What’s Wrong With Liberalism?

To many, liberalism seems the best; the only platform, in fact, that enables political leaders and social groups to cooperate and to introduce social change and political reform. At any rate, this is the situation in Eastern Europe; but I believe that to a considerable degree it is also the case in other countries of what we call the West. Liberalism is regarded not only as synonymous with a free society, but also as the destiny of the modern world; the basic binding force of civilization, and the only basis for a political language through which we can all communicate. When the East Europeans freed themselves from the Soviet hegemony, the first thing they were told, and many of them told themselves, was that they must follow the liberal pattern. What “the liberal pattern” meant was not clear. What was clear, however, was that any open rejection of this recommendation, even if only barely spoken, or a deliberate replacement of the word “liberal” by “non-liberal” or “illiberal” would provoke unpleasant consequences in international institutions and in international public opinion.

Liberalism is obviously a loose and rather obscure concept, covering several ideas, not always compatible with one another in different historical contexts. It extends from radical free market capitalism to certain forms of the welfare state; from Ludwig von Mises to John Rawls, from Reaganomics to the European Union. Shifting from a narrow understanding of liberalism to a large one and then back to a narrow one is, especially in polemics, a common practice among politicians, political commentators, and the public at large. This makes a coherent and exhaustive rendering of “liberalism” extremely difficult. This should not, however, be sufficient reason to abandon the search for a more or less unifying definition. Coherent and exhaustive renderings of socialism or conservatism are no less difficult; yet this has never prevented critics from formulating objections against socialism as such, or against conservatism as such.

Let me offer my own formula by way of definition. A liberal is someone who takes a rather thin view of man, society, morality, religion, history, and philosophy, believing this to be the safest approach to organizing human cooperation. He does not deny that thicker, non-procedural principles and norms are possible, but believes these to be particular preferences which possess validity only within particular groups and communities. For this reason, he refuses to attribute to such principles and norms any universal value and he protests whenever someone attempts to impose his profound beliefs, however true they may seem to him, on the entire social body. Liberals might have divergent opinions on economic freedoms and the role of government, but they are united in their conviction that thinness of anthropological, moral, and metaphysical assumptions is the prerequisite for freedom and peace. Whoever would thicken such assumptions generates ideological conflicts and is believed to undermine the basis of peaceful cooperation and opening the door to unjust discrimination.

Can one have non-liberal or even anti-liberal views today without becoming, at best, a laughing stock, or at worst, a dangerous supporter of authoritarianism? Is the thinness of basic assumptions indeed the only way to secure liberal ends? I, for one, think that the identification of liberalism and liberty, so characteristic of modern times, is largely unfounded. Liberalism is one of several systems whose aim is to establish a certain ordering of the world. Whether this ordering is good, or preferable to other orderings, or to what extent this ordering increases our freedom, are open questions, and no definite answer seems compelling.

In what will follow I will present five arguments against liberalism, of which some will be against the theory as such, while others will be against some of its claims.

First Argument

The first and most immediate reason for my lukewarm attitude toward liberalism is its modest position in the entirety of human experience. To put it simply: liberalism as a theory is not interesting. Plato, Aristotle, Dante, Shakespeare, and Dostoyevsky were not liberals. One cannot think of any outstanding writer who could be qualified simply and solely as a liberal. What is most fascinating in the picture of man and the world, in the understanding of our relation to God, to nature, to one another, was all formulated outside the realm of liberal thought. The most intriguing thinkers whom we regard as belonging to the liberal tradition in the largest sense of the word — Kant, Ortega y Gasset, or Tocqueville are all interesting to the degree to which they transcend liberal orthodoxy.

A thought experiment will make this clear. Let us imagine a man educated exclusively in Aristotelianism, or Hegelianism, or phenomenology, or Thomism. Such a man could be accused of one-sidedness, but he certainly could, other conditions being fulfilled, achieve wisdom in the most basic meaning of the word. Then let us imagine someone who is educated only in the works of liberalism. Such a man could never attain wisdom because the works he studies leave out the most important problems that have preoccupied human beings from time immemorial. The liberal ignores those questions because he considers them either irrelevant, or — for reasons I will explain later — dangerous. My experience with liberals is that whenever I raise those questions in their company, I encounter two kinds of reaction: either reluctance to discuss those issues as secondary, or irritation which results from my interlocutor’s conviction that he has located this problem within his system long ago and finds no reason to revisit it.

The lack of weight which one feels whenever one reads liberal works is an obvious consequence of the thinness of liberal assumptions, from which one cannot derive any profound insights. It is not that the tree of literary art is always greener than the tree of political theory, and that no poet or writer of significance was a propounder of a particular theory. The root of the problem lies in the program of consistent reductionism which closes the liberal mind to the issues that men have always thought constitutive of the human condition. The dilemma is inescapable: either one makes bolder assumptions — and then one is bound to depart from strict liberalism — or one sticks to the original thinness, and then one falls into sterility.

Second Argument

What has been said so far can immediately be countered with the following reply. Liberalism does not address the fundamental metaphysical and anthropological — which is to say, human — problems because it has a far more modest objective. Liberalism’s purpose is merely to create a framework within which people can function as acting, thinking, and creating beings. Liberals want to construct a model of public order spacious enough to secure maximum freedom for everyone, including the Aristotelians, the Hegelians, the Thomists, as well as their opponents — in short, for anyone, regardless of the priority or the profundity of his problems.

This reply is well known, but I do not think much of it. What we find in the reply reveals another level of liberal problems and explains why liberals are so difficult to communicate with. This leads me to my second argument. Liberals always place themselves in a higher position than their interlocutors, and from that position they have an irresistible urge to dominate. What they usually say is something like this: We are not interested in deciding any particular issue; all we want to do is to create a system within which you will make your own decisions. By saying this they do two things which I find rather dubious. First, they always usurp for themselves — without asking anyone for permission and without any permission being granted — the role of the architectonic organizer of society; thus, they always want to dominate by performing the roles of the guardians of the whole of the social system and the judges of the procedural rules within the system. Second, they declare “neutrality” towards concrete solutions and decisions within the system, but such “neutrality” is impossible to maintain; one cannot be an organizer of everything while at the same time refraining from imposing substantively in specific cases.

At least since John Locke, the liberals — declaring that all they are interested in is freedom of individuals and not the content of their choices — have made categorical judgments about what government should look like, how it should govern, how social life should be arranged, how families should be constructed, how our minds should work, and how we should relate to God. They had definitive answers — believed to follow from the principles underlying their framework — about which institutions are inferior and which superior, how children should be educated and what objectives schools and universities should have, what is the best structure of churches and families, what are acceptable relations between spouses, between parents and children, between teachers and pupils. The answers, “I don’t know” or “a decision is not possible within the accepted assumptions” are not something one often hears from liberals. In the system of liberty which they have constructed, everything is predictably known and accordingly regulated.

This openly declared focus on “procedural” issues rather than “substantive” issues is one of the greatest and most effective liberal mystifications, not to say sleights of hand. There are no non-substantive procedures. And once a radical change is made, whether in a school system, family life, the university, or the church, it does not make the slightest difference if the nature of the change was procedural or substantive. The liberals have legalized abortion, are in the process of legalizing homosexual marriages, are inclined to legalize euthanasia; they have changed or supported changes in family life, in religious discipline, in school curricula, in sexual conduct. None of these actions of support or inspiration were, strictly speaking, based on “substantive” claims; all were based on legalistic and formal arguments. But the practical effects in social and moral life were profound. Not only is liberalism not modest, its ambition to have a decisive voice is unquenchable: because it is the result of self-deception. The socialists, the conservatives, the monarchists are ambitious too, but they all know very well how far they want to penetrate the social fabric; and at least some of them are well aware that reality often resists, and that giving in to reality is sometimes a sound decision. The liberals, however, live in a world of self-delusion about their mildness and modesty, believing that even their most arrogant interference somehow does not touch moral or social “substance.”

The liberal framework is sometimes said to be limited only to the general structure of society, while leaving room for non-liberal communities, on the condition that they comply with the liberal principles of the whole. But such a promise, even if sincere, is incongruent with the nature of liberalism. Once it is assumed — as all the liberals do assume — that individuals are the basic agents, then communities, particularly non-liberal communities, lose any privileges that may stem from experience, custom, tradition, or human nature. There is no compelling argument that would make a liberal uncompromising with respect to the principles of the whole while tolerant with respect to the principles of particular groups or communities. All communities are understood as aggregates of individuals; and it is individuals, not communities, that are said to need liberal protections.

Consequently, non-liberal social structures and traditions — those that still exist — are merely tolerated “for the time being;” and they are under constant and minute supervision. When the time for toleration is over, when “the time being” comes to an end, a non-liberal social structure immediately becomes the object of attack. The most recurrent example is the liberals’ relation to the Roman Catholic Church, which is either formally tolerated in the name of the freedom that allows non-liberals to form non-liberal communities, or else formally attacked, also in the name of the freedom which the Church as a non-liberal institution is accused of lacking. But as everyone seriously interested in religion knows, the key to understanding the Church lies not in organizational questions but in substantive propositions about human nature, metaphysics, etc. Churches may be liberal or not; but the fact that they are liberal does not make them “by definition” better churches; it does not make them better adapted to the essential needs of human nature and more appropriate as responses to metaphysical problems. To acquiesce in the existence of the Catholic Church — regardless of its non-liberal organizational structure — as an irreducible expression of human experience, an experience from which one can learn or profit, is impossible for liberals. This would be for them a betrayal of liberal principles. Learning from others is something liberals never do.

Third Argument

One can hardly deny the moral impulse behind liberal thinking: to free men from bondage because bondage is humiliating. The primary reason one becomes a liberal is to create a situation in which men, to use Kant’s expression, are “freed from tutelage” and become sovereign agents themselves. But what would the world look like when men are in this blessed state? To this question, the liberals reply that it is precisely a world which corresponds to the liberal order. In other words, liberals — and this is my third argument — confuse two kinds of aspiration to freedom, or better, and to put it differently, two claims about freedom.

The first claim is that people are mature beings and their free actions should not be impeded by arbitrary will. The second claim is that what free people in fact want is a liberal order which best satisfies their need for freedom. These two claims are not necessarily identical, but liberals have no doubt about their equivalence. In the first case we have the belief that relying on people’s maturity benefits society as a whole since every human agent makes the best use of his capacities. In the second case, we have the belief that there is a single system which secures the maximum of freedom for everyone and that for all those who value freedom such a system must be the object of their aspiration. By identifying these two beliefs, liberals assume that whoever wants freedom must necessarily want liberalism, and whoever wants liberalism must necessarily want freedom. Armed with this assumption, liberals assess the progress of freedom by the yardstick of acceptance of their own system.

Liberals thus reconcile — in their minds as well as in their consciences — two tendencies which are essentially irreconcilable: acquiescence in the spontaneous development of social reality, and a desire to reshape society radically in accordance with a priori principles. Since those two things are not differentiated in their minds, the liberals believe that not only does the future of freedom depend on whether people accept the system they consider optimal, but also that the implementation of this system is in fact indistinguishable from the satisfaction of the deepest desires of sovereign individuals.

This, I think, explains an otherwise inexplicable paradox: that modern liberal discourse is not a language of freedom, but a language of necessity. Modernity, we are told, makes it imperative to embrace the liberal system and to reject whatever is not liberal. Whoever thinks otherwise should be placed in the dustbin of history. In no place is this imperative more palpable than in Eastern Europe. Almost immediately after the fall of the old communist regime — whose ideologues also believed in the inexorable laws of history — the peoples of Eastern Europe were told that in order to become free societies they would have to conform to one political model. In order to be free, they had to submit to liberal tutelage. There was to be no nonsense about experimenting, trial and error, drawing lessons from one’s own historical experience or traditions. Schools, universities, the media, families — all had to become liberal. And this did not mean making creative use of one’s freedom, one’s intelligence, and one’s experience, but following a blueprint that was said to be obligatory today and even more obligatory tomorrow.

Fourth Argument

Many liberals, particularly in recent decades, while never ceasing to preach the superiority of pluralism, have in fact been propagating a dualistic vision of the world: on the one hand, they see pluralism; on the other, what they consider pluralism’s antithesis, which they sometimes call monism. This dichotomy is believed to describe not only the modern world but the entirety of human history, past and future. For liberals, the claim that in the human drama there have always been two antagonists — pluralists and monists — has acquired the status of a dogma, more self-evident than the Ten Commandments. The monists are ayatollahs, Adolf Hitlers, Christian fundamentalists, Catholic integrists, Islamists, conservatives, and many more. Tertium non datur. Whoever does not belong to the camp of the pluralists, the camp of the liberals, will inevitably find himself sooner or later in the camp of their enemies.

Let us take a well-known but very bad essay by Isaiah Berlin, “Two Concepts of Liberty,” where pluralism is exemplified by “negative liberty” and monism by “positive liberty.” In that essay Berlin argues that those who defend the notion of positive liberty are in fact propounding a theory that justifies political authoritarianism, perhaps even totalitarianism. If, for instance, someone maintains that the human soul consists of two parts — i.e., higher and lower, rational and non-rational — and that the former should control the latter, then he intentionally or unintentionally opens the possibility that a certain institution or group of people will claim the right to take power and, in the name of the higher part of the human soul, impose one ideological and political system on another group representing the lower part of the soul. As it is easy to see, Berlin employs here a slippery slope argument, perhaps the most often used argument in this context, which says that monistic philosophies all lead, sooner or later, to disastrous political consequences by sanctioning discrimination, domination, and other equally reprehensible practices.

The only problem with this argument is that to the group of “monists” belong all the greatest and the most important philosophers, from Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, to Hegel and Husserl. The dualistic perspective of the pluralists leads to discrediting what is most valuable in philosophy itself, and surprisingly, this act of discrediting is done in the name of “freedom” and “plurality.” Once this dualistic perspective becomes accepted as legitimate, it must entail intellectual degradation similar to what we once had in Marxism, where the entirety of human thought was also divided between two currents: materialism (which was good) and idealism (which was bad). There is no point in studying the “bad” part — whether monism or idealism — unless one either subscribes to the well-known critique of it, or else defends the “bad” part by indicating that it has some elements of the “good” part (pluralism or materialism). Studying the “bad” part for reasons that have nothing to do with the dichotomy makes no sense.

This also explains the liberals’ tendency to make sweeping judgments, positive or negative, about everything in the past, present, and future. This tendency derives from the simple criterion which they so often apply, and which is essentially political. The liberals do not analyze whether this or that theory is true or false, whether this or that moral position is good or bad, but whether those positions are politically safe — that is, whether they are not too monistic and therefore too authoritarian. And because in the light of the slippery slope argument nothing (other than liberalism) is safe, and because all non-trivial propositions may be placed on the slippery slope, the liberals are moral busybodies, never ceasing to warn, reprimand, condemn, praise, or lament.

Fifth Argument

Obsessed with the specter of discrimination and enslavement looming within every social practice, philosophy, or moral norm, liberals fall prey to the rhetoric of emancipation and are helpless when faced with modern ideological mystifications, which are often created in bad faith and from evidently erroneous assumptions. During the last century, there have appeared many ideologies that proclaim their noble aim of opposing unjust historically-entrenched discrimination by the dominant Western white Christian male majority. There is practically no minority today that, making recourse to these ideologies, cannot make a convincing case that it is a victim of a particularly sinister form of discrimination.

Who is today a liberal, and who is not, is often difficult to say since emancipatory rhetoric has become so omnipresent. The true-breed liberals — for whom the idea of freedom is so dear — are extremely generous in co-opting new groups into the ever-expanding circle of freedom fighters. But their generosity is not always reciprocated. Such radical groups as homosexual activists or feminists do not have any profound sympathy with liberalism, but they use its tools to promote their own goals. In fact, they are egalitarians, and the idea of equality, not liberty, is their principal value. The problem is that the liberals cannot reject the claims of such groups because they are paralyzed by the rhetoric of liberation and by their own conviction that saying “no” to these groups would amount to the renunciation of the liberal creed.

Sometimes the desire to co-opt everyone may express itself in a vision of society which is infinitely spacious — a utopia of utopias, as Robert Nozick once called it — which could be compared to a department store where all possible goods are available, and where people are not forced to buy only those that are currently fashionable or recommended by some authoritative agency. In a department store, there is no ethical hierarchy that would tell producers what to produce and customers what to purchase. A society which is modeled on the department store is said to stock goods for hedonists and spiritualists, for Jews and Muslims, for illiterate pleasure-seekers and for refined intellectuals; there is pornography and the Bible, Plato and Stalin, communism and laissez-faire. No one is deprived of the opportunity to find what he is looking for. Muslims are not coerced to accept the Christian faith, homosexuals are not forced to marry the other sex, monks are not distracted from their search for the absolute, and usurers are not constantly reminded about the Sermon on the Mount. The diversity produced by these arrangements eliminates any need for the distasteful logic of political trade-offs.

The problems with this vision are two. The first is conceptual. Such a system is in fact egalitarian, not libertarian: a world of no discrimination is a world of perfect equality. It is an illusion to believe that the egalitarian logic of the whole will not influence what people think within each community. The entire system will either have to create a spontaneous acceptance of the assumption that all ethical creeds are essentially equal, or else a supreme authority will have to impose the rule of equality on all groups. In both cases we might talk of the emergence of a sort of multiculturalism, which — as some think — may be a good thing in itself, but this puts an end to a dream of real cultural diversity. Multiculturalism is always either a highly regulated system or a homogenizing ideology which conceals its homogeneity by selecting some fashionable minority “culture” — homosexuals, Africans, feminists — to which its adherents kowtow and make this kowtowing the criterion of “openness” to plurality.

The second problem is practical. The effect of the increasing number of individual and group claims and the supportive toleration of those claims by liberals creates social and political chaos. The liberals try to bring some order to the situation, but in practice they encourage new groups to make ever more claims and thus to increase the chaos. Liberals resemble a traffic specialist trying to find traffic rules that would enable an increasing number of cars to drive efficiently and without collision and who at the same time is an automobile manufacturer interested in selling as many cars as possible. This task is not feasible. The rules are more and more inclusive, but at the expense of being more and more remote from reality. The result is a loss of a sense of proportion.

Once, “violence” was associated with torturing people; today it is spanking a child. Freedom of speech once meant the fight for the publication of Solzhenitsyn; today, the measure of free speech is pornography. The liberals seem to believe that the rules that secure freedom should be so inclusive that they cover both prohibition of torture and prohibition of spanking, the publication of Solzhenitsyn and the publication of pornography. They do not doubt that the moral principle is in each case the same. Most causes célèbres today have a similar element of absurdity.

But although the inclusive rules are more and more remote from reality, their application is becoming more and more specific. Those specific goals are provided by the emancipatory groups that the liberals, naturally as it were, took to be their allies. Thus, not only are we against racism, but against a specific form of racism which is said to exist in mathematics and its categorical conclusions; not only for toleration, but for that specific form of toleration that permits the students to violate the rules of grammar; not only for a fluid non-binary view of human sexuality but a particular regulation of toilets in public spaces. These are only samples of innumerable cases of the current politics of diversity in liberal societies. No wonder that the inclusiveness has turned into its opposite. The inclusive world the liberals and their allies organized has created far more limitations of freedom than the world they wanted to open for diversity.

Classical liberals, such as John Stuart Mill, believed that enlarging freedom by encouraging dissentience would result in an explosion of human creativity. Liberals today are less interested in creativity. They are on the one hand pedantic doctrinaires who never tire of constructing ever-more complex and ever-more dubious ideologies of inclusion; and on the other hand, they are ideological commissars who have acquired remarkable abilities to silence their critics and to enforce the way we speak and think. Never, since the demise of communism, have we had such an all-out assault on freedom.

[An earlier version of this essay appeared in Modern Age].


Ryszard Legutko, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy, is a member of the European Parliament. His scholarly focus includes ancient philosophy. He has published a massive study of Socrates and the Pre-Socratics (in Polish). His books in English include, Society as a Department Store: Critical Reflections on the Liberal State, The Demon in Democracy and more recently, The Cunning of Freedom.


The featured images shows, “La Liberté ou la Mort (Liberty or Death),” by Jean-Baptiste Regnault; painted in 1795.

Liberalism Yes – No? But Which Liberalism?

“If we exclude the minority of those who do not want to be liberal, everyone declares himself to be liberal or is liberal without knowing it,” many liberals like to say. Others, on the other hand, less optimistic or more demanding, see our era as one of triumphant statism. In France, isn’t there always more regulation and more government? Doesn’t public spending in France represent more than 57% of GDP? So, what is liberalism then?

Heir to the Enlightenment, liberalism is defined as the doctrine that advocates the defense of individual rights. A doctrine that has prevailed in the West for nearly four centuries, although the word is much more recent; neither Montesquieu nor Locke, to name but two, ever called themselves “liberals.” The term liberales (liberals) seems to have first appeared in Spain, in the years 1810-1811. In the Cortes of Cadiz, when the 1812 Constitution was adopted, there were three tendencies: the traditionalists, the Spanish-American deputies, and the liberals. One third of the members of this constituent assembly belonged to the clergy, an active minority of whom were liberals.

But for the majority of French authors, it is indeed the Revolution of 1789, which, daughter of the Enlightenment, is fundamentally liberal (it is only marginally socialist with Gracchus Babeuf). The Revolution is the (or a) decisive moment of rupture in the history of France. It marks the beginning of the period of offensive liberalism. Liberalism was then a left-wing doctrine, which was rejected on the right only after the birth and expansion of socialism. In the aftermath of the great national event, in the tradition of Chateaubriand and Tocqueville, Christian liberals developed the thesis that modern European and Western political history could not be the product of a struggle against Christianity; there was no break with the Revolution – but, on the contrary, continuity and adaptation, a sort of “secularization” of evangelical values. The classic work of Pierre Manent, Histoire intellectuelle du libéralisme. Dix leçons (1987), on the philosophical foundations of liberal thought, is part and parcel of this tradition.

Finally, on the other hand, many other authors, especially foreign ones, insist on the fact that the democratic-liberal history is that of a long and slow evolution, marked by numerous stages, well before the French Revolution. They enumerate in very board strokes, the Cortes of Leon (1188), the Catalan Cortes (1192), the English Magna Carta (1215), the Hungarian Golden Bull (1222), the Swiss Federal Charter (1291), the Swedish General Code of Magnus Erikson (ca. 1350), the Union of Utrecht (1579), the Petition for Rights (England, 1628), the Mayflower Compact of the American Pilgrim Fathers (1620), the Bill of Rights (England, 1689), the Swedish Constitution (1720), the Declaration of Independence (1776), the United States Constitution (1789), etc.

Beyond the differences, according to the times, of countries and leanings (notably with those who grant more to civil society or more to the state), liberalism possesses a fundamental unity which makes it possible to characterize it on the political and economic level. It is the doctrinal foundation, on the one hand, of parliamentary or representative democracy, and, on the other, of the market economy or capitalism. The philosophical conception in which it is rooted makes the individual reason the measure and judge of truth. It is an individualistic rationalism, which, at the origin and in France, is mostly anti-Catholic, anti-clerical and even anti-Christian (which is not the case in the rest of Europe, neither in the Catholic South, in Italy, Austria or Spain, nor in the Protestant countries).

The glorious claims, asserted by the majority of liberals up to the 1980s, allow us to define the liberal system of thought. These claims are numerous and imposing – philosophical eclecticism; individual freedom and freedom from everything beyond the individual; freedom of conscience; freedom of the press; habeas corpus; distinction between civil society and the state; free trade; laissez-faire; religion of the market; defense of private property; distrust of the state; limited government; separation of political and religious powers; taste for savings; respect for balanced budgets; sympathy for representative assemblies and parties of notables; defense of political and associative pluralism; bourgeois relativist morality based on the exaltation of work; contractual freedom; politics of the lesser evil; search for the middle way; compromise as a rule of government; respect for legality; equality before the law; social rights guaranteed by the state (not all liberals agree on this point, of course); the right of citizens to choose and periodically elect their political representatives; and finally, the power of elected officials of wealth and knowledge, if not of true intelligence.

Criticism of liberalism developed very early, from the beginning of the 19th century. The first indictments were drawn up by a host of traditionalist Catholic authors, four of the best known being the Frenchmen Joseph de Maistre and Louis de Bonald, and the Spaniard Jaime Balmes and the former liberal Juan Donoso Cortes. All of them denounced the disease of individualism and economism. As early as the end of the 1840s, Donoso Cortés affirmed that every great political and human question presupposes and envelops a great theological question, that a society sooner or later loses its culture when it loses its religion, that liberal individualism has its natural counterpart in socialist collectivism. There was no severer critic of economism and the great mortar of world revolution than the Marquis de Valdegamas (see the anthology of works by Donoso Cortés, who was secretary to Queen Isabel II, deputy and minister plenipotentiary, Théologie de l’histoire et crise de civilisation (Theology of History and the Crisis of Civilization).

The founding fathers of anti-capitalism were not only the non-Marxist socialists (before Marx and the Marxists), but also, and rather, the counter-revolutionary thinkers, who were succeeded by the social-legitimists. Nowadays, the radical critique of liberalism remains largely indebted to the thinkers of the 19th century, and to the legions of later authors, socialists, socialist-nationalists, nationalist-republicans, monarchist-legitimists, conservative-revolutionaries (such as, Carl Schmitt), non-conformist personalists of the 1930s, fascists, revolutionary syndicalists, anarchists, and Marxist socialists.

Nearly forty years ago, two Sorbonne academics, Raymond Polin and his son Claude Polin, opposed and debated each other in a suggestive essay: Le libéralisme oui, non. Espoir ou peril? (Liberalism, Yes or No? Hope or Peril?). The recent criticisms of Christopher Lasch, Michel Onfray, Jean-Claude Michéa, Alain de Benoist, even the communist Michel Clouscard, or the economist and supporter of the Woke movement, Thomas Piketty, to name but a few, are only recent echoes of an already old controversy. Pleas and accusations hardly vary; only the number of followers of one camp or the other fluctuates.

Liberalism is reproached above all for being the carrier of the disease of individualism. It is said to have the defect of seeing the world as a market; its logic, purely economic, is that of profit. It enslaves the producing classes, strengthens the power of finance, tramples traditional values, dissolves societies, foments ethnic and religious divisions in the name of multiculturalism.

Besides individualism, the most solid accusation against liberalism is twofold. First, is its ideological link with the capitalist economic system (freedom of exchange must allow the substitution of the bad politics of men by the natural and beneficial circulation of goods). Second, is its negation of politics, or its unpolitical character, which follows directly from its defense of individualism. The negation of the “permanent imperatives of politics,” which results from any consequent individualism, leads to a political practice of distrust, to a negative attitude towards any political power and any form of state. From a philosophical-political point of view, there is no liberal politics of a general character – but only a liberal critique of politics.

Anti-liberals thus claim that liberalism always tends to underestimate the state and the political, and that it is always associated with capitalism, whatever its form, private or public, agrarian, industrial, entrepreneurial, managerial or financial. But is this always the case? “No,” resolutely answers the Italian sociologist, Carlo Gambescia, professor at the Scuola di Liberalismo of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi (Rome). His thesis, debatable but solidly argued, is expounded in an essential work that was published in Italy under the title, Liberalismo triste. Un percorso de Burke a Berlin (Sad Liberalism. From Burke to Berlin). It was then translated and prefaced in Spain by the political scientist, Jerónimo Molina Cano, a recognized specialist in the works of Raymond Aron, Julien Freund and Gaston Bouthoul. One can only deplore the absence of a French version of this work, which has no equivalent in France.

Let us summarize and comment on the main arguments of this innovative work. Gambescia distinguishes four liberalisms; to do so, he uses in each case the suffix -archic (which corresponds to a notion of command, power, regime or political theory). There is, he says, micro-archic, an-archic, macro-archic and archic liberalism. The reader will now forgive me for having to quote a whole series of thinkers, but Gambescia’s classification cannot be understood otherwise.

The first liberalism, micro-archic, is a current of thought going back to David Hume, Adam Smith and the Scottish precursors of the 18th century. It continued in the 19th and 20th centuries with Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, the early first Robert Nozick and even Ayn Rand. One could also compare it to the authors of the Chicago School of Economics (with Nobel Prize winners, Milton Friedman, George Stigler, Gary Stanley Becker, Ronald Coase and Robert E. Lucas). It is a legal-economic liberalism, based on the idea of a “minimum state,” of a power with reduced dimensions, and thus, “micro-archic,” This liberalism pursues individual interest, guided by the invisible hand of the market. It dislikes the state and taxes, without calling for their abolition. The state fulfills here only a residual function, as the legitimate holder of force for its internal and external use.

The second liberalism is an-archic. It is libertarianism; or, to better translate the American expression, “libertarianism,” which has many points in common with the Austrian School. It is represented in the twentieth century by thinkers, such as, Murray N. Rothbard, Hans Hermann Hope and Walter Block. These an-archic or libertarian thinkers reject the very idea of a minimum or residual state, which they replace with the utopia of the absolute free exercise of individual rights, in particular life, liberty and property. For them, the state, whether democratic or dictatorial, is always the worst aggressor of the persons and properties of the citizens.

The third, macro-archical liberalism, was born with the English utilitarian, Jeremy Bentham, in the 18th-19th centuries and developed with John Stuart Mill in the 19th century. In the twentieth century, this third filiation led to the early John Rawls, to Rolf Dahrendorf and John Dewey. We can also link it to John Locke (17th century), Emmanuel Kant (18th century) and John Maynard Keynes (20th century). What is important here is the prevalence of the idea of a specific form of common good. The state is not content to be the guarantor of laws and law; it must be interventionist. It must impose upon itself the task of fostering equal starting conditions for all citizens.

These thinkers allow and justify an increasingly invasive power, in particular through fiscalism. The aim is to artificially level the interests of individuals, which, in experience, does not really generate a more just society, but rather a public bureaucracy that is more invasive and suffocating every day. This macro-archical liberalism is contractualist (supporter of the social contract of Hobbes and Locke). It is very close to social liberalism and redistributive social democracy. It is perhaps worth recalling here that, paradoxically, not only did Roosevelt’s and Truman’s economists admire Keynes, but also Hitler’s economists, such as Dr. Schacht. The Keynesians, for their part, admired Hitler’s economic policies (see Keynes’ preface to the German edition of the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936).

Finally, there is a fourth liberalism, archaic, realist, possibilist, without illusions; or, as Pierre Manent puts it, “melancholic,” which does not trust the market, and which wants to serve the individual, while defending the importance of political science. The pages that Carlo Gambescia dedicates to this liberalism are among the most original and substantial. Archaic liberalism, he explains, admits reality, and recognizes the existence of power as an inescapable component of social and political life. Politics is for him the sociological articulation of polemos, the theater of conflicts and recurring struggles. He is conscious of the imperfect nature of man and society, of the fragility and the precariousness of the human conquests, and of the possible corruption of all the institutions. For this liberalism, the conjunction of individual interests does not always lead spontaneously and artificially to the general interest.

As history shows, it is sometimes necessary to resort to iron and fire. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the names of the arch liberals are Edmund Burke, Alexis de Tocqueville, Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca, Max Weber, Guglielmo Ferrero, Robert Michels, Benedetto Croce, Simone Weil, Bertrand de Jouvenel, Jules Monnerot, José Ortega y Gasset, Wilhelm Röpke (and all the proponents of the social market economy), Raymond Aron, Gaston Bouthoul, Julien Freund, Jules Monnerot, Maurice Allais, Harold Laski, Giovanni Sartori, Eric Voegelin, Isaiah Berlin, and nowadays Dalmacio Negro Pavón, Pierre Manent, Chantal Delsol, etc.

Archaic liberalism abhors utopian unrealism. Four works, chosen from among those Gambescia cites, exemplify and measure this. In Socialist Systems (1902-1903), Pareto writes: “Every society, if it is to survive, must sooner or later adopt measures to prevent acts that would endanger its very existence. There are only two ways to proceed. One can take away the freedom of men to perform these acts, and thus prevent the dreaded evil; or, on the contrary, one can leave men free and repress harmful acts, directly or indirectly, leaving men to bear the consequences of their acts. Freedom has, as its complement and correction, responsibility – the two are inseparable. If one does not want to have recourse to the second of the means indicated [one can liberate men by making them bear the consequences], one must necessarily have recourse to the first [suppressing liberty to prevent], unless one wants the ruin of society.”

In History as Thought and as Action (1938), the famous Italian anti-fascist thinker, Benedetto Croce, takes the opposite view from Fukuyama and the American democrats and neo-conservatives who advocate the export and establishment of democracy in the world (a doctrine that we know today is in reality a screen for American imperialism). Croce, well known for rejecting the possibility of a strong identity between a contingent economic system (liberism) and an immanent principle (liberalism), writes these words: “The liberal conception, as a religion of development and history, excludes and condemns, under the name of ‘utopia,’ the idea of a definitive and perfect state, or a state of rest, in whatever form it has been proposed or may be proposed, from the Edenic forms of earthly paradise, from those of the golden ages and the lost paradise of Jauja, to the variously political ones of ‘one flock and one shepherd,’ of a humanity enlightened by reason or calculation, of a totally communist and egalitarian society, without external or internal struggles; from those conceived by the naive popular spirit, to those reasoned by philosophers like Immanuel Kant.”

Gambescia drives the point home with a timely reference to the sad experience of “exporting Western democracy” to Afghanistan, a “pride of reason” that has led to a disregard for the country’s traditions and cultural substratum. He recalls the role played by President Hamid Karzai, the man from the United States, later accused of having received CIA funding. These few premonitory pages would deserve to be updated because we know since then that the opium trade has been increasingly flourishing under Karzai’s mandates (2001-2014), that he was dropped by the Americans when he got closer to Iran and Pakistan, that he was then an advisor to the government in Kabul, and that he finally negotiated with the Taliban in August 2021 (the Taliban suddenly became “moderate” through the magic of words and propaganda), as part of a “national reconciliation process” and a “peaceful transfer of power.”

The third characteristic text of realist liberalism, which we shall quote, is that of Wilhelm Röpke. The German ordo-liberal writes in The Social Crisis of Our Time (1942): “… a free market and performance competition do not just occur—as the laissez-faire philosophers of historical liberalism have asserted—because the state remains completely passive; they are by no means the surprisingly positive product of a negative economic policy. They are, rather, extremely fragile artificial products which depend on many other circumstances and pre- suppose not only a high degree of business ethics but also a state constantly concerned to maintain the freedom of the market and of competition in its legislation, administration, law courts, financial policy and spiritual and moral leadership, by creating the necessary framework of laws and institutions, by laying down the rules for competition and watching over their observance with relentless but just severity.”

Finally, the fourth example is that of the French sociologist and professor at the University of Strasbourg, Julien Freund. The author of The Essence of Politics (1965), said evocatively: “Politics passes, politics remains.” According to Freund, the political constitutes an essence for two reasons: on the one hand, it is one of the constant, fundamental, impossible to remove categories of human nature and existence; and, on the other hand, it is a reality that remains identical to itself, in spite of variations in power, regimes and changes in borders.” Man “is capable of transforming society like a demiurge, but only within the limits of the presuppositions of politics. In other words, society allows itself to be disciplined, to be formed, to be deformed…. The demiurge is the master of the forms, not of the essences.” He added without wavering: when a political unit ceases to fight it ceases to exist.

For the archaic liberal or realist thinker, without a political decision and a public force to defend it, the right to property has no chance of enduring. The political force pre-exists the right. This means that the conjunction of interests always has a political nature in the sense of polemos. Law without a sword to guarantee and defend it can easily be trampled and violated. No written constitution can last, if there is no solid executive, no coherent oligarchy able to defend it. There can be no serious international policy without knowing and admitting the place, and determining role of, force and reason of state.

The archaic liberal respects the constants of politics or meta-politics that are the distinction between the governors and the governed, the Iron Law of the oligarchy (subject of Dalmacio Negro Pavón’s book, 2015); the alternation of phases of progress and decadence, of order and disorder; and finally, it recognizes or never excludes the distinction between friend and foe, fundamental and recurrent in the political sphere.

The explanatory model of liberalism that Gambescia proposes has many merits, but it is obviously not perfect. Thomas Hobbes and Montesquieu, who belong to the history of liberalism, are absent from his classification. “They are,” he says, “two problematic thinkers, difficult to classify in my schema.” Hobbes, a progressive individualist, who trusts the role of the state, could be brought closer to the macro-archical liberals, while Montesquieu, who believes in the spirit of laws and gentle commerce, could be a fellow traveler of micro-archical liberals.

On the other hand, Gambescia’s judgment of Rousseau remains partial and uncertain. He takes up the thesis of the Israeli historian, Yaakov Talmon, on the totalitarian democracy of Rousseau (Robespierre’s teacher) and on the similarities between Jacobinism and Stalinism. Indeed, in the thought of the author of the Social Contract, the citizen is subjected to a higher law that Rousseau is compelled to admit as yje citizen’s own ignored will. And this is enough, according to the Italian sociologist, to exclude him definitively and without other form of trial, from the liberal tradition. But the reality is perhaps more complex and more subtle. Without the triple influence of Rousseau (the anti-Christian democrat-republican), Voltaire (the anti-Christian monarchist absolutist) and Montesquieu (the liberal-conservative monarchist who does not confuse the Christian religion with the forms it may have taken in political society), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen becomes difficult to understand.

Usually, one associates Rousseau correctly with the democratic-republican tradition opposed to the liberal tradition. But Rousseau’s critique is carried out in the name of the demands of liberalism, within liberalism and not outside it. Rousseau appropriates the promises of liberalism. He admits the premises but denounces the consequences. He is a thinker of freedom; he is attached to individual freedom and to the right of property, even though he criticizes the absolute right or the unlimited enjoyment of it, which moreover makes him join here paradoxically Christian traditionalism [Liberalism establishes solidly the right of property and makes of it a strictly individual right, whereas the Christian tradition, regarded it as a natural but social right, limited by the law and the social duties of the owner].

Like all the philosophers of the Enlightenment and liberal thinkers, Rousseau seeks to answer the question of how to be free while obeying laws. Like them, he recognizes the need for a regulating criterion of freedom to counterbalance the individualist conception. Like them, he looks for it but does not manage to find it. His answer is ultimately a sophism – one is free when one obeys the general will. In Sovereignty: An Inquiry into the Political Good (1955), Bertrand de Jouvenel writes on this subject: “Insofar as progress develops hedonism and moral relativism, and individual freedom is conceived as the right to obey appetites, society can only be maintained by means of a very strong power.” Rousseau had undoubtedly the taste of the paradox and the contradiction, but nevertheless the majority of the French republican democrats followed him or were influenced by him. This was the case of Pierre Leroux, Ledru-Rollin, Proudhon (even if he criticizes him), Georges Sand, Napoleon III, etc. and this is not nothing.

Another questionable point in Gambescia’s book is the lightness with which he treats the question of the enemies of liberalism. There is, he says, a so-called “holy alliance between reactionaries, traditionalists and revolutionaries.” Behind the criticism of liberalism lies hidden the radical criticism of modernity, the hatred of the present, common to reactionary traditionalists and revolutionaries. At both extremes, there is the same gnostic rejection of man, marked, for some, by pessimism (the evil in Louis de Bonald or Christopher Lasch); and, for others, by optimism (the good in Karl Marx or Slavoj Zizek). Revolutionary Gnosticism, the main enemy of liberalism, is a sort of vein inspiring the different movements that are traditionalism, positivism, Marxism, anarchism, psychoanalysis, fascism, national socialism, ecologism, progressivism, etc. According to Gambescia, they are all based on the conviction that it is possible to eliminate evil from the world, thanks to the knowledge (gnosis) of the right method to change the course of history. Anti-capitalist and anti-liberal gnosticism implies a real disdain for the real man and facts.

Carlo Gambescia, a rigorous and honest sociologist, slips up here and gives way to being a fiery pamphleteer: “In short, why don’t intellectuals like liberalism?” The answer he gives is confoundingly simple: “To put it bluntly, it’s because they are mental lazybones, who aspire at the same time to social recognition, a distinction that in the marketplace of ideas is within the reach of all those who propose a false but useful idea.”

After having, not without reason, criticized the amalgams and the summary Manichaeism of Zeev Sternhell in The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition, Gambescia falls into the same trap. He claims to support his demonstration by relying on Bonald’s thought. Michel Toda, who to my knowledge is the only French specialist in the thought of the Viscount, is in a better position to give an opinion.

However, in order to take the measure of Gambescia’s misguidance on this point, it is enough to recall here the importance of the dogma of original sin for Donoso Cortès: human nature is neither good nor perverse, but only fallen. “The disruptive heresy, which, on the one hand, denies original sin, while affirming, on the other hand, that man does not need divine guidance – this heresy leads first to affirm the sovereignty of the mind, then to affirm the sovereignty of the will, and finally to affirm the sovereignty of the passions – three disruptive sovereignties. Donoso Cortès also explains: “This is my whole doctrine: the natural triumph of evil over good and the supernatural triumph of God over evil. Therein lies the condemnation of all progressive systems, by means of which modern philosophers, deceivers by profession, lull the people to sleep, those children who never leave childhood.”

It remains to be seen whether, as Gambescia seems to think, liberalism is an inescapable basis of the history of ideas from which variations are possible but only if they are minor. And even more, if the realist liberalism that he rightly defends in his brilliant and enlightening book is still a bearer of future and hope when it has been marginalized and murdered by the other liberalisms?


Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECD. He is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés


The featured image shows, “A Dirge,” by John Byam Liston Shaw; painyed in 1899.

Me And Liberalism

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” No, Voltaire didn’t write this (it was one, Evelyn Hall), but it sums up what I regard as the quintessence of liberalism.

Till maybe 25 years ago, I was perfectly happy being called a classic liberal and many people did so. It meant being at ease with yourself and yet not complacent – an enemy of injustice and a believer in the rule of law. All too often the latter has been travestied by the so-called liberals of today as being “law and order,” “lock up the crims,” etc. Only it doesn’t mean that at all. It means a belief in the law, essential to any civilised nation state, and a belief in the equality of all to the access and due process of law. A noble, liberal idea.

I use the word “travesty,” and sadly it applies to all too many so-called liberals of today: liberalism has become confused with, and almost inextricably entangled with, a kind of leftism that would disavow Evelyn Scott’s statement. With it comes an exponential increase in cancel culture, in “no platform,” and in vehement opposition to “your right to say it” if “it” is equated with hate speech.

No, liberalism should be all about learning from opinions different than yours and being ready to modify them in the process. For me a moment of epiphany was when I took on the thankless task of lead speaker defending Edward Heath’s failing government in a high school debate. I was no Tory (and I’m still not) but I found myself writing, “Capitalism is surely the least worst system we’ve got. It has its weaknesses, even its evils. But to his credit Mr Heath is aware of these and has pitted himself against what he calls, ‘The unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism.’ He wants to reform it, not overthrow it.”

I lost heavily – partly because one Jeremy Black was in brilliant form on the other side (and he personally supported Heath). I was dog-tucker, as we say in Australasia, but I had learnt a lot by putting myself in the government’s shoes.

I was aided and abetted in my speech by my father, who realised late in life that his mistake was to have had too much faith in essentially illiberal Marxism and too little in fighting – to repeat Heath’s phrase – “the unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism.” Liberalism ultimately overcame socialism for him, even though it took a lifetime.

A question: do you think we can have a debate with the decency and at the same time the robust intelligence, on the same theme, at any high school today?

Traditional liberalism has always run the risk of looking feeble, flaccid and wishy-washy. We are the “best people” who seem to “lack all conviction” to the extremists around us. Liberalism’s belief in respecting the constitution, law and institutions like the monarchy, parliament and the church (yet enjoying constructive criticism of them) can mean that it is prone to gradualism – which is only one step away from the ‘masterly inactivity’ practised as a fine art by the British politician A.J. Balfour.

But that reading of liberalism ignores the “defend to death” element of Scott’s quotation and its vehement opposition to injustice and extremism – circumstances in which liberals may risk being momentarily illiberal without losing sight of the big picture.

Historically, I know I would have been a Girondist in the French Revolution, a Parliamentary Reformer in 1832 (sorry, Professor Clark), a Dreyfusard, a Menshevik in 1917, a civil rights and anti-apartheid marcher back in the 1960s – oh, and add to the mix being pro National Health Service and Prague Spring.

Probably the last great political liberal was Roy Jenkins (d. 2003), a pioneering Home Secretary in the 1960s, as well as a distinguished Chancellor of the Exchequer, upholding capitalism in difficult times. His last great work was a biography of Churchill, never an easy fit in the Liberal Party (nor indeed the Conservatives, who think they understand him but don’t); considerably to the right of Jenkins in many ways, and today a target for mindless defacers of his statue outside parliament. Jenkins’s unequivocal verdict? The greatest British prime minister of the 20th century.

Roy Jenkins, where are you when we need you? And, I ask in the same breath, oh Guardian, Guardian, what crimes of journalism and fake news have in the last 20 years been committed in your name? Why have you stopped publishing my letters and why do all your journalists ignore me when I factually correct them? I lament for liberalism.

Zbigniew Janowski, who commissioned this essay, has tried his damnedest to work on this and purge my threatened, and probably by most people’s definition, vestigial liberalism. I commend his vigour in doing so – but he won’t ever quite succeed. This is because liberalism is a thing I cling on to.

We classic liberals are the hardest to convert to socialism (perish the thought), but equally to conservatism. Our religious equivalent is agnosticism; and anyone can tell you it’s far easier to convert an atheist into a true believer – or the reverse. We would have lasted for about 5 minutes under Stalin, Pol Pot or the Chief Executive of the Museum of New Zealand in the late 1990s. We are the easiest and softest targets of “passionate intensity” to quote Yeats. And yet we’re quietly proud of who we are and what, as a threatened species, we stand for.


Mark

Mark Stocker is an art hiostoran who writes books and articles on Victorian public monuments, numismatics and New Zealand art.

The featured image shows, “Launceston, Cornwall,” by JMW Turner; painted ca. 1814-1827.

Liberalism And Totalitarianism. A Conversation with Ryszard Legutko

Harrison Koehli from MindMatters talks with Ryzard Legutko about his work, life under communism, editing samizdat, the recent controversy with his university’s “office of safety and equality,” and the time he got sued for calling some students “spoiled brats.”

This is insightful and riveting discussion.


The featured image shows, “The Genius Of France Extirpating Despotism, Tyranny, and Oppression frokm the Face of the Earth,” an engraving by Isaac Cruikshank, published 1792.

An Open Letter To President Biden

Dear Mr. Biden:

You have several times said you intend to be the President for all the people in the United States, not only those who voted for you. You have expressed yourself as wanting to bring us all together, to unite the country. Well and good. If 2021 were a little less “interesting” than 2020 due to such efforts of yours, most Americans would be extremely grateful.

So, a few suggestions, if I may, as to how to accomplish this task; mainly, by leaning over backward and complimenting Mr. Trump and his many followers. Stop thinking about your first debate with him. I have no doubt it still leaves a bad taste in your mouth. No one likes to be bullied, and he was certainly guilty of just that. Think, instead, if you must, of the second debate.

What, specifically, can you do, and not do?

First, do not move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem. Instead, welcome this change, promised by several of Mr. Trump’s predecessors, but never fulfilled. Thank him for that; it wouldn’t kill you.

Second, you missed a bet when you changed the name of your predecessor’s vaccine program from “Warp Speed.” Why alienate Star Trek fans? Why not give at least partial credit where partial credit is due? What’s in a name? “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” It is not now too late to reverse course on this error of yours. Reinstitute that name, and pursue whatever policies on this front you deem best. You do want to bring the country back together again. You don’t want to sacrifice much of anything substantive to you, right? The name change costs you virtually nothing. It will seem big of you to admit a mistake, and rectify it.

Third, express appreciation for the Trump administration’s successes in the Middle East. Thanks to him, and it, Israel is now on far better terms with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Morocco. Nancy Pelosi dismissed all of this as a “distraction.” Well, that was then, this is now. If she refuses to retract this statement, you, at least, can take a different and more conciliatory tack.

Fourth, spurn revenge. According to a recent headline: “Actress Debra Messing Vows Ad Boycott for Any TV Show or Network that Platforms Kayleigh McEnany.” Stated this actress: “If I ever see [Kayleigh McEnany] on a panel on a news show or hired by a network, I am immediately ceasing to support every single advertiser on that network…” The same applies to the initiative to prohibit book deals for outgoing members of the Trump administration on the part of high profile Democrats in the publishing industry.

You can have your “Sister Souljah” moment on this issue if you publicly reject this type of initiative. You, of course, cannot stop the likes of Debra Messing, Alyssa Milano and Dave Bautista for lashing out at Trump supporters. But you can publicly take a different path.

It sends entirely the wrong signal to punish White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. She is not responsible for what you see as the shortcomings of the 45th president of the U.S. Even if she were, this sends entirely the wrong signal in your healing effort.

Fifth, Mr. Trump favored increasing the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. This is certainly in line with your principles. Acknowledge this. Show him, and us, your mettle.

Sixth, adopt the “Make America Great” motto as your own. Buy into it. It is only a slogan. Doing so will not in the slightest deter you from what you want to accomplish. Might as well implement your program under this rubric as well as any other. Score some additional points with an opposition in this way rendered more loyal.

Seventh, if you really want to unify our country, not only do not support the arrest of Donald Trump, but actually grant him a pardon for any criminal acts of which he might in the future be accused! If this doesn’t bring about domestic peace, then nothing will. I full well realize this would be a gigantic step for you. There are those in the Democratic Party who will deprecate you for any such overture. But just think of the optics of it! Yes, this is by far the most radical of my suggestions. This makes the first half dozen an easy sell! This will bring discomfort to many, including left-wing documentary filmmaker Michael Moore who said: “we are not done with him… Trial. Conviction. Imprisonment. He must pay for his actions – a first-ever for him.” That is no way to promote unity.

Eighth, China has just announced sanctions against 28 Trump officials and their families. Included is Pompeo who has sharply criticized China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims. Here’s a no-brainer way to promote unity: sharply rebuke the government of the People’s Republic of China for this initiative of theirs. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs justified this action based on “crazy actions that have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs.”

Ninth and last, the elephant in the room: how to react to the second impeachment of the 45th president of the U.S.? This is a tough one. Let us break this up into two aspects: short and long run unity. In the former case, if the 46th president of the U.S. were to strongly signal he opposes this effort, that would clearly bring about short run unity. It would take much of the wind out of the sails of the die-hard Trump supporters. They would be grateful, and their opposition to the legitimacy of the Biden election would atrophy at least somewhat. On the other hand, another failed impeachment would enable now private citizen Trump to run for president in 2024, continue to mold public opinion, remain as the titular head of the Republican Party. To say that this would undermine unity would be an understatement of large proportions. My prudential judgement: the short run outweighs the long run; therefore you should put a spoke in the wheel of this effort.

P.S. If you’ll forgive my informality, here’s an “attaboy” to you for characterizing the letter left to you by your predecessor as “ very generous.”


Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.


The featured image shows, “A Man Writing at his Desk,” by Jan Ekels, panted in 1784.

Archeofuturist Liberalism: A Manifesto

The following was published a few years ago – but in a very different version. We are publishing a significantly updated version, which the author has fully elaborated with the benefit of hindsight.


The obsession of liberals [libertarians, either “classical liberals” or “anarcho-capitalists”] to condemn only economic or “cultural” Marxism is a dead end. Saving Western civilization requires the wisdom to identify, and the courage to name, the other contemporary enemy of the West: namely cosmopolitanism. Cultural Marxism – in the sense of Antonio Gramsci’s doctrine that Marxists must reach cultural hegemony before attempting the Revolution – is certainly influential in the West; but not more than is cosmopolitanism itself – in the sense of the doctrine that political and moral boundaries must be dissolved for the benefit of the individual’s “emancipation.”

Economic Marxism – in the sense of communism (or semi-communism) and planning within a national framework – is certainly on the rise again in China; but China itself is an ally to the global superclass promoting cosmopolitanism. The “global superclass,” according to the expression popularized by Samuel Huntington, consists of a transnational network of uprooted and denationalized people, whose gestation dates back at least to the beginning of the 20th century and whose constitution accelerated with the fall of the Soviet bloc. Here, we will seek to elucidate the conceptual relations between liberalism [libertarianism] and cosmopolitanism; and will outline the contours of a new variety of liberalism – namely a liberalism simultaneously directed against bourgeois nationalism and against cosmopolitanism.

Definition Of Cosmopolitanism

By cosmopolitan ideology, one must understand here an ideology that rejects humanity divided into nations. As such, cosmopolitanism condemns the particular mode of organization that characterizes a nation as a nation, i.e., which confers on a group of individuals the identity and the unity of a nation. This unity consists of the following: a relative genetic homogeneity, as well as cultural one; a chain of social and juridical tiers that goes back to a sovereign political authority (i.e., the supreme authority within the government); and a territory that is covered by, and which limits, that hierarchical and homogeneous organization.

Cosmopolitanism attacks national territory, and therefore borders, by forbidding governments to defend nations against indiscriminate free trade or free immigration. It also attacks the juridico-political hierarchy of a nation, either by calling for inequalities reduced to income, merit, and occupation inequalities, or in advocating the substitution of nations with a world government. Finally, cosmopolitanism condemns as much the admitted moral frontiers (between good and evil, beauty and ugliness, honor and dishonor) as the genetic and cultural differences between nations. Not content with advocating the relativism of values (i.e., the abolition of moral boundaries), it praises the leveling of races and cultures.

It is a mistake to believe that the cosmopolitan elite would subscribe to the ideal of a humanity reduced to its animality, i.e., a humanity in which only the spontaneous (rather than diverted) aspirations of those instincts we inherited (from our primate ancestors) are expressed in human behavior – and expressed only in an unleashed (rather than rationalized) manner.

In effect, the ideology of the world superclass abhors the spontaneous aspirations of those human instincts that are expressed as territory and domination, identity and adventure – or even abhors those instincts as such, which come as distinct modalities of the aggressiveness coded in our genome.

The ideal inspiring cosmopolitanism is actually that of a humanity in which the spontaneous aspirations of our instincts for territory and identity – and therefore the attachment to frontiers – are no longer expressed. And of a humanity in which the spontaneous aspirations of our instincts for adventure and domination – and therefore the taste for military, economic, or intellectual competition – are no longer expressed. A humanity deprived of its national and cultural rooting, but also, more fundamentally, of its biological rooting – that is the horizon of the cosmopolitan ideology.

In the area of values and moral boundaries, let us point out that the version of cosmopolitanism advocated by the world superclass diverges from pur et dur cosmopolitanism. The ideology of the world superclass indeed counterbalances the call to get rid of any moral boundary (on behalf of individual emancipation) with the concern for preserving some of the typically bourgeois values – as much as with the concern for promoting ecologism and worldwide communism.

The wording “cosmopolitanism” was brandished for the first time by the Cynic philosopher Diogenes of Sinope. Nonetheless, we will leave aside the question of knowing whether Diogenes understood “cosmopolitanism” in its current sense of an ideology which preaches the relativism of values and the leveling of races and nations; or rather, for instance, in the sense that everyone – at a moral and biocultural level – belongs (and must belong) to a given nation, while belonging to the entire humanity at a “spiritual” level.

The Stoic philosophers and the Alexandrine Jewish philosophers were certainly partisans of the federation of nations under the aegis of a certain universal law. Nonetheless, they were not cosmopolitan in the current sense, i.e., they were not proponents of the dissolution of nations under the aegis of moral relativism.

What will concern us here will be cosmopolitanism as it is currently understood – and as it adapted and set up by the world superclass. Also, we will examine liberalism envisaged in its relation to the world superclass’s cosmopolitanism, i.e., the world superclass’s ideology advocating biocultural leveling and a certain moral relativism, but remaining attached to those bourgeois values that are the priority pursuit of material subsistence and the materialist approach to reality.

The Three Heads Of The Equalitarian Hydra

The overwhelming majority of liberals (be they academics or simply followers of the liberal philosophy) refrain from denouncing cosmopolitanism and envision Marxism as the only enemy to fight. What is more, they indulge in cosmopolitanism at various levels, whether or not they use the term cosmopolitanism – and whether that ideological leaning is conscious on their part or is so natural that it goes unnoticed in their own eyes. Does this mean then that liberalism conceptually ends up as cosmopolitanism? In other words, that cosmopolitanism comes as the logical outcome of liberalism, and that the endorsement of cosmopolitanism among liberals is – conceptually – necessary rather than contingent?

Before we answer these questions, it is important to highlight the kinship of liberalism, socialism, and cosmopolitanism. Those three ideologies (or philosophies) are ultimately the three distinct manifestations of the same egalitarian ideal.

Liberals, socialists, and cosmopolitans are indeed “in-fighting relatives,” animated by a common passion for (arithmetical) equality. And that, even though it is a faith, an ideal, which they proclaim in three distinct ways (universality of law for liberals; equality of incomes, or, at least, equal subjection to central planning, for socialists; the leveling of races and nations for cosmopolitans – let us add that liberalism, socialism, and cosmopolitanism – as they have unfolded since the French Revolution – also converge in their common adherence to the hegemony of economy in the scale of values. Such hegemony is not wishful thinking on the part of egalitarian ideals.

Concomitantly, with the dissipation of intermediate juridical inequalities (in accordance with the liberal ideal of equality in law), economy has lifted itself – in the wake of the Revolution of 1789 – at the summit of Western values. On the same token, the welfare state has gained ground (in accordance with the socialist ideal of economic equality); and concomitantly with the rise of the world superclass, cosmopolitanism itself has finally contaminated the intranational mores and the relations between nations. The world superclass also promotes ecologism, transhumanism, and communism – but here we will leave aside those aspects of the world superclass’s ideology.

Let us be clear about what makes the singularity of each of the three faces of the equalitarian ideology. The universality of law – or the equality of human beings with regard to the rules of law that must apply to them – serves as the fundamental categorical value of liberalism. In other words, liberalism fundamentally promotes the value of equality taken in a legal sense, i.e., taken in the sense of the equal freedom of all, the equal right of all not to suffer coercion (towards their life or their peacefully acquired goods).

For socialism, it is equality in an economic sense, i.e., income equality and central planning, which serves as a fundamental categorical value.

And for cosmopolitanism, it is equality taken in a biocultural and “communitarian” sense: the equality of men in the sense of their biological and cultural indifferentiation – and in the sense of their non-belonging to another collective than Humanity. That everyone be culturally and racially identical, and that no one be a member of a nation within Humanity; that everyone be a member of Humanity considered as a collective in its own right (and that he be a member of that collective only), and that the individual be released from the moral boundaries that his affiliation to one or other nation assigns to him; and finally that everything which “thwarts” and separates individuals be removed., That is the egalitarian creed of cosmopolitanism.

From Classical Liberalism To Anarcho-Capitalist Cosmopolitanism

In its purest form, so to speak, liberalism merges with an anarchism that respects private property – including the private ownership of the means of production. That said, it is an insoluble problem of knowing whether the “true” manifestation of a political movement lies in the “extremist,” fully coherent (doctrinally speaking) branch of that movement, or lies instead in a moderate, “pragmatic” branch of the latter. Determining whether the “true” implementation of a doctrine lies with the radical branch of its proponents (or lies instead with a moderate branch) falls within arbitrary consideration, “subjective preference.”

Therefore, it would be futile to ask whether the movements promoting anarcho-capitalism are “truer” than those promoting classical liberalism. But it is not futile to try to determine whether integral liberalism, in addition to being wholly anarchist, is wholly cosmopolitan (out of conceptual necessity). We shall see that anarcho-capitalism only exacerbates the amount of cosmopolitanism already present in classical liberalism – but that both anarcho-capitalism and classical liberalism remain distinct from integral cosmopolitanism.

Classical liberalism (that of John Locke, Adam Smith, J-B. Say, Mill, father and son, Robert Torrens, Frederic Bastiat, Yves Guyot, Ludwig von Mises, or Friedrich A. von Hayek) does not only affirm its attachment to equality in law, i.e., universality of the rules of law, universal freedom of all – but it promotes an extended division of labor and praises the entrepreneur as the one who coordinates the division of labor (on the basis of his anticipation of the fluctuations in demand), and who spurs the allocation of factors in anticipation, and in the direction of, the long-term equilibrium – that is, the type of equilibrium where capital is used and allocated in such a way that, besides the equilibrium market prices corresponding perfectly to the entrepreneurial anticipations, each factor is used and allocated in the most satisfying manner in view of current expectations on the part of consumers and investors.

Anarcho-capitalism inhabits the same terrain as classical liberalism, except that it rejects the “minimal state” promoted by classical liberals – and instead calls for privatizing (and opening up to competition) the “regalian” functions, i.e., putting an end to the state’s legal monopoly on the use of force to sanction attacks against physical integrity and against property rights.

The greatness of classical liberalism (which culminates in anarcho-capitalism) lies in its double demonstration of the superior productivity of an extended division of labor and of the need for the free market – a fortiori the free market for capital goods, in the absence of which there can be no anticipation and no calculation on the profitability of allocation decisions – to extend the division of labor and to coordinate it in the direction of the optimal satisfaction of consumption and investment needs.

The mediocrity of classical liberalism notably lies in its contempt for the practice of war – and in its pacifist ideal that degrades human nature, for it is true, as Hegel knew so well, that “the movement of the winds preserves the waters of the lakes from the danger of putrefaction, which would plunge them into a lasting calm, as would do for the peoples a lasting peace and a fortiori a perpetual peace.”

As for the relations between Western nations, the pacifism of classical liberalism eventually triumphed after the end of the Second World War. But the disappearance of war among Western nations only completed the preliminary disappearance of what may be called the individualist conception of war – or the Indo-European ethos in the practice of war. We will turn to that issue a bit later.

Anarcho-capitalists, like classical liberals, by the very necessity of their doctrine, indulge, to some extent, in cosmopolitanism, which, let us recall, is defined (in its complete form) by its call to abolish moral boundaries, to dissipate political boundaries, and to level races and cultures. While classical liberalism merges with a relative cosmopolitanism, anarcho-capitalism merges with a more pronounced cosmopolitanism (which remains incomplete).

Classical liberalism accepts, to some extent, the existence of nations. It accepts them except it promotes the indiscriminate opening of borders to goods and to migrants (in the name jointly of freedom and of the ideal of a division of labor whose scope transcends political boundaries) – all the while prohibiting (on behalf of freedom) any coercive measure intended to preserve biocultural identity.

For its part, anarcho-capitalism accepts biocultural homogeneity in a group of people; but it refuses the existence of nations as political edifices (if not as biocultural entities). The reason for this refusal lies in the fact that anarcho-capitalism finds all the implications of equality in law, which is tantamount to saying that it aspires to an equality in law that it be perfect, or “die-hard.”

As for moral boundaries, both anarcho-capitalism and classical liberalism promote bourgeois values – although they do not necessarily call them “bourgeois,” and although they claim such values to be universally adapted to human beings (rather than adapted to the sole bourgeois type of man). These values include the categorical (equality before the law), and the instrumental or conditioned ones, which are intended to set up the (bourgeois idea of) “good life.” Ayn Rand rightly summed up the bourgeois conception of the good life as the peaceful “survival of man as a rational being.” We will at this concept, and the instrumental values it implies, a little later. For now, let us simply note that classical liberalism, like anarcho-capitalism, are cosmopolitan to some extent with respect to political boundaries – and that anarcho-capitalism and classical liberalism are axiologically engaged with cosmopolitanism, rather than being morally cosmopolitan.

Classical liberalism, as it accepts the state, accepts a first infringement of equality in law. Officials and taxpayers, indeed, do not see themselves judged by the same rules of law in the sense that the former are exceptionally empowered to live on coercion and to enjoy privileges, such as, the more extended right to strike, very advantageous pensions and health care benefits, or guaranteed employment.

However, classical liberalism does not only accept the state; it accepts the state within a national framework. In other words, it accepts the state as territory of a given nation, federated by a relative cultural and genetic homogeneity. With notable exceptions, like Mises, classical liberalism does not promote the disappearance of national states for the benefit of a world state. As such, in addition of accepting the inequality in law between civil servants and taxpayers, classical liberalism accepts the inequality in law between domestic residents and foreigners. Yet anarcho-capitalism does not even want those two infringements of equality in law. The only inequalities that it deems legitimate are the inequalities of income, diploma, and profession. And that, because it regards any inequality in law as a fault, including the distinction between the official and the taxpayer and the one between the national citizen and the foreigner.

The relative cosmopolitanism that characterizes classical liberalism, and the adherence to a world government are both perfectly clarified by Ludwig von Mises, his treatise, Liberalism: “The metaphysical theory of the state declares – approaching, in this respect, the vanity and presumption of the absolute monarchs – that each individual state is sovereign, i.e., that it represents the last and highest court of appeals. But, for the liberal, the world does not end at the borders of the state. In his eyes, whatever significance national boundaries have is only incidental and subordinate. His political thinking encompasses the whole of mankind. The starting-point of his entire political philosophy is the conviction that the division of labor is international and not merely national. He realizes from the very first that it is not sufficient to establish peace within each country, that it is much more important that all nations live at peace with one another. The liberal therefore demands that the political organization of society be extended until it reaches its culmination in a world state that unites all nations on an equal basis. For this reason he sees the law of each nation as subordinate to international law, and that is why he demands supranational tribunals and administrative authorities to assure peace among nations in the same way that the judicial and executive organs of each country are charged with the maintenance of peace within its own territory.”

Anarcho-capitalism condemns the official and the taxpayer, along with the national citizen and the foreigner. Although anarcho-capitalism is necessarily cosmopolitan only in part (and necessarily condemns moral relativism), anarcho-capitalist cosmopolitanism is however a much more asserted, much more radical cosmopolitanism than classical-liberal cosmopolitanism.

As for biocultural identity, both anarcho-capitalism and classical liberalism necessarily oppose coercive measures intended to preserve the latter – for instance, a ban on miscegenation, which is not tantamount to morally approbating miscegenation (or the loss of biocultural identity generally speaking).

That said, one cannot but notice – in addition to those cosmopolitan tendencies that flow from a conceptual necessity – the following propensity on the part of anarcho-capitalists in practice – namely, their propensity to deny the existence of the aggressive instincts (i.e., identity and territory, adventure and domination), as well as the existence of races and cultures – and to morally condone, or even encourage, cultural leveling and miscegenation. And that, on the grounds that there should only exist “individuals” – that is, individuals who are not only born tabula rasa and undifferentiated, but who have no other social link than the division of labor and trade, the genetic and cultural links of the nation being denied in particular.

Such an approach deserves, in our opinion, the qualifier of “liberal Lysenkoism.” It is found among anarcho-capitalist but also among hybrid liberals, i.e., those liberals who are allied to the minimal state (or minarchy) of classical liberalism and who are nevertheless seduced – like are anarcho-capitalists – by the ideal of racial, cultural leveling.

From The National-Liberalism Of 1789 To Pseudo-Nationalist Anarcho-Capitalism

Pure radical liberalism can be defined as egalitarianism which – on behalf of the equal freedom of all – recognizes as legitimate sole economic and academic inequalities, i.e., income, diploma, and occupation inequalities.

Among anarcho-capitalists, some however care (more or less openly) for the coercive preservation of biocultural identities – and endeavor to develop a system that reconciles the coercive preservation of biocultural identities with the universality of law. Such is the case of Hans Hermann Hoppe especially.

Such version of anarcho-capitalism remains a modality of cosmopolitanism – and therefore, a modality of liberal cosmopolitanism, i.e., a cosmopolitan modality of libertarianism. Nevertheless, there is indeed a liberalism that reconciles the ideal of the nation, the rejection of all sorts of cosmopolitanism, with equality in law, i.e., the equal, universal freedom of all – and that liberalism is none other than the one which inspired the Revolution of 1789 and the posterior European nationalisms.

We have seen that classical liberalism affirms the existence of nations and advocates that they cultivate pacifism and free trade – and that they reject warmongering for the benefit, not only of peace, but of a social division of labor that limits nothing and which extends beyond frontiers. In other words, one in which men and capital circulate without the slightest restriction.

The national-liberalism of 1789, which serves as the matrix of the various European nationalisms of the 19th century, differs from classical liberalism on the question of free trade and free immigration. Unlike classical liberalism, it does not intend, indeed, to open borders to goods and people indiscriminately. It is also parts company with classical liberalism on the question of pacifism. Napoleonic imperialism and the conflict of 1914-1918 came as grand manifestations of the warmongering inherent in bourgeois nationalism. The disagreement between classical liberalism and national-liberalism over pacifism reflects one more fundamental of bourgeois values. The latter include, on the one hand, a categorical principle, namely, the equal freedom of all, and on the other hand, a series of instrumental principles (i.e., social division of labor, non-violence, responsibility, frugality, etc.) that allow for the bourgeois conception of the “good life,” i.e., peaceful and rational material subsistence.

While classical liberalism and anarcho-capitalism wholly subscribe to these principles, the national-liberalism of 1789 counterbalances its subscription to these principles with its endorsement of what may be called a gynecocratic cult of the nation, i.e., a veneration of the nation as a motherly deity, all of whose children are equal – and equally expected to die anonymously for the nation on the occasion of wars. Thus, the national-liberalism of 1789 – while enshrining bourgeois values within the nation – adheres to the infringement of the bourgeois prioritization of material subsistence, when it comes to the relations between the nations.

Besides, the national-liberalism of 1789 combines the ideal of free enterprise with that of a perfectly unified nation, i.e., one deprived of its intermediary bodies and its intermediary rank inequalities. It intends to exacerbate national sentiment so that the feeling of belonging to some nation henceforth arouse a greater pride than that of belonging to some caste or some class within that nation. It also seeks to erode the traditional intermediate inequalities of status, so that the nation only knows inequalities in income and in profession – and thus reducing individuals to mere cogs in the division of labor.

The national-liberalism of 1789 also promotes a policy of cultural homogenization. For example, by combating regional dialects and imposing the use of a single “national language.” It can even promote the unification (into a single nation) of a geographical area, and being composed of culturally and genetically related nations. Italy and Germany offer us two eminent examples of such unification. In line with its attachment to political measures intended to increase cultural homogeneity, the national-liberalism of 1789 can also promote political measures intended to preserve biocultural homogeneity.

Apart from the forced unification of a region (into a single nation), the forced cultural homogenization, and the forced preservation of biocultural identity; as well as apart from the counterbalancing free enterprise (and the extended social division of labor) with restrictions to free trade and free immigration, and apart from the counterbalancing the bourgeois ethos of prioritizing material subsistence with the principle of forced self-sacrifice for the sake of the motherly nation – the national-liberalism of 1789 converges with classical liberalism as to the promotion of bourgeois values. As Vilfredo Pareto invites us to do, it is always worthwhile to distinguish between the “residue” and the “derivation,” i.e., the (sometimes instinctual) feelings that any ideology serves and the rhetorical tricks it hypothetically uses to conceal those feelings – or to conceal the compromises with reality that the ideology in question is hypothetically obliged to make.

In fact, the national-liberalism of 1789, which claims its strict attachment to bourgeois values and equality in law, endeavors to legitimize (and enshrine) a society that does not ignore inequality in law, but only intermediate bodies and intermediate castes (between the government and the individual), in which juridical, economic, and academic inequality is such that the ruling class is henceforth the bourgeoisie. What is more, such a society is not fully absorbed by the priority pursuit of mutual, peaceful subsistence between formally equal proprietors, but which counterbalances that bourgeois ethos with the principle of compromising one’s material subsistence (and the smooth running of the social division of labor) for the sake of the national gynecocratic cult. The national-liberalism of 1789 endeavors to defend the bourgeois juridico-political edifice – and the gynecocratic, sacrificial wars of bourgeois nations – under the guise of a mysticism of peace and equality.

A certain version of anarcho-capitalism, which may be called pseudo-nationalist anarcho-capitalism, takes into account biocultural identities – and paradoxically intends to preserve them coercively. The anarcho-capitalism à la Hoppe indeed conceives of the anarcho-capitalist order as a “covenant,” jointly based on property right and on the contractual obligation to verbally, behaviorally adhere to a certain set of “conservative” values. Therefore, anyone formulating ideas contrary to those values, or behaving in contradiction with them. is likely to get expelled from the “covenant,” though the latter is established in a wholly peaceful, voluntary manner.

Hoppe (to the best of our knowledge) does not raise the following implication openly – that such an anarcho-capitalist “covenant” – besides allowing the rallying around some shared values (which are, in fact, the bourgeois values) – also allows for the coercive preservation of biocultural identity. For instance, through the conceivable contractual obligation not to miscegenate oneself – or the one not to convert to Islam. As for immigration (whose political channeling is part of the coercive measures to protect the nation’s biocultural identity), Hoppe makes the case that a policy authorizing indiscriminate free immigration is necessarily incompatible with the enforcement of property rights. On the grounds that such policy violates the right of proprietors to decide who is entitled or not to cross the limits of their respective properties.

At first sight, the Hoppean covenant may look like an honorable, though chimerical, attempt to reconstruct the nation in an anarcho-capitalist framework. Actually, such is not Hoppe’s intent. And rightly so – for one cannot overestimate the inanity of that conceivable intent. National boundaries are, indeed, not enshrined by the owners themselves (as is the case in the Hoppean covenant), but by the governments. Nonetheless, the nation is not a fantasy used by governments (to legitimize their authority over a given territory) no more than it is created by a voluntary association of coowners. What necessarily characterizes a nation (as a nation) is that it comes as a certain space, federated by a given pecking order, a certain juridico-political order, and by a territorial instinct which is expressed as much among those “at the bottom of the social ladder” as among those who compose the ruling class and the state administration. A certain space which is, besides, occupied by people who are genetically homogeneous – as well as culturally homogenous – to some extent, and who share a common worldview, a certain canvas of memes. Claiming to rebuild nations on the sole basis of property right (and the contractual adherence to some values) simply becomes a modality of cosmopolitanism.

For an introduction to the theory of pecking orders, one may consult Robert Ardrey’s The Social Contract:

“In 1920 the British amateur ornithologist Eliot Howard presented the natural sciences with the concept of territory in animal affairs. In 1922, just two years later, a Norwegian scientist, T. Schjelderup-Ebbe, published in Germany his study of the social psychology of the chicken yard. It centered on his discovery of the pecking order in a flock of hens. From alpha to omega there is a rank order of dominance within the flock, and each hen has the right to peck those below it in the order, while none has the right to peck back. Thus alpha has the right to peck all, whereas none can peck her. And omega, of course, the last in line, gets pecked by everybody and can peck back at none. In just two years the twin principles of territory and dominance, the concepts at present most absorbing for students of animal behavior, came into being. Howard, despite his study of innumerable bird species, was conservative in confining his conclusions to bird life, the world he knew. Like Howard, Schjelderup-Ebbe went on to study sparrows, pheasants, ducks and geese, cockatoos, parrots, canaries. He was anything, however, but conservative. ‘Despotism,’ he wrote, ‘is the basic idea of the world, indissolubly bound up with all life and existence.’ He went beyond life: ‘There is nothing that does not have a despot… The storm is despot over the water; the lightning over the rock; water over the stone it dissolves.’ He even recalled a proverb that God is despot over the Devil.”

For an introduction to meme theory, it is worth quoting our friend Howard Bloom:

“As genes are to the individual organism, so memes are to the social organism, or superorganism, pulling together millions of individu¬als into a collective creature of awesome size. Memes stretch their tendrils through the fabric of each human brain, driving us to coagulate in the cooperative masses of family, tribe and nation… History, either natural or human, has never been the sole province of the selfish individual, essentially preoccupied with preserving his genes. For history is the playfield of the superorganism – and of its recent step-child, the meme.”

Although it is concerned with the coercive preservation of biocultural identity (and the coercive discrimination of immigration), the Hoppean version of anarcho-capitalism remains a modality of cosmopolitanism. The Hoppean covenant (which, anyway, is wholly chimerical, unrealistic) is nothing other than an intended substitute for the nation.

As for the argument that free immigration is incompatible as much with an anarcho-capitalist “covenant” as with the state’s respect for intranational property rights, that argument comes more as a rhetorical trick, a “derivation,” than as a rigorous, factual reflection. It implicitly assumes, indeed, that a nation and an anarcho-capitalist order both constitute – necessarily – a coownership (or a club), in which the decision to authorize (or refuse) the entry of someone is made by the coalesced owners (or the gathered members of the club). Yet that is a false conception as much of the anarcho-capitalist order as of the national edifice. The former is not more necessarily a club than it is necessarily a coownership. In other words, an anarcho-capitalist order organized as a coownership (or as a club) only comes as a certain kind of organization for an anarcho-capitalist order.

As for the nation, it can in no way be a club or a coownership – in view of the juridical hierarchy necessarily present within it and the necessarily coercive character of the state (even democratic). On the basis of such a premise (i.e., that a nation or an anarcho-capitalist order necessarily comes as a coownership), one could just as easily argue that free trade necessarily violates property rights as much in a nation as in an anarcho-capitalist order – and that a policy opening up the nation’s frontiers to goods necessarily denies the right of the owners to decree which goods are allowed or not to cross the boundaries of their respective properties.

Free immigration and free trade must be limited – not in the name of a properly understood anarcho-capitalism, but in the name of the rejection of the relative cosmopolitanism that is inherent in classical liberalism and exacerbated in all varieties of anarcho-capitalism. Liberalism must be counterbalanced, limited by civilizational and geopolitical considerations.

In this respect, it is worthwhile recalling that the expansion of cosmopolitanism into Western nations only comes as the culmination of a process of subversion of Western civilization which began with the abandonment of the Indo-European order, i.e., the warlike and sacerdotal order – and with the advent of the bourgeois industrious society. Classical liberalism is engaged in the march of cosmopolitanism, in the sense that it has been leading the march towards free trade and free immigration. For its part, the national-liberalism of 1789 has been involved in the march of the bourgeois industrious society – with neither classical liberalism nor anarcho-capitalism coming to oppose intellectually the bourgeois society and to take up the defense of Indo-European tradition. Quite the contrary.

The National-Liberalism Of 1789 In The Face Of Indo-European Tradition

The Indo-European tradition is one that is both organizational and axiological. Organizationally, it comes as the tradition of a tripartite and hierarchical organization of society, in which the sacerdotal caste (for instance, the druids in Celtic society, the brahmins in Vedic society, and the magi in Persian society) takes precedence – spiritually – over the warlike caste; and in which both the warlike and sacerdotal castes take precedence – juridically – over the productive caste. The authority to decide on spiritual and otherworldly issues is up to the priests (and only up to them), who notably serve as magicians and esotericists.

As for political power (i.e., the power of command and decision, as well as the authority to decide on secular issues), it always lies with the warlike caste (which can share it, more or less, with the sacerdotal caste, depending on the considered society). For their part, merchants, peasants, and workers find themselves subservient – through their inferior position in the tiering of juridical ranks – to the warlike and sacerdotal castes.

Axiologically, the Indo-European tradition comes as that of an ethos which may be called individualist-warlike (or aristocratic-warlike, or quite simply aristocratic). That ethos consists (for a given aristocrat, i.e., a given member of the hegemonic warlike caste) of undertaking to singularize oneself through the exercise of military domination (with regard to the productive caste’s members); and through the pursuit of eternal glory on the battlefield, i.e., the pursuit of military exploits, occasioning eternal remembrance of one’s name and one’s fame.

The juridical enfeoffment of the productive, industrious caste to the magus and the warrior is traditionally accompanied with a twin primacy of sacerdotal and aristocratic values, i.e., magic (including esotericism) and warlike individualism (as defined above).

The national liberalism of 1789 set up a reversal of the Indo-European tradition by placing the productive function at the top – both from an axiological and organizational point of view. Thus followed the marginalization of sacerdotal and individualist-warlike values (but not of war itself); the disappearance of intermediate juridical inequalities (but not of the state as such); and the triumph of what may be called the bourgeois materialist spirit. As concerns war, the overthrow of the Indo-European triad (for the benefit of economy) meant, not the decrease of war itself, but actually the necessary marginalization of the warlike-individualist ethos, which is by necessity the contempt of the warlike-aristocratic ethos (and therefore for the aristocrat himself).

While a bourgeois nation does not necessarily ignore the practice of war, it is necessarily prey to the replacement of the Indo-European warlike-individualist ethos (i.e., the ethos of rendering oneself glorious and immortal through military exploit) with what may be called the warlike-sacrificial ethos, i.e., the ethos of anonymizing oneself within the mass of soldiers, dead for the Motherland.

Besides, far from encouraging the global outburst of human instincts, the hegemony of economy thwarts the spontaneous, natural aspirations of those instincts that are territory and identity, domination and adventure – and requires the forced hypertrophy of the economic instinct, i.e., the instinct which leads us to seize peaceful opportunities of trade and production. Such hypertrophy goes against the spontaneous, natural hierarchy of man’s instinctual needs. To humans, identity and territory, adventure and domination, matter – naturally – more than material enjoyment and economic cooperation.

Nowadays, the defense of “warlike heroism” is most often accompanied by a sacrificial conception of the heroic ideal. The “hero” is indeed perceived as the one who is ready to die for society (the nation, the fatherland, the Republic) and who forgets, or denies his individuality, standing aloof from any selfishness in his conduct. This conception, which is celebrated as much in bourgeois democracies as in totalitarian regimes, diverges completely from the idea that pagans had of heroism in the ancient world. Far from sacrificing himself for society, the hero, the aristocrat, established the ruling caste (which could be interpenetrated with the sacerdotal caste). In a sense, the society was sacrificed for the benefit of the hero, in that social organization was designed for the benefit of the warlike and sacerdotal castes, the latter living off the work of slaves and the productive caste’s efforts.

Besides, war was valued, and perceived, not as a way of self-denial but quite the contrary, as a way of supernatural fulfillment of an individual. In other words, a way for him to render himself divine (or to reveal, confirm his divinity), and to have his exploits sung forever by other people. The clairvoyance (i.e., ability for divination) and sorcery of the priest were regarded as another modality of the supernatural fulfillment, i.e., another mode of deification for an individual.

But, what may be called bourgeois materialism, won the spirits, as bourgeois nationalism was extending its grip over the Western world. The bourgeois materialist state of mind can be negatively defined as a state of mind mocking and refusing the warlike-individualist spirit, and denying the reality of magic and that of clairvoyance – as well as the reality of supernatural fulfillment. It can be positively defined as a state of mind reducing the world to its material aspects and putting above everything else – including above the pursuit of (military, intellectual, artistic, technological, or even economic) exploits – the pursuit of material subsistence – more precisely, the pursuit of reciprocal material subsistence among peaceful, formally equal proprietors.

Not content with rejecting (intermediate) inequalities of law, and advocating the reduction of inequalities to the income, diploma, and occupation inequalities under the aegis of the state, the national-liberalism of 1789 advocates a materialist and sacrificial conception of human existence, in that the individual must renounce an heroic life (i.e., a life primarily dedicated to the pursuit of singularizing, immortalizing exploit – even at the expense of his subsistence), and devote himself only to enrichment, as much his own as that of the nation, while proving ready to sacrifice his life for the nation from time to time. More precisely, the individual is, on the one hand, allowed (and even encouraged) to satisfy peacefully his “personal interest” at the economic level – with the well-understood economic interest of individuals coinciding allegedly with “the interest of the nation” – but on the other hand, expected to be ready to set his life at stake at a military level – and to sacrifice himself for his motherland.

While war in a traditional Indo-European society is either the work of the warlike nobility and its mercenaries, or the work of a conscript army that respects and incorporates within it the status divisions, conscription comes as a necessary trait of the bourgeois nation. As the bourgeoisie dethrones the sacerdotal and warlike castes, and rank inequalities dissipate (for the benefit of the sole economic inequalities), war becomes the business of all.

On the same token, the heroic ideal, i.e., the ideal of supernatural self-affirmation through war or through the practice of magic, is dismissed (or marginalized); and it is expected from war that it will be henceforth a path exclusively (or semi-exclusively) of self-denial – the path of self-sacrifice “in the interest of the nation.” It is worth noting that the bourgeois nationalism of 1789 thus counterbalances the materialist bourgeois mindset (which is perfectly hostile to the compromising of one’s material subsistence, whether it be compromised for warlike-individualist motives or for sacrificial motives) with a spirit of self-sacrifice for the national deity – the latter being admittedly an earthly, gynecocratic deity.

The mediocrity of classical liberalism, as seen above, notably lies in its pacifism. The mediocrity of the national-liberalism of 1789, which has nothing to do with pacifism, notably lies in its sacrificial conception of heroism. The transition from a warlike and sacerdotal order, such as the France of the Old Regime, to a bourgeois order does not mean that bellicosity necessarily dissipates; but that the warlike and sacerdotal castes are necessarily dissolved and the state necessarily falls into the hands of the bourgeoisie.

It also means that the warlike function – if it does not disappear – is necessarily and only put at the service of the productive function, i.e., used to keep the economy operating – or put at the service of the promotion of the nation’s founding ideals, i.e., used to impose those ideals upon the world. In other words, war ceases to be practiced for the purpose of the individual’s supernatural fulfillment, so that “warlike heroism” is henceforth understood and praised in sacrificial terms; and so that the chivalrous, warlike-individualist spirit of the warlike aristocracy is jointly abandoned for the benefit of the bourgeoisie’s materialistic spirit and for the benefit of the motherland’s sacrificial cult.

In the framework of the transition from warlike-sacerdotal France to bourgeois France, the Napoleonic wars were prey to contrary forces. On the one hand, they occasioned an ultimate resurgence of the warlike-individualist culture of traditional France – as noted and praised by Nietzsche while on the other hand, they enshrined the bourgeois industrious order and the abandonment of the warlike-individualist ethos, for the benefit of an all-encompassing pursuit of material subsistence, counterbalanced by occasional self-sacrifice for the Nation.

In The Nomos of the Earth, Carl Schmitt rightly noticed that the Jacobins “decried the classic interstate war, purely military, of the 18th century as a cabinet war of the Old Regime and… rejected as a matter of tyrants and despots the liquidation of the civil war and the limitation of the external war accomplished by the state. They replaced the purely state war with the people’s war and the democratic mass uprising.”

The national-liberalism of 1789 is therefore a nationalism which breaks with the Indo-European tradition; and that subverts the traditional hierarchy in values and in juridical ranks. More precisely, it combines the ideal of free enterprise and of an extended division of labor with the ideal of a bourgeois nation. In other words, a nation in which juridical, professional, economical, and academic inequalities have such nature that the bourgeois class (i.e., the “merchants” in the broad sense: entrepreneurs, capitalists, executives, consultants, bankers) is henceforth the politically dominant class; and in which the bourgeoisie’s materialist state of mind and the moralism (i.e., the contempt for the cultivation of supernatural, virile values), constitutive of such a mind, henceforth serve as reference values. Here, Vilfredo Pareto proposed the phrase “virtuism.”

talian Futurism, which culminated in Fascism, was certainly revolted against bourgeois society and its materialist, virtuist spirit: “We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight moralism, feminism, and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice,” wrote Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. To the extent that Soviet nationalism strictly subordinates the warlike function to the productive function, i.e., reduces war to a sacrificial instrument for keeping the economy operating (in addition to serving the territorial expansion of the memes of Marxism-Leninism), nationalist socialism lies in the lineage of the nationalist liberalism of 1789. It combines the ideal of the collective ownership of the means of production, and of central planning, with the ideal of a proletarian nation, i.e., a nation in which it is the proletarian’s materialist state of mind which axiologically prevails, and in which the ruling class is exclusively composed, if not of proletarians, at least of intellectuals, claiming to rule in the name of proletarians. (It is worth noting that, in practice, the Stalinian regime believed in magic and solicited the gifts of magicians – in contradiction to the materialism of its foundational Marxist-Leninist ideology).

As for Hitlerian nationalism and Fascist nationalism, they were certainly socialist nationalisms linked to proletarian nations; but their socialist nationalism was traversed by contrary forces with regard to the warlike function. On the one hand, they witnessed resurgence of the Indo-European warlike-individualist spirit – as exemplified in the following lines of Mario Carli’s Fascismo Intransigente. “The warlike spirit [warlike-individualist spirit] is the fundamental character of the Italians; it is not a fascist invention nor a post-bellum attitude. Find me a single moment in history in which we have not fought – it doesn’t matter for whom or for what… It took a century of democratic dysentery to drown the individual worth of Italians in egalitarian and humanitarian soup. But today, it is making its return… Mussolini, Minister of War! That is what seems to me the supreme and most splendid embodiment of the Mussolinian spirit!”
On the other hand, that resurgence of the Indo-European warlike-individualist spirit was counterbalanced with the implementation of a sacrificial, gynecocratic approach to war – expecting the individual to be ready to anonymize himself within a mass of faceless soldiers, compromising their subsistence for the sake of the nation’s economic interests, or for the sake of its ideological interests (i.e., the expansionist pretensions of the nation’s foundational memes).

As such the socialism of Nazi Germany as the socialism of Mussolinian Italy were therefore, in part, a socialism of the rupture with the Indo-European tradition. In the case of Nazi Germany, the subordination of the warlike function to the productive function was described in these terms by Ernst Jünger, in The Worker. “The armed defense of the country is no longer the obligation and the privilege of the sole professional soldiers; it becomes the task of all those who are likely to bear arms… On the same token, the image of the war, which represents it as an armed action, is blurred more and more in favor of the much broader representation which conceives of it as a gigantic process of work. In addition to the armies fighting on the battlefield, new kinds of armies are emerging: the army in charge of communications, the one responsible for the supply, the one that supports the equipment industry – the army of labor in general.”

Further Qualifications Of Heroism And Bourgeois Society

With regard to the precise symptoms of the productive function’s hegemony in contemporary Western society, it has been commonly argued that such hegemony implied the predominance of the “utilitarian” lifestyle associated with the merchant; and the dissipation of the “heroic” way of life associated with the warrior.

To begin, the distinction between the hero (seen as the one who is ready to die for others) and the merchant (seen as selfish and calculating), developed by Werner Sombart, does not stand up to scrutiny. The hero in the traditional sense is the one who performs military exploits, i.e., exceptional deeds on the battlefield, singling him out and endowing himself with eternal fame, and who manages – through self-mastery and inner harmony – to properly, intensively satisfy his territorial and adventurous, identity-minded and domineering instinctual drives.

Only the hero in the modern sense, the hero as defined in bourgeois nations, is the one who dies for others. Achilles is ready to die, but for the singularization of his existence and the immortalization of his name. Whether in fiction or in History, many Indo-European heroes have been merchants, the emblematic example remaining to this day, being Cosmo de Medici – the noble who rose to the top of Florence by virtue of his skill in finance and founded a dynasty of Tuscan rulers. (It goes without saying that when we defend heroism in the traditional, pagan sense, we do not intend, nonetheless, to castigate the sacrificial acts of generosity in society – including the devotion of the saint and that of the mother. We only intend to distinguish between what is specifically heroic and what is sacrificial).

At first sight, it may seem paradoxical to denounce the virtuism of the bourgeoisie, while celebrating the warlike-individualist spirit of the great captains of industry. In fact, the “bourgeois” who applies a chivalrous code (i.e., a warlike-individualist code) in business is bourgeois only at an economic level. Morally and psychologically, he is instead a warrior, a kshatriya, a knight. The soap opera, The Young and The Restless, very popular in France, features a businessman, Victor Newman, cultivating a warlike-individualist, Nietzschean morality, in the puritanical and sententious environment of Protestant America. It cannot be denied that the “will to power,” when understood as the simple fact of aspiring to hegemony in society, is common to bourgeois, proletarians, warriors, and magicians. Friedrich Nietzsche points to that when he – rightly – writes that “the oppressed, the lowly, the great masses of slaves and semi-slaves desire power.”

On the other hand, the “will to power,” when understood as the fact of aspiring (and being able) to harmonize the inner chaos of instincts and to display courage (before the risk of death) and high, flexible intelligence (in military tactic and in seduction) is unique to aristocrats and magicians – and to those of “bourgeois” who have an individualist-warlike soul. Not less rightly, Nietzsche deplores that “one stigmatizes with the most insulting names the great virtuoso of life (whose sovereignty of oneself constitutes the most marked contrast with the vicious and the debauchee). Even today it is thought necessary to disapprove a Caesar Borgia – that is laughable. The Church excommunicated German emperors because of their vices, as if any monk or priest could afford to discuss all that a Frederick II has the right to demand of himself. A Don Juan is sent to hell – it is naive. Has one noticed that all the interesting men are missing in Heaven?”

The hegemony of merchants in contemporary Western society necessarily means the hegemony of a class whose will to power cannot be denied when taken in its first sense; but who lack manliness, courage, temperance, and a creative, independent mindset – in short, the will to power taken in its second sense.

In a fundamentally industrious society, the primacy of economy over war (what is constitutive of such type of society) does not necessarily imply that a strictly utilitarian way of life (i.e., unconcerned as much with the concern for meditating on the mystery of existence as with the idea of dying for someone or something) predominates. That primacy does not necessarily imply, either, that the instincts of homo sapiens are unleashed – and that man regresses to the “animal stage.”

When the productive function becomes predominant, it necessarily follows that a way of life impervious to the warlike-individualist ethos (i.e., the ethos of rendering oneself glorious and eternal through the execution of exploits – and compromising one’s material subsistence in the name of immortality) becomes predominant. It does not necessary follow that a way of life strictly utilitarian becomes predominant – and that the practice of war or meditation on Heideggerian Being disappears (or gets marginalized).

Besides, the economic instinct (i.e., the instinct that leads us to seize peaceful opportunities of trade and of production) is, indeed, necessarily solicited as the productive function, and which becomes hegemonic; but it is then solicited against the natural prevalence of our aggressive (i.e., territorial and domineering, adventurous and identity-minded) instincts. Hence it is a properly counter-instinctual way of life which is finally solicited – the human animal privileging spontaneously, instinctually, naturally the satisfaction of his aggressive instinctual inclinations (for dominance and territory, identity and adventure) rather than the satisfaction of his instinctual inclination for economic cooperation. Those are the true necessary symptoms of the hegemony necessarily acquired by the productive function in a fundamentally industrious society.

It is to the anthropologist and philosopher Robert Ardrey that we owe the remarkable elucidation of man’s priority, his instinctual needs: territory and domination, but also identity (i.e., knowing and proving who we are, experimenting with, and seeing recognized, the uniqueness of our personality) and adventure (i.e., leading an exhilarating, meaningful life). It is true that those aggressive instincts very largely dictate our consumption choices – for the good reason that in the enjoyment of material goods itself, aggressiveness (i.e., the concern for identity, territory, domination, and adventure) naturally matters more than material subsistence (i.e., housing, clothing, food, health, financial security).

It is true that Promethean growth (i.e., based on the domestication of nature through coal and nuclear industries) and modern capitalism (i.e., capitalism of the entrepreneurial, financialized, digitized, and globalized type) have allowed consumer goods to satisfy the aggressiveness of the masses as never before. Let us think of the social status afforded by the possession of an iPhone alone, or of a luxury watch; or the adventure offered by an opus of the video-game saga, The Legend of Zelda. The fact still remains that as such, economic life – and a fortiori consumption – can only, in an imperfect, diverted manner, satisfy the aggressive instincts of man; and that those instincts (i.e., territory and domination, adventure and identity) actually are thwarted, not fulfilled, as economy becomes ascendant in the scale of values.

Besides, the hegemony of the productive function with regard to war does not only imply that on the battlefield, the warlike-individualist ethos (which does not fail to surface occasionally among soldiers) is scorned. The primacy of economy implies that the warlike-individualist ethos is despised in the realm of war, literally; but also in the field of economics, and in these softened and derivative forms of war that are entrepreneurial or financial competition (not to mention intellectual, cognitive competition).

A society that has become completely hostile to heroism does not praise more the business kshatriya than it admires and protects the John Rambo-style soldier, i.e., those of soldier who lives according to a warlike-individualist ethos. From the soldier, such society expects that he be ready to die for the homeland (instead of pursuing immortalizing exploit and looking for the thrill of blood and adventure); and from the entrepreneur, that he simply make profits (instead of “dreaming” himself as heir to Alexander the Great).

The social contempt for military, economic, and intellectual heroism necessarily characterizes the productive function’s hegemony; and that contempt culminates in the importance taken by diplomas in contemporary Western society. The culture of the diploma indeed ensures the access of devirilized individuals to key positions in companies, governments, universities, and armies. Basically, the culture of the diploma has enshrined the spiritual and moral hegemony of the vaishya over the kshatriya and the brahmin.

Some people welcome the decline in violence that – despite the Terror and the Great War – accompanied the rise of the bourgeoisie and the break with the Indo-European tradition. The pacification of Western society would be a marvelous gift of the bourgeoisie to the world. Yet the consubstantial violence of traditional Indo-European societies was a sign of their virility – the sign that the circulation of warlike elites was ongoing and that the military struggle for social, juridical preeminence was doing well. The gradual pacification of the white world after coming out of the Renaissance should not be interpreted as progress in every respect. The decline in intra-Western violence necessarily implies the decline in the virility of the world’s elites – as it necessarily implies the pullback of those traditional ways of ascent that are war and the Florentine virtù. It necessarily implies the prevalence of the diploma and entrepreneurship among the processes of selection of elites. As the circulation of elites is pacified, the selected elites emerge more and more emasculated and less and less heroic – to our greatest misfortune before the invaders from Africa and the Middle East. When it is not simply humanitarian cowardice that motivates the elites of Western nations to let terrorists and non-indigenous settlers prosper with impunity on Western soil, they behave as emissaries of the world superclass: for which the “great replacement” of the Western man is a clearly established goal.

Towards A New National-Liberalism: Territorial-Aristocratic Liberalism

But can one conceive a nationalism that combines the ideal of free enterprise and of an extended division of labor with the warlike-sacerdotal order on which Tradition is built? We will try to show that, yes, such a nationalism is conceivable; and we will outline the contours of that radically new doctrine.

But first, we must specify that we must use the distinction of Julius Evola, that of between an aristocratic nationalism (based on the warlike-sacerdotal aristocracy and on a heroic, supernatural conception of existence) and a plebeian nationalism (based on equality and materialism). Within national-liberalism, we believe that the same distinction shows itself, between a national-liberalism of the plebeian kind (that of the French Revolution), and a national-liberalism of the aristocratic kind – the one we defend and which is biding its time. The common category of national-socialism allows subsuming Stalinian and Maoist nationalisms as well as Hitlerian and Mussolinian nationalisms – and national-socialism itself only comes as a modality of plebeian nationalism.

In its new, aristocratic version, national-liberalism approves the prosperity and the “recognition” of merchants, while rejecting their juridico-political and moral hegemony. It rejects the enfeoffment of the warlike function to the productive and reproductive function; and intends to restore the twin primacy of warlike and sacerdotal values in society, as well as the juridical hegemony of magicians and warriors. In addition, it defends property right and modern capitalism, i.e., capitalism of the entrepreneurial, globalized, financialized, and “digitized” kind. It intends to preserve the organizational and axiological features of Indo-European tradition in the context of modern capitalism.

Such nationalism rejects any type of egalitarianism – including the universality of law, which serves, let us recall, as the fundamental value of liberalism. To the extent that such nationalism affirms its attachment to free enterprise and the extended division of labor, and recognizes the true value of the coordinating role of the entrepreneur (who adjusts the division of labor in an optimal direction in view of people’s expectations, in terms of consumption and investment), it is all the same allowed to regard that doctrine as a modality of liberalism – a borderline case of liberalism.

Since this version of liberalism defends the nation, therefore the natural, spontaneous aspiration of our territorial instinct, and defends the juridical, moral hierarchy constitutive of Indo-European tradition, therefore the warrior-sacerdotal aristocracy and the spontaneous, natural aspirations of our domineering, adventurous, and identity-minded instincts, it is permissible to baptize that doctrine, as “territorial-aristocratic liberalism.” It may also be called a “territorial, aristocratic monarchy,” embracing some of the liberal values – those retained values, i.e., private property, free enterprise, and the extended division of labor, finding themselves counterbalanced with the twin primacy of vales that are sacerdotal (i.e., magic and esotericism) and warlike-individualist (i.e., the pursuit of eternal, individual glory on the battlefield at the expense of material subsistence).

While the national-liberalism of 1789 combines the ideal of free enterprise with the rejection of intermediate castes (between the state and the individual), and with a materialistic, egalitarian conception of human existence (i.e., a conception which rejects the supernatural ends and that jointly devalues the magus and the warrior for the benefit of the merchant), territorial-aristocratic liberalism simultaneously preaches free enterprise and the return to Indo-European intermediate castes and to the Indo-European system of values. Far from denying race, the national-liberalism of 1789 recognizes the bonds of blood on which the nation is built.

More precisely, it rejects the distinctions of rank within the nation – and thus rejects caste consciousness for the benefit of mere race consciousness. That state of mind culminates into the “racism” of 1789 towards warlike nobility, who sees itself conveniently likened to a foreign race. For its part, territorial-aristocratic liberalism advocates race consciousness, but also caste consciousness and the restoration of sacerdotal, warlike nobility. Nevertheless, it remains attached – like the national-liberalism of 1789 – to free enterprise and the extended division of labor. Besides, it denounces hard ecologism and promotes Promethean growth, i.e., the kind of growth that does not rest on the extension of the division of labor, but on the emancipation of human productive powers (through the exploitation of fossil, nuclear energies) with respect to the cycles of nature.

Man, as territorial-aristocratic liberalism envisions him, is not that puppet of the theory of a David Hume, a John Locke, or a Murray Rothbard, who strictly pursues his private interest (what, in their theoretical framework, insidiously boils down to the requirements of material subsistence), while deliberately and calmly cooperating with others in the framework of an extended social division of labor, protected by universal rules of law.

But man, as territorial-aristocratic liberalism envisions him, is fundamentally aggressive. First and foremost, he is territorial and domineering, adventurous and identity-minded, rather than concerned with his comfort and his material subsistence. Besides, this new liberalism sees man, not as a rational agent whose determination of goals – and whose choice (and use) of means – are deliberate at every moment, but as an agent most often acting (i.e., determining goals and choosing and using means) under the effect of uncontrolled impulsions with an emotional, “residual” origin – and only giving a deceptive appearance of rationality to his actions through “derivations.”

Territorial-aristocratic liberalism nonetheless envisions (and praises) the magician, the aristocrat, and the warlike-individualist entrepreneurial type as those minority anthropological types actually capable of rationality and self-mastery. It accordingly subscribes to Éliphas Lévi’s statement that “free men are to rule the slaves, and the slaves are called to liberate themselves; not of the government of free men, but of that servitude of brutal passions, which condemns them not to exist without masters.”

Therefore, territorial-aristocratic liberalism cannot hold society for that “spontaneous order” dear to Friedrich A. von Hayek. That murky expression actually refers to a materialist, juridically egalitarian order, in which the struggle for the juridical rank is eclipsed for the benefit of sole economic, academic competition, and in which the aristocratic cultivation of a warlike-individualist ethos is eclipsed for the benefit of the bourgeois prioritizing of material subsistence – and the bourgeois mocking of supernatural values.

Society, as envisaged by the new liberalism, is necessarily organized around a pecking order, a hierarchy of castes (be it a hierarchy which ignores the intermediate ranks), and never around universal rules of law. But while rejecting formal egalitarianism, i.e., the universality of the rules of law, territorial-aristocratic liberalism does not accept castes without social mobility, i.e., without a system of competition for status. Besides, it intends to preserve the identity of the peoples, as it does not forget that a relative genetic and cultural homogeneity, as well as a common territory, are an integral part of the social link, and that one cannot boil down everything to the division of labor and commerce.

If so many anarcho-capitalists indulge in “multiculturalism,” it seems that it is due to the fact that conversely, they represent to themselves the division of labor as the cement of society – and that they consider that genetic and cultural proximity plays a secondary, or even insignificant, role in socialization processes. Besides, they deny the territorial instinct. They therefore imagine that all sorts of heterogeneous races and cultures can cohabit peacefully within the division of labor established on a given space.

Let us talk about the state. Its vocation in territorial-aristocratic liberalism is not to guarantee an egalitarian right (i.e., universal freedom), nor is it to administer economy or to redistribute incomes. The state, as territorial-aristocratic liberalism deems it, comes as the guardian of a hierarchy of castes nonetheless opened to social mobility. That hierarchy subordinates (on a juridico-political level) merchants to warriors and magi, while warriors and the political sovereign (unless he himself stems from the sacerdotal caste) are spiritually subordinated to the magi.

Thus, the state brings form and harmony, “a differentiated and hierarchical order of dignities” (according to the formula of Julius Evola), to a preexisting multitude, who proves relatively homogeneous at a genetic and cultural level. Thus, too, the state puts into practice the two laws (dear to Robert Ardrey) that life in society renders necessary in all vertebrate species, namely, the inequality of socio-juridical statuses (for the benefit of the juridico-political domination of the “alphas” that are warriors and magicians), and the opened competition for status – instead of an automatically hereditary perpetuation of socio-juridical ranks.

Further, territorial-aristocratic liberalism is fully open to consumerism and technological innovations. It envisions the cosmos as an active entity, striving relentlessly towards order and complexity – and the human being as a catalyst for cosmic creation. It believes that the cosmos mandates man to perpetuate and multiply the creative gesture of nature – notably through the accumulation of capital and through the cheap provision of qualitatively new goods and services for the masses. (On that point, it is worth specifying that territorial-aristocratic liberalism positively assesses the influence of Judaism on the Indo-European mind. More precisely, the influence of the Judaic conceptions of time as linear; the state authority as profane; and man as jointly expected to prolong the divine creation and to subdue to the legal, natural order that Yahweh established. We will come back to that subject elsewhere).

Territorial-aristocratic liberalism considers that a nation can prove both “consumerist” (in the sense that it pursues the enjoyment of consumer goods) and faithful to Indo-European tradition – i.e., as cultivator of virile, supernatural values, while maintaining the connection with the spiritual realm. As it defends traditional, pagan heroism (against the parody that is sacrificial “heroism”), it also envisions heroism as a contingent attribute of the productive function – and not only as a necessary attribute of the warlike function. It believes that it may from time to time bring forth an entrepreneur who possesses a warrior-individualist spirit. Not content with praising the men who build a commercial or financial empire, it promotes the enthronement of the great samurais of finance and the great captains of industry among the ranks of the warlike ruling caste.

Further Qualifications Of Territorial-Aristocratic Liberalism

In the end, our liberalism is archeofuturist, in the sense that it conciliates warlike society and consumer society, with hegemony of the magus and prosperity of the merchant. With the overthrow of the Indo-European triad, the magus has lost his spiritual authority for the benefit of the bourgeois. The moral authority henceforth lies with the bourgeoisie, who seek professional advice from the magus, i.e., solicits his gifts of clairvoyance for the smooth running of business.

Our liberalism, which re-engages with the spiritual, suprasensible order and breaks with bourgeois materialism, is a liberalism of the Indo-European tradition. It intends to restore the traditional juridico-political order, which enshrines the spiritual primacy of the magus over the warrior and the producer – and sets up the juridical primacy of the magus and the warrior over the producer.

Our liberalism also prohibits itself from intervening in the choices of individuals with regard to pensions and health care, with the sole exception of exceptional prophylactic measures to be taken in the case of a serious pandemic. Besides, it believes that education must respond to warlike and aristocratic values.

Some additional clarifications deserve to be brought out about globalization. The inequalities of law associated with society prior to 1789 amounted to exceptional laws for the benefit of the warlike and sacerdotal nobility, which existed within nations and sustained links of solidarity beyond nations. The contemporary inequalities of law amount to exceptional laws for the benefit of the bourgeoisie (who has taken control of governments through the dissipation of intermediate rank inequalities); but also, for the benefit of a small number of companies and banks, whose executives compose what has been judiciously called a world superclass, i.e., a class that sits above the nations.

It would be wrong, however, to conceive of those inequalities of law (for the benefit of the world superclass) as consubstantial with the phenomenon of globalization. The grip of the world superclass comes as an accidental feature of the globalization as we live it – and not its necessary visage. Territorial-aristocratic liberalism intends to restore the traditional inequalities of law and to couple them to globalization. It is not a question of restoring those inequalities against globalization.

Quite often, the denunciation of “globalism” and of the “reign of merchants” proceeds from the vilest petit-bourgeois resentment. Behind the moralizing speeches against Starbucks, KFC, Volkswagen, Sony, Amazon, or Apple, one can guess the second-class entrepreneur, jealous of the power of multinationals. Multinationals actually do represent a danger – for the nation’s biocultural preservation – so long as they behave as agents of influence for cosmopolitanism. But they are by no means harmful (from that angle) in the cold pursuit of their economic interests. It is sound, and even imperative, to counter the cosmopolitan lobbying of multinationals. It is insane to denounce the strategy of multinationals to apportion activities on a global scale.

Specializing the regions of the world according to the comparative advantages does not harm, but benefits, the prosperity of nations. Far from deploring the power of multinationals, territorial-aristocratic liberalism knows that the power of a nation implies a hegemony that is economic not less than military and cultural. It is hardy outrageous that the firms, an ambitious nation gives birth to, conquer an international market, implement subsidiaries around the world, and grant favors from foreign governments.

Concerning protectionism, territorial-aristocratic liberalism recognizes that the facilitation of trade between nations, which amounts to facilitating the extension of the division of labor (across borders), as well as the coordination of the division of labor (via the entrepreneurial reallocation of capital across borders), necessarily benefits consumers. It recognizes that the advantaged situation of the consumer means the mutual enrichment of nations engaged in free trade. Nevertheless, it knows that it is not true that such mutual enrichment implies that the gains of free trade are also mutual on a geopolitical level.

If openness to free trade allows the enterprises of a foreign nation to gain the upper hand over the enterprises of the nation adopting free trade, or the foreign labor force to replace the labor force of that same nation, then there is actually a balance of power which is established. Free trade is always a positive-sum game from the point of view of consumer enrichment; it is very often a zero-sum game from the point of view of the hegemony of the nation.

A wise government must seek the right balance between free trade and protectionism. It must ensure the enrichment of the consumer without losing sight of economic hegemony. It is quite legitimate to quote the wording of Voltaire. “To be a good patriot is to wish that one’s own community should enrich itself by trade and acquire power by arms; it is obvious that a country cannot profit but at the expense of another and that it cannot conquer without inflicting harm on other people.”

A word on currency. Applying the teachings of the Austrian School of Economics, territorial-aristocratic liberalism abstains from entrusting the monopoly of the issuance of money to a single organ, such as, the central bank in its present sense. It ensures the free competition and circulation of currencies in a strict concern for respect for property right. It can nonetheless entitle the state to ban the currencies disrespectful of private property, which unveil purchasing power, distort the production structure, and generate shortsighted behaviors. It can also entitle the state to approve the currencies allowed to circulate, without the state being entitled to intervene in the process of production, exchange, and circulation.

Territorial-aristocratic liberalism favors any currency likely to clarify in the mind of the nation that money – by reason of its character as a means of exchange and as a store of value – coordinates production, exchange, and the temporal preferences of individuals; and that it must obey, accordingly, a principle of relative rarity and of very high quality. The practice of the fractional reserve by the banking institutions will be prohibited. Banking regulations will be abolished to return to commercial law and to private law in the strictest respect for private property. Counterfeiting will be severely punished by law.

Finally, it is worth noting that our reform of liberalism joins a dual affirmation towards which the conception of socialism in Édouard Berth and Georges Sorel tended imperfectly – namely, the affirmation that the class struggle between bourgeois and proletarians, within the framework of entrepreneurial capitalism, instead of being overcome, must be preserved indefinitely (and ensure the regular sanitation of the bourgeois elite); and that the degree of kinship of the virtues required in economy and war, while it reaches a certain height in a certain relation to the labor of workers, is nevertheless brought to its pinnacle within the strict framework of a certain entrepreneurial practice. That in which, according to Sorel’s statement, come together “the indomitable energy, the audacity based upon an accurate appreciation of its strength, the cold calculation of interests, which are the qualities of great generals and great capitalists.”

As such, to borrow Berth’s wording, our liberalism comes as a “philosophy of producers” rather than as a salon culture dear to Marxist or anarcho-capitalist bourgeois. Both material and formal equality, both central planning (and the removal of capital goods from the market) and the abolition of “violence” come as mirages that only intellectuals, disconnected from production or from war, can take seriously.

Our wish for the working class is not the advent of a classless society (as though it were based on the right to property as the Proudhonists dream of), but rather the workers’ conquest of economic hegemony in the capitalist entrepreneurial order. And that, either through the construction of self-managed companies, taking the upper hand in catallactic competition, or through the interference of former workers in the ranks of the bourgeoisie, thus seizing power of the fin de race elements and expelling them from a healthily regenerated bourgeois class.

Conclusion

The enterprise of subversion of the city, which began with the overthrow of the Indo-European tradition (for the benefit of the advent of the bourgeois industrious society), finds its apogee in contemporary cosmopolitanism. Classical liberalism has genuinely encouraged that cosmopolitanism, while the bourgeois takeover has accompanied the implementation of the ideals of 1789. Saving the Indo-European identity of the West is through edifying a new national-liberalism, one which is not limited to defending the nation against cosmopolitanism – but that, besides, reconciles free enterprise and the extended division of labor, as well as “Promethean growth,” with the defense of the traditional nation, its warlike and sacerdotal order, against bourgeois society and against the modern nation. The work ahead is heroic.

Grégoire Canlorbe is an independent scholar, based in Paris. Besides conducting a series of academic interviews with social scientists, physicists, and cultural figures, he has authored a number of metapolitical and philosophical articles. He also worked on a (currently finalized) conversation book with the philosopher, Howard Bloom. See his website: gregoirecanlorbe.com.

The featured image shows, “Battle between the Scythians and the Slavs,” by Viktor Vasnetsov, painted in 1881.

Liberal Totalitarianism: Mill As Founding Father?

1.

It is a serious question whether the values of political liberty, freedom of speech and tolerance for other points of view on matters of religious and political faith have a future. These values were associated with what its educated elite once considered to be the greatest achievement of Western Civilization. Certainly, the consensus today among ideas-brokers of the West – academics, journalists, teachers, celebrities et. al. – is that such values are merely one more cover for oppression and the entrenchment of privilege of a certain class, race, ethnicity and sexual preference.

Today oppression is considered to be everywhere in the Western world: it is in capitalism, patriarchy, imperialism, Christianity, the family, heteronormativity, cisgender-ism, and white privilege/ white supremacy. It also lurks in the hallowed halls of the ivy league universities of the United States whose professoriate, administrators and student body now agree that social justice must be protected from the privilege that poses as free speech.

Moreover, as our educated elite also teach, the oppressive religious, political, social, economic, sexual, racial and ethnic institutions and values all systemically connect. Thus, the catch all program of Black Lives Matter (BLM) which swiftly segues from stipulating that its “mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes,” to “affirm[ing] the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.”

A previous, and more radical version of the BLM website stated: “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”

If today race is the most inflammatory of the various tropes of oppression marshalled by progressives, the fact is that race is only of importance in so far as it fits into a larger narrative norm, i.e., an ideological representation of what constitutes emancipation and oppression.

Thus it is that when a Thomas Sowell or (the recently deceased) Walter Williams discuss such basics of black poverty in the US as welfare dependency and political clientelism, the break-down of black families, ghettoization, exceptionally high rates of criminality and incarceration, widespread domestic violence, and the widespread use of abortion to facilitate, what black conservatives increasingly identify as racial genocide, they can be dismissed as conservatives, who are now synonymous with protectors of white privilege.

Black or Latino conservatives, as NYU Professor Christina Beltrán writes in the Washington Post, are dupes of “multiracial whiteness.” In other words, they are race traitors because they do not think about race the way that countless white college students and white academics do, who find their critical race theory leaders in Robin DiAngelo, and Peggy McIntosh – who are as white as Rachel Dolezal, even if not brazen enough to black-face. But today, black can be white and white can be black, it all depends how you want to spin it.

We have reached a state of affairs where anyone who does not accept either the diagnosis, claims, or tactics of a politically progressive movement such as BLM dedicated to emancipation must be an enemy of the human race.

Critics who point out that BLM is an off-shoot of the 1960s Marxists and terrorists do not deserve their voice, nor employment – and hence companies and universities and schools have been at liberty to fire people who express their disagreement with the BLM formulation, by daring to say, “all lives matter,” while social media tech sites can de-platform them for being perpetrators of hate speech. In spite of BLM and Antifa and other progressive movements calling for defunding of the police and freeing prisoners (today), the logical next step will be heavy prison sentences for those who do not get in step with the program – as Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post sums up the situation: “there are millions of Americans, almost all white, almost all Republicans, who somehow need to be deprogrammed.”

I write this as those who have expressed public support for President Trump by merely being at the rally on January 6 have lost their jobs, while some 25,000 national guardsmen (whose political credentials have all been vetted) were called into Washington to ensure that the inauguration of President Biden will not be disrupted by the supposed millions of insurrectionist white supremacist terrorists.

I write this as all the major hi-tech social media companies operating out of the USA have banned the recently departed US President for life from making posts. Anyone alleging electoral fraud, or whatever is deemed an explosive talking point that could lead to violence or hate or prejudice, unless it is the kind of violence that calls for the killing or imprisoning of Donald Trump and his supporters, must also be fact-checked and then de-platformed.

I write this in at a time when all (but parts of one) major media outlets in the US reported anything that looked like evidence that supported the claim that the Russians had stolen the 2016 election, while repeating endlessly that all claims about widespread and illegal ballot-harvesting and ballot forging, the lack of rigorous controls over Dominion voting machines, and the bizarre string of events on the election night of 2020 that occurred after ballot counting had closed, including videos of ballots appearing in suitcases and being counted multiple times, are nothing but “conspiracy theories.”

In short, I write at a time when the United States can no longer claim to be the “land of the free.” And the predictions made by the former KGB operative and Soviet dissident Yuri Bezmenov in 1984 about how ideological subversion within the USA in its colleges would play out over a generation have come true. Also true is Huey Long’s prediction that fascism in America would come, and it would be in the guise of Anti-fascism.

If progressivism of the sort that has given birth to BLM, Antifa, the right of children to choose their sex organs, corporations and state agencies the right to employ or fire people on the basis of their identity and narrative commitments is a Western and not purely US phenomenon (“taking a knee,” for example, has become encouraged by sports administrators in Australia), the question arises: how did this situation arise? (What to do about it is, of course, the more pressing problem, and one that is far harder to solve).

There are many people asking that question, and like any historical phenomenon there are many facets to it, and hence, unsurprisingly there are many answers. Some think this is the end product of relativism – this view popularized by Allan Bloom (who follows Leo Strauss in seeing Nietzsche and Weber as core culprits) in his best-seller of 1987, The Closing of the American Mind is mentioned in Zbiegniew Janowki’s arresting, provocative and important introductory essay – “Liberalism and the New Opium of the Intellectuals” – to this collection of J.S. Mill’s writings.

Although, it is true that those espousing the emancipation of “minorities” are claiming freedom from the totalising narratives and institutions of their oppressors, there is nothing relative about the appeal to emancipation that drives the anti-oppression narrative: emancipation is an all or nothing affair, and anyone who complicates narratives of race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality – and whatever other all-pervasive element of identity becomes woven into the narrative dyad of emancipation and oppression – by drawing attention to other features of social being is obviously too privileged to be allowed a platform.

2.

Everything I have just written about above is grounded in paradox and dialectic, not the least of which is that this narrative is supported by – to use a word that circulates widely without the least shame attached to it – the world’s “global leaders,” present and future: hi-tech billionaires, global financiers, corporate heads, managers and human resources administrators of public and private institutions, military leaders, intelligence operatives, professors teaching in the world’s most well-paid illustrious universities, as well as the youth who attend them, school teachers, and journalists, entertainers and athletes.

In sum it is a position held by those with money, political power, social influence, those who broker in ideas, and those who fabricate stories and provide the festivities which forge the social “imaginary” of modern Western Liberal societies.

However, by ever ignoring the cultural dimensions of geopolitics, these so-called global cultural leaders quite falsely assume they not only represent the right side of history but they are the saviours of the entire planet: from the climate to ensuring the protection and preservation of every indigenous, non-Christian culture, from the right of gays to marry and raise children, to the rights of Muslims in the West not being subjected to the insult and injury of living in a country which celebrates Christian holidays.

Its critics – and I am obviously among them – see that the only people to triumph in the long run will be the enemies of every Liberal cause these global leaders are foisting upon the West through legislation, corporate funded agitprop (the anti-capitalist BLM has been funded by the Ford and Kellogg foundations as well as numerous businesses such as Airbnb), media control and censorship, strategically staged riots, the replacement of history with fantasy, and so on And to re-ask the question in a slightly different manner by drawing upon the common cognate term of progressivism: how has the most Liberal country on earth contributed so much to a state of affairs that it is tearing its social fabric apart in a manner that will assuredly benefit its enemies, who more than ever have shored up their power by appeals to their traditional values? Posed thus, it would seem that one might well ask the question what is it about Liberalism itself that has led to this?

This is the question that is behind Zbigniew Janowski and Jacob Duggans edition of this collection of writings by the foremost theorist of Liberalism, J.S. Mill. As the Introductory essay by Janowski, and the Afterword by the Polish philosopher Ryszard Legutko (both of whom grew up in communist Poland) make clear, the purpose of this collection is to help people grasp Liberalism as an ideology and Mill’s thought as an ideological contribution. Thus, Janowski writes: Mill “is to Liberalism what Marx and Engels are to Socialism.”

This is a strong claim and it is perhaps the only point in this very fine essay that I do not completely agree with: for while Mill is indeed a significant contributor to Liberalism, he did not provide a theory that completely usurped and redefined the character and objectives of a political movement anywhere near to the extent that Marx did. That is to say, there is a good reason why, in spite of his considerable influence, we do not speak of Mill-ism as we do of Marxism. Though, I would add that it is precisely because Liberalism is not the brain-child of one authority, that the kind of detective work done by Janowski and Duggan is all the more valuable: for it discloses the paradox at the heart of the Liberal program that surfaces in a theorist who seems to be – and in many ways is – the most brilliant modern exponent of liberty to have argued for its importance in social life.

Having said that, we should also note that just as Marx did not invent the working class nor its party politicization, Mill is not the inventor of liberty’s importance as a social, economic and political value. But the distinctive feature of any ideology is that it takes an idea derived from a feature or aspect of social experience and “logicizes it” so that it mutates into a principle for the orchestration of a collective understanding of other phenomena and the cementing of solidarity around some core values.

The problem with all ideological thinking is that it oversimplifies socio-economic, political, and cultural problems by dissolving them into compartments so that they may be rationally/ theoretically aligned. And being so aligned the various actors who try and steer narrative, policy and legislation in accordance with their ideology avoid the far more difficult and pressing task of muddling along and sifting through the socio-economic-cultural contingencies and interests which in democratic societies have led to the kind of compromises that once typified this kind of regime.

Of course, what they do is spawn a reaction by those whose interests and placement have been completely occluded or distorted by the ideologues. That reaction may then open the door to the political brokering which a democracy evolved to deal with, or it may, as has happened recently in the history of the United States, simply lead to all-out class war.

The ideologue is ultimately a “know-all,” someone who believes that they know the essence of a system which they also completely understand. The world is thus not a messy, complicated, barely visible and not very well understood process of “emergent” and “fades,” but a clear system, an “idea” that can be identified and taught in its entirety to children, and others who do not know much. Ideology cannot only be super-imposed upon all that is living, but it is the key to solving all problems of the living.

What is all-important to a political elite who want to ensure their rule and its perpetuity by having subsequent generations think just like them is that their idea of the world, its problem and its solutions, are all very simple, simple enough to be understood by someone who is in their teens or early twenties. Given the expense required to have an elite profession, the sooner one can learn and apply the narrative that will be the source of one’s social power the better.

Of course, it is important to make the simple look learned, and the more one can make ideological simplicities look complicated and profound the more status one may garner amongst peers who do not want those they instruct to think they are dummies. In a world where the associations of most people are riddled with made up stories (entertainment), and information is increasingly shaped and filtered by ideology, we are increasingly drawn into a windowless world – a kind of political monad in which the elite-approved consensus is sovereign.

One’s credibility as a professional ideas-broker, someone who can serve as a leader in their information field, who can work in an ivy league university, report in an illustrious newspaper, make decisions about intelligence requires that one does not trust one’s own eyes, ears, or mind – because to do so would be to be a victim of the oppressive system that awaits those who are not “woke” to what is really going on with capitalism, patriarchy, white privilege et. al.

If it was the enlightened philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries who held that the improvement of the world lay in the replacement of authority based in the shibboleths and privileges of tradition with authority subject to the stringency of reason, the nineteenth century was the century in which politics became an ideological affair.

Though just as the seventeenth century Enlightenment metaphysical “know-alls” could never actually agree about the specific features of what constituted the metaphysical characteristics of experience and the mind, the political know-alls of the nineteenth century also were unable to convince each other of exactly what would fix exactly what, and hence which ideology would triumph.

While Marx and Nietzsche remain the most philosophically acclaimed nineteenth centuries visionaries of the new socio-economic and political order (and, unlike in the earlier part of the 20th century when they were pitted against each other, those today who acclaim them are generally happy to merge their projects with their own requirements of social justice), the following from Mill’s Utilitarianism neatly encapsulates the conceit of Liberalism that Mill felt prone to, and which, inter alia, this collection of writings is drawing attention to:

“Poverty, in any sense implying suffering, may be completely extinguished by the wisdom of society, combined with the good sense and providence of individuals. Even that most in-tractable of enemies, disease, may be indefinitely reduced in dimensions by good physical and moral education, and proper control of noxious influences; while the progress of science holds out a promise for the future of still more direct conquests over this detestable foe. And every advance in that direction relieves us from some, not only of the chances which cut short our own lives, but, what concerns us still more, which deprive us of those in whom our happiness is wrapt up. As for vicissitudes of fortune, and other disappointments connected with worldly circumstances, these are principally the effect either of gross imprudence, of ill-regulated desires, or of bad or imperfect social institutions.”

Mill’s faith in education and wisdom (“The interest of the people is, to choose for their rulers the most instructed and the ablest persons who can be found” is as central to his program as his faith in liberty, is, say unlike Marx whose writings are full of invective and hostility to those who think differently to him, also supportive of open-minded inquiry. Thus, he writes:

“Scientific politics do not consist in having a set of conclusions ready-made, to be applied everywhere indiscriminately, but in setting the mind to work in a scientific spirit to discover in each instance the truths applicable to the given case. And this, at present, scarcely any two persons do in the same way. Education is not entitled, on this subject, to recommend any set of opinions as resting on the authority of established science. But it can supply the student with materials for his own mind, and helps to use them. It can make him acquainted with the best speculations on the subject, taken from different points of view: none of which will be found complete, while each embodies some considerations re-ally relevant, really requiring to be taken into the account. Education may also introduce us to the principal facts which have a direct bearing on the subject, namely the different modes or stages of civilization that have been found among mankind, and the characteristic properties of each.”

But it is not Mill’s open-mindedness and provisional qualities that are at issue if one is considering how Mill contributed to a doctrine that was founded on appeals to initiative, independence of thought, and liberty, but in its development comes to asphyxiate those very qualities.

Apart from the bipolarisation of the social world into authority and liberty (discussed below) is the general demeanour that is characteristic of so many of the essays in which Mill is the sage who both gives instruction about how to free the world from all its problems, and identifies the stages that lead to people like him perfecting their world.

That demeanour is now so commonplace among our contemporary moralising social elite that to even mention that this is a problem may sound strangely immoral. Closely related to this is the fact that while Mill in numerous places insists upon historical knowledge as important in the development of human society, his reflections upon the past are invariably moralistic and pay no real consideration to why and how people acted as they did.

It is enough for him to know, for example, that women were deprived of their liberty, but the important matters of the roles required for the social symbiosis of a group’s survival, and the different sacrificial components and expectations accompanying those roles are of little interest to him. It is, then, as much through his omissions as through specific principled commitments that we can see how Mill succumbs to the ideological temptations that accompany a surfeit of moral abstraction.

3.

Of the works that remain part of any history of political thought type course (to be sure a style of course that is far less frequently taught today than the slew of ideologically inflected courses devoted to identity and oppression), this edition includes Mill’s “masterpiece,” On Liberty in its entirety, and selections from Considerations on Representative Government – also a masterly work of political analysis – The Subjection of Women – the work that most survives as a testimony to Mill’s historical importance to feminism, and the fifth chapter of his Utilitarianism. The notable omissions of Mill’s “big books” are A System of Logic: Ratiocinative and Inductive, Being a Connected View of the Principles of Evidence and the Method of Scientific Investigation and Principles of Political Economy and Some of their Applications to Social Philosophy. Of the former work, the economist Joseph Schumpeter has written that it was:

“One of the great books of the century, representative of one of the leading components of its Zeitgeist, influential with the general reading public as no other Logic has ever been. A less striking patch of color in our picture than is the Origin of Species, it is hardly a less indispensable one—although it does not stand out, as does the Origin of Species, when we look back on the historical sequence of performances and ideas that produced the situation of today in the respective fields, and although Mill’s book is dead in a sense in which Darwin’s is not.”

And that

“One has in mind the success of this book, as much as or more than the success of its author’s Political Economy, when one speaks of Mill’s sway over the generation of English intellectuals that entered upon their careers in the 1850’s and 1860’s. Abroad, part of the reading public was impervious to such influence. But the rest embraced Mill’s message with even greater enthusiasm. The book was found in the house of a peasant in Ireland. It was called the “book of books” by an accomplished Viennese woman (a Fabian and suffragist) who felt herself to be progress incarnate. It occupied a place of honor not much below Plato’s in the mind of at least one philological philosopher I knew as a boy—all of which I say in order to convey, first, that the book was a living force in bourgeois civilization.”

