideas or theories about how people ought to behave, not as anrnabsolute standard of right and wrong, certainly not a faith to killrnfor, as we have killed so many already in the Balkans.rnBut who actually believes in absolute standards of right andrnwrong, much less in a universe infused by moral law? Thernshorthand answer to the first: all Christians; to the second:rnsome Christians. All Christians believe that some things are absolutelyrnprohibited to all people at all times, whatever customrnor fashion may dictate: murder, theft, bearing false witness,rnadultery. But Christians part company on the second question.rnWhile many Catholics and Orthodox and some Protestantsrnstill adhere to the old concept of the logos, the second personrnof the Trinity that is accessible to all peoples throughout history,rnthere are many sincere Christians who say that moral lawsrnare simply divine commandments that make no more naturalrnsense than the dietary laws of Jews, Muslims, and Mormons.rnThere is no reason not to kill your father or tell the truth, anyrnmore than there is any reason not to eat pork or drink coffee.rnFor the sake of convenience, I shall call this position fundamentalism.rnFrom this fundamentalist perspective, there can bernno human rights except those that have been explicitly declaredrnby God. Unfortunately, even a cursory inspection of thernOld Testament reveals a hair-raising series of murders and massacresrnapparently decreed by the Almighty himself. The worstrnwar crimes of which the Serbs are accused are pretty small stuffrncompared with the treatment of the Sodomites who were evaporatedrnsimply for expressing their sexual diversity, or thernCanaanites who were slaughtered as aliens in their own land.rnBut even if we agree with St. Thomas, that there is a naturalrnlaw from which all human laws derive their legitimacy, we cannotrnmake this conception the basis of an international law thatrnis administered by anti-Christian lawyers for the benefit of non-rnChristian peoples. The difficulties of maintaining a natural lawrnposition in an anti-Christian world crop up daily. A fewrnmonths ago my friend Ernest van den Haag got into a sparringrnmatch with Robert George and William C. Forth, Jr., in thernpages of an American conservative magazine called NationalrnReview. The controversy over the right to die was obviously inspiredrnby the homicides perpetrated by Dr. Jack Kevorkian,rnwhose self-conceit feeds—like the very devil himself—onrndeath. (If Kevorkian were literate, his business card would read:rn”Now more than ever seems it rich to die.”) I hope I shall notrntoo much trivialize the opposing arguments in saying that Professorrnvan den Haag based the right to die on the classical liberalrnposition that each of us has a property in our own person,rnwhile Professor George argued the natural law position for thernsanctity of life. The debate was closed—as these things so oftenrnare at NR—^by an ex cathedra editorial warning that Professorrnvan den Haag’s utilitarian pathway led to exterminationrncamps. (I am sure this was a joke and should not be regarded asrna reason for indicting the good professor.)rnActually, the reverse is probably true. Liberal rationalistrnstates, while they may destroy the human spirit, do not typicallyrndemonize minorities or send them to the ovens. Even whenrnthey carpet-bomb civilians, they feel constrained first to liernabout it and then to justify the massacre on humanitarianrngrounds (“By bringing the war to an earlier conclusion, wernsaved countless lives”). Liberal states, especially when they arernputatively democratic, engage in the most preposterous lies,rnprecisely because their legitimacy theoretically rests upon thern10/CHRONICLESrnrnrn