A good article, “Eudaimonia in America,” from last month’s issue of First Things by Robert T. Miller (it may not be available for free yet) shows that 2K thinking is even attractive among Roman Catholics. He doesn’t call it 2K. But the intellectual move is the same, namely, not to expect correspondence between the political philosophy of the nation and one’s own theological convictions.
Here is how Miller describes the problem that afflicts many conservatives (Tim and David Bayly take note):
America is under attack in the pages of First Things. In a recent article Notre Dame professor Patrick Deneen tells us that America is founded on a philosophy of “unsustainable liberalism.” Implicit in the ideas of the American founding, he argues, are certain mistaken philosophical premises about individual choice and man’s separation from nature. Moreover, these mistakes are not merely intellectual because, as their logical consequences play out over time, the inexorable results are severe and pervasive social pathologies: a corrupt political order, a collapsing economy, and a degraded and degrading culture. Indeed, in Deneen’s account, pornography, sexual promiscuity, abortion, divorce, violent video games, cheating in academia, and Wall Street frauds all stem from the faulty political philosophy of the American founding.
Miller goes on to disagree with these observations about the U.S. but is especially critical of efforts to link the U.S.’s moral decay to an inadequate philosophical base (or w-w):
Liberal political philosophies are incompatible with the eudaimonism of the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition. Does that mean that eudaimonists cannot support the American political system? I share Deneen and MacIntyre’s Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophical commitments, but I am also deeply loyal to the American political tradition. The reason is that there is a great gap between politics and moral philosophy. Thinking that a certain set of political arrangements is the best way to organize a particular society in particular historical circumstances is a prudential judgment, and in supporting America’s liberal political system I do not thereby commit myself to a liberal political philosophy.
This point is obscured by the fact that liberal political institutions are naturally and commonly justified on the basis of liberal political philosophies, such as a theory of natural rights as in Locke, or a theory of personal autonomy inspired by Kant, or a theory of justice as in Rawls. People who support liberal political systems on such bases are philosophical liberals. But we can also view a liberal political order as embodying not grand philosophical principles, but reasonable, pragmatic, political compromises worked out among individuals who disagree sharply on matters of morality in order to allow such people to live together in peace and to pursue their various, often incompatible, goals.
In other words, while living on planet earth, we need to live on planet earth, not in our minds or the eschaton. Or, this is a matter of prudence, not of intellectual or theological certitude. Miller explains:
The pragmatic liberal thus makes a political calculation: The cost of prohibiting some appalling speech is the risk that the government will someday use the power it thus acquires to suppress other speech that the pragmatic liberal wants to protect. People like Deneen and me, who are in a religious minority now at odds with many of the norms of the larger, increasingly secular society, should reflect carefully before advocating an expansion of government power, for we are some of the people whose speech could easily be found disgusting and worthless. For pragmatic liberals, therefore, the decision in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants is sound not because people have a moral right to play disgusting video games (they don’t), but because the danger of censorship is too great to allow the government the power to restrict speech merely because, in the government’s view, the speech is disgusting and worthless.
An Aristotelian-Thomistic eudaimonist can thus be a pragmatic liberal in contemporary America. There is a deeper point here, however, and it is that, although the philosophical liberal must reject as immoral any form of government other than liberal democracy, the Aristotelian-Thomist can be much more flexible. Leaving aside some extreme systems that would substantially prevent a person from attaining his final end (e.g., a Shari’a theocracy or a Nazi or communist dictatorship), an Aristotelian-Thomist should conclude that, in the right circumstances, almost any form of government may be the best available. Hence, St. Paul urged respect for the Roman emperor, who was an absolute autocrat;St. Wenceslaus was a feudal overlord; and St. Thomas More served Henry VIII, who was a constitutional monarch.
The same goes for the confessional Lutheran or Reformed Protestant. Feel the ecumenical love.