Both books, though, are mere footnotes in the developments of their respective disciplines. In the case of Political Economy, in spite of important insights about competition, and initiative, a refusal to fall for economic reductionism, a recognition of the historical diversity of the nature of property, a rigorous critical discussion of the different kinds of socialism, its opening emphasis upon productive and non-productive labour and its failure to place the problem of supply and demand at the centre of the discipline is indicative of why Jevons, who remains a pioneering figure in modern economics, saw Mill as a symptom of the problem that had to be overcome if economics were to become a science.

In the case of the two volume Logic, what may retain its interest for students of Mill is Book VI, that is the culmination of the work, “On the Logic of the Moral Sciences,” which lays out Mill’s reflections for thinking about society and politics. As that title indicates, and as I have mentioned already, Mill saw politics as primarily a moral problem, which is a common view today. Though one major problem with that view is that the person making the moral judgment rarely thinks it important to scrutinize the fit between his own moral purpose, diagnosis, and prescriptions and his socio-economic interest. I do think this not only a problem in Mill, but a problem within Liberalism that is generally rather good at exposing the interests of those who object to its objectives, whilst generally veiling its own economic aspirations as it represents itself as being the voice of the common or public good.

Coming in at 770 pages – and there is a second volume of Mill’s journalism, reviews and translations to follow – Janowski and Duggan are to be congratulated for having found a publisher willing to release a work of this size. As a collection it also does a most thorough job of presenting Mill’s political and social priorities and arguments.

The selections are grouped under the following headings: “Of Progress, Education and Future;” “Of Ideologies and Governments;” “On Religion, Liberty, and Freedom of Speech,” “On Women and Equality;” and “On America and Democracy.” Once the collection is considered under these headings, and when one also takes into account the accompanying introductory essays by Nick Capaldi, and Janowski, the Appendix by John Henry Newman, “Notice of Liberalism in Oxford” and “18 Propositions,” and the “Afterward” by Ryzard Legutko, then one should see how important this book really is.

For, at a time when Mill probably has very few readers who have not been assigned to read him in a college course (and while he might appear in some women studies courses, his student readership is mainly confined to the relatively small number of history of political thought courses), it provides a compelling case for thinking about Mill in the context of today’s Liberal totalitarianism. And this is the purpose behind the essays by Janowski, who has just released Homo Americanus: The Rise of Totalitarian Democracy in America, and Legutko, who has written The Demon in Democracy Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies and more recently, The Cunning of Freedom: Saving the Self in an Age of False Idols.

For Janowski, it is Mill’s bipolar interpretation of history as a “struggle between Authority and Liberty” that has been so fateful. For once history is reduced to a Manichaean struggle between light and darkness, then disputes about authority and liberty take on apocalyptic importance, then if one’s cause is of the light, any objections one might raise to a position one is advancing, say not wanting a child born as a boy wanting to be a girl using their little girls’ bathroom, or not wanting to compete in female competition with a biologically born man is merely a voice of darkness – and hate.

Janowski thus picks up on the contemporary Liberal habit of bipolar struggles in which any aspect of identity, social role, or custom can be espied as a struggle for emancipation. Janoswki argues that the narrative bi-polarisations of Liberty versus Authority, anti-discrimination versus discrimination, reactionary bigots versus progressives confirm Plato’s observation that unconstrained democratic egalitarianism is corrosive to all authority and hierarchy.

For Janowski it is the egalitarian tendency in Mill that is ultimately decisive – “No other modern thinker,” writes Janowski, “was as inimical to the idea of hierarchy or authority as was Mill,” and “his entire philosophy rests on the premise that authority and power are ‘evil’ in themselves, and, as such, must be fought against and hopefully, done away with.”

The position advanced by Janowski is reinforced by Legutko’s “Afterword,” which introduces the dimension of tradition into the picture by noting that “[t]he final aim of the liberal agenda is therefore not to have a free and open society, but to have society in which everyone is a liberal and everything is subservient to the liberal dogmas.”

In Mill’s case it is the principle of his idea of the limits of liberty – the Harm Principle – that Legutko identifies as the tactic which enables liberal totalitarianism to capture the citadel of liberal democracy. In the first instance the Harm Principle can be invoked against any kind of traditional appeal to customary authority. Hence someone can claim that there is no harm, say, in pornography or polygamy or gay marriage. Though once the traditional custom has been “revealed” to be oppressive, the Harm Principle can be equally invoked to demonstrate that one’s feelings have been harmed by a traditional pronoun or customary expectation of role and behaviour.

Ultimately what Legutko is taking issue with is Mill’s simplification about the nature of human society and the kinds of human qualities needed to preserve a free but cohesive and capable society. Another way of saying this is Legutko sees that Mill has a rather naïve psychological understanding of human motivation and a very poor grasp of how the European tradition evolved in such a way to facilitate the kinds of liberties that Mill enjoyed and wanted to push ever further into a more “perfect” set of social institutions and relations.

Without going into the details, I think the general criticisms raised by Janowski and Legutko are amply supported by the selection of writings included here. Further, I think the writings on religion included here reveal the shallowness of Mill’s understanding of religion in the European experience.

I also think that if one compares Mill with the great psychologists of the human heart – from Sophocles or Aeschylus, to Augustine to Shakespeare and Dostoevsky, or to take the most diabolical but terrifyingly insightful figure the Marquis de Sade – Mill comes across as more than a little akin to Nietzsche’s blinking “last man.”

Thus, the editors have powerfully counterposed Cardinal Newman’s devastatingly incisive and prophetic critique about the shortcoming of Liberalism in the Appendix to this volume with Mill’s psychological naivety and rationalist approach to religion and society more generally:

“Whenever men are able to act at all, there is the chance of extreme and intemperate action; and therefore, when there is exercise of mind, there is the chance of wayward or mistaken exercise. Liberty of thought is in itself a good; but it gives an opening to false liberty. Now by Liberalism I mean false liberty of thought, or the exercise of thought upon matters, in which, from the constitution of the human mind, thought cannot be brought to any successful issue, and therefore is out of place. Among such matters are first principles of whatever kind; and of these the most sacred and momentous are especially to be reckoned the truths of Revelation. Liberalism then is the mistake of subjecting to human judgment those revealed doctrines which are in their nature beyond and independent of it, and of claiming to determine on intrinsic grounds the truth and value of propositions which rest for their reception simply on the external authority of the Divine Word.”

4.

Given such criticisms it is easy to overlook Mill’s virtues, and indeed the virtues of Liberalism itself. Of Mill, Janozwski rightly observes that as “long as Western civilization exists and continues to exercise its influence on its own members and elsewhere, his name will shine brightly in the annals of European political thought.”

Given, then, the critical framing of the collection, the editors are also to be commended for having an “Introduction” to the volume written by Nick Capaldi. Capaldi is the author of the definitive intellectual biography on Mill, John Stuart Mill: A Biography, as well as a political philosopher of considerable gifts who has written much on the virtues and dangers confronting modern liberal democracy.

Capaldi’s Introduction draws attention to Mill’s fair-mindedness (Mill, he says, is “scrupulous in presenting arguments on both sides of every issue”). He also appreciates that Mill’s moral convictions emerge in response to the great transformation occurring in the nineteenth century as England was increasingly becoming a market economy, and the new social roles required of workers and women and their political articulation took on real importance.

Elsewhere Capaldi has argued that the two decisive driving norms of modernity are liberty and equality, and, whereas Janowski focusses upon the egalitarian tendencies in Mill, Capaldi has noted in his important book (cowritten with Gordon Lloyd) Liberty and Equality in Political Economy: From Locke versus Rousseau to the Present how Mill defends liberty from the onslaughts of egalitarianism.

In Liberty and Equality and elsewhere he also clarifies what Mill meant when he designated himself in his Autobiography as a socialist – socialism, for Mill is “any system, which requires that the land and instruments of production should be the property, not of individuals, but of communities or associations, or of the government.”

Capaldi has also noted how important Mill’s role was in attempting to mediate between the great forces of socialization and capital accumulation in the evolution of the modern state, as well as how careful he was not to stake the importance of liberty within the kind of rights narrative that came out of France and its revolution. As Capaldi also points out in “Mill and Socialism:” “Mill opposed the elimination of private property, the elimination of competition, central planning, and even a worker’s party. He most especially opposed a ruling class of technocrats as had been suggested by Saint Simon and by now arch-enemy Comte.”

And perhaps the greatest service Capaldi performs in his intellectual biography on Mill is his highlighting of the non-utilitarian and more organicist inspirations that informed Mill. Thus we can see how central creative autonomy and inspiration are to his social vision and political philosophy, and thus how his writings do serve as a bulwark against as the modern progressive tendency to merely assume that an elite can easily rectify social inequality by merely redistributing a society’s wealth, without paying sufficient attention to what are the requisites for the creation of wealth and the kind of commodities people like.

It can also be argued that it is Mill’s esteem for human spontaneity, initiative and diversity of opinion (as opposed to diversity of essential identities as today’s Liberal Woke do) which when closely tied to his understanding of economic activity in a way that makes him far more relevant to understanding the kind of contradictions that engulf modern Western societies than Marx.

For while I think it would simply be too far-fetched to hold that Mill rather than Marx had seized the imagination of the radical students from the 1960s onward who would go onto become the educated elite driving the modern Liberal project, Marx’s shortcomings outside of the closed environment of the radical bookish mind was his (and his students) utter failure to understand what drives people to produce exchange-value: he thinks people will spontaneously cooperate – and without state direction – on a large scale to produce what they need as consumers, without the need for those with private property to pool resources to draw labour into performing the productive tasks that consumers want and that will yield profits.

The fact that there is zero historical examples of that occurring is wiped aside as of no consequence for Marx because he believes that once the means of production have been sufficiently socialised under bourgeois society that they will still be developed and deployed – even though the monetary signal of exchange, the price of something, will no longer be needed. The reality of Marxism in practice could only ever be a planned economy, in which producers would be forced to do whatever the state/ administrators decided they should do.

To this day defenders of Marx prefer to focus upon inequitable distribution of market economies, which is true – markets are necessarily hierarchical because they reflect the different value/ the price people place upon different things and talents, rather than the inability for a communist economy either to do away with a state elite directing economic performance or even to successful meet all but the most basic needs of consumers. Marx’s economics was based in a pre-utilitarian theory of economics, the labour theory of value which had zero interest in what it was the consumer wanted and was prepared to pay.

While, then, Marx has been the battering ram for the intellectual elite who wish to subject the entire world to their critical understanding of it and thus eliminate oppression which then opened the gate to other social critics who identified other sources of oppression that they could save us from, the fact was that Marxism was plagued by bad economics: the consequence of which involved communist countries jettisoning communism in one way or another (option A: complete dissolution of the politics and economy as the Soviets did it, or option B: keeping the politics and ditching the economics as the Chinese have done), and Western Marxists happy to be employed in institutions which merrily critique capitalism while serving the agenda of globalization

Liberalism has had many failures, including its combination of victim and identity politics with a tendency to see all values in economic terms, and thus to erode values that are literally priceless. Thus, we see in Liberal societies today the contradiction mentioned above, that corporations have become, along with entertainers, the public representatives and financial backers of Liberal virtues.

Liberal society, though, for all its censorship and wokeness, still depends upon the liberty required to enter into productive/ exchange relationships involving property – including savings and talent. But this is precisely why it is the nexus of a Liberal economy with narratives demanding conformity because they are built upon victimhood and suffering, which the elites know how to cure, that threatens the survival of the West. And whereas economic communism could not circumvent the wall of necessity and impoverishment, the Western world is economically wealthier (though spiritually impoverished) than any previous society. It is so wealthy that it can pay people who are actively destroying it.

Liberalism was ever globalist in outreach, and thus its failure to take culture seriously, that is to treat it as anything more than one further opportunity to tear down the pre-conscious traditions of Western culture, has gone hand in hand with a failure to see where the West figures in the greater geopolitical tensions of our time. Its elite still think in terms of the United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights that have little backing outside the West.

At the same time, they have readily sacrificed the right of freedom of speech to social justice so that they may preserve their own role as social critics and educators, so that they may have clients who they will permanently represent.

Western Liberalism presently seems to be engaged in a tragic comic replay of the Jacobins sacrifice of the Gironde in pursuit of true virtue and public safety. Mill himself might be astonished to think that Liberalism has turned against liberty, though when he expressed his wish that England might undergo the kind of revolution that occurred in France in order “to give that general shake-up to the torpid mind of the nation,” he might have considered the fate of the Gironde as a warning of what readily happens in the pursuit of abstract absolutes.

And yet those of us who see the demon in Western democracy, and the totalitarian character of the modern Liberal mind might nevertheless agree that the following words of Mill from On Liberty are worth defending and remembering: “…only through diversity of opinion is there, in the existing state of human intellect, a chance of fair-play to all sides of the truth. When there are persons to be found, who form an exception to the apparent unanimity of the world on any subject, even if the world is in the right, it is always probable that dissentients have something worth hearing to say for themselves, and that truth would lose something by their silence.”

These words convey the best of Mill, what Janowski and Legutko remind us of, though, is that for Liberalism to flourish it requires social characteristics of the sort that precede and range further into the expanse of the human heart and its history.

Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen books.

The featured image shows, “Salome with the Head of the Baptist,” after Guido Reni, by Mariano Salvador Maella, painted in 1761.

“The Future Will Be Grateful For Thy Universal Goodness:” Talking Points About Public Statuary Now

In November 2020, I helped to organise the Burlington Magazine/ Public Statues and Sculpture Association (PSSA) Webinar on “Toppling Statues.” It was a massive success, with speakers of a multiplicity of political views, representing multiple nationalities and ethnicities, multiple professions from curators to politicians to artists, with anything from Confederate monuments to Rhodes and Colston in Britain to the contemporary Philippines covered in the papers. I am publishing my own paper here and am most grateful to Nirmal Dass and the Postil Magazine for making this possible.

1. The Rule Of Law

Kudos to Sir Keir Starmer, the British Labour Party’s best leader for 25 years, for saying that Black Lives Matter protestors were “completely wrong” to pull down Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol, and if they advocated this, due process should have been followed. I was forcibly reminded of W.B. Yeats’s famous quotation: “Things fall apart. The centre cannot hold… The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.” These were the parting words of my teenage hero Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, reflecting on its fragility.

Had I been present at the scene, I too would have remonstrated with the protesters, demanding: “Don’t you know your Locke? ‘Where there is no law, there is tyranny.’” I rest my case, even if the likely rejoinder would be a word half-rhyming with Locke. Another important Lockean precept is the sanctity of public and private property in civil society. Colston was not the crowd’s to wrench off its base and toss into the water. “The law of nature hath obliged all human beings not to harm the life, liberty, health, limb or goods of another,” here the people of Bristol and their statue.

Edward Colston resurfaces, 2020 (Bristol City Council).
John Cassidy, Edward Colston, 1895, formerly The Centre, Bristol.

2. Have We Got Colston Wrong?

According to an eminent British historian who must remain anonymous, as opinions are so charged and friendships can be lost – yes, we have. They say this:

“Colston is less culpable than his public reputation has made out. Commentators on both sides describe him on the news as a ‘seventeenth-century slave trader’ pure and simple. He was not: he never ran a slave trading business himself and never made major investments into the trade or drew a steady income – even a minor one – from it. Instead, he made a fortune from trading in other commodities, though twice in his life he became a lesser shareholder in slave-trading voyages launched by others. This was – for whatever reason – not an attractive experience for him because he did not continue it. Instead he became the greatest philanthropist in Bristol’s history, the merchant who did most to help his fellow humans. In particular he ploughed back his huge fortune into three enterprises. One was a school where poor children could receive a free education good enough to enable them to rise in society. Another was a hospital, where those who could not afford medical fees would be treated for no payment. The third was a set of almshouses where elderly poor people were given comfortable retirement homes, each with their own flat. All three survive to the present day. I presume that the school was initially just for boys, but it has long taken girls as well, and all three institutions have lately benefited people from all ethnic groups. The late Victorians – themselves much concerned with finding ways of attaining better social justice – gave him a statue in gratitude for them. I myself think that his contribution to human misery, by those ill-chosen investments, is balanced by his efforts to relieve it in other ways.”

So, even an offending statue demonstrably has a far more complex sub-text once we’ve done our homework. Don’t let your opinions gallop ahead of your knowledge. Be a curious and respectful “pastist,” not a judgemental “presentist” – and remember that was then, this is now. I’ll return to this shortly.

3. Do We Ignorantly Bad-Mouth The Victorians? Are We Willfully Ignorant About Statuemania?

Yes and yes. Remember that not just Rembrandt or Andy Warhol but public statuary is art too, art which excels both in quantity and often quality. Before modernism did so much to de-skill art, if you had the standard training through a sculptor’s studio, art school or a large firm like Farmer & Brindley, your work attained a remarkably proficient technical level. Your attitude to imperialism was immaterial. Harry Bates, a working class, arts and crafts trained sculptor, could make a number of rather fine imperialist monuments.

Harry Bates, Lord Roberts, 1896, London.

What mattered was whether you could literally hack it. Very few of the myriad Victorian and Edwardian public monuments could be called inept. What has this got to do with toppling statues? Lots. Scratch a toppler and you’ll find they are with few exceptions ignorant of, or hostile to, Victorian art, whatever the quality. Professor David Olusoga has many interesting things to say about the politics of imperialist statuary but reveals disappointingly little art historical knowledge of, still less aesthetic responsiveness to, the works in question. Remember we’re dealing with art here, not disembodied political texts.

Talking of great Victorian art, earlier this year, I pointedly refused to sign an open letter organised by Australian academics, curators and cultural commentators, demanding the relocation of Captain James Cook’s memorial in Hyde Park, Sydney to a museum. Perusing the signatories, almost without exception, they were modernists or contemporary buffs; the number who knew anything about Cook’s sculptor, Thomas Woolner, and Victorian statuary was perhaps two or three, and they probably cared even less.

Thomas Woolner, Captain James Cook, 1874-1878, Sydney.

4. Beware Of Presentism!

Historically, topplers are deeply into presentism, which is worse than the Whiggery from which it derives. Presentism involves the wholesale application of present-day values, e.g., deploring slavery and racism, to a very different and often resistant past – a foreign country. Imagine if we could travel back in time in the Tardis just 60 years to Gilbert Ledward and his immense – and rather beautiful – Africa Awakening relief for Barclay’s Bank and confront him with a criticism made by a South African friend who should have known better, that it was “patronising.” Ledward would not have been offended, so much as completely baffled and bewildered. We have a nerve to assume we know far better than our equivalents in 1960 or 1860. What will they be saying about us in 2060? The Ledward relief badly needs a new home, but sadly is suffering for its – and his – whiteness.

Gilbert Ledward, Africa Awakening, 1960.

5. How About A New Empire/Colonial Museum?

A possible new home for relevant statuary could be a UK Empire Museum, a museum of Imperialism if you like. Formerly there was one in Bristol (the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum), but the director’s conduct 10 years ago led to his dismissