I belong to a strain of conservatism I now christen the Naturals. Whether you have realized it or not over the years, you have heard me speak of this school of thought. You’ve probably heard me talk about the “natural family” and “natural law” as I’ve argued for freedom and against progressivism, both left and right.
My guess is you, too, are a Natural. Here are some of its characteristics. To be a Natural you need to believe in a personal God, a God from which you seek a personal relationship – you worship Him, you communicate with Him, and you seek His blessings and comfort. You also need to believe that He has a plan for you, a work for you to do, choices for you to make to conform your will to His. And you need to believe that we’re all His children – that we are literally brothers and sisters from the same divine parentage. This last point is important because of something Naturals call “commensuration” or the ability of every person to rationally see the same things and draw the same conclusions about the world around them.
It’s important to note that just because we are Naturals does not mean that people who disagree with us are “Unnaturals” much the same way as when we use the term the “natural family” does not mean that anything outside of a traditional family is unnatural. The term “natural” refers to a systemic order in a free society – that there are natural ways in which we commune peacefully and prosperously in a free society.
There is a reason many people can live together peacefully and prosperously in a free society despite our many unique and diverse circumstances. The reason is that every functional human being has the same rational basis from which to discern right from wrong and good from bad. It’s how we agree on anything. And it’s not just that we do so intellectually; we do so morally, especially when we consciously recognize our neighbors as ourselves. By the way, this is why objectifying another human being is so damaging to a free society.
But you can see how being a Natural conflicts with opposing ideologies such as cynicism, skepticism, atheism and utilitarian philosophies including libertarianism. So when a presidential candidate receives an otherwise ridiculous sounding question about whether or not an atheist should be president, if that candidate is a Natural, the answer would be an immediate no, as long as we believe in freedom.
Like freedom, the Natural school of thought is complex and complicated. But at its core it’s very easy to grasp, mostly because it is a part of our rational DNA. It’s also familiar to us because we’ve heard it talked about all of our lives from kindergarten to college – whenever we read our founding fathers, we read the writings of Naturals.
The Roman lawyer and statesman so admired by our founding fathers was one of the first Naturals. Here is how he explained this school of thought that was the basis of our nation’s founding:
“True law is right reason in agreement with nature – universal, consistent, everlasting – whose nature is to advocate duty by prescription and to deter wrongdoing by prohibition. Its prescriptions and prohibitions are obeyed by good men, but evil men disobey them. It is forbidden by God to alter this law, nor is it permissible to repeal any part of it, and impossible to abolish the whole of it. Neither [government] or the People can absolve us from obeying this law, and we do not need to look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of this law. There will not be one law at Rome and another at Athens or different laws now and in the future. There is now and will be forever one law, valid for all peoples and all times…Whoever does not obey this law is trying to escape himself and to deny his nature as a human being. By this very fact, he will suffer the greatest penalties, even if he should somehow escape conventional punishments.”
Think about so many of the contentious political issues of our day, especially the social or moral issues. Cicero had a response to same-sex marriage and abortion and cohabitation and drug use and prostitution, etc. His response echoes in the voices of today’s Naturals who see freedom as a rational and moral enterprise, who understand that order precedes liberty but both create the freedom we claim to cherish.
If you don’t have time to read many books these days, at least read the Declaration of Independence and, if it still resonates with you, chances are you’re a Natural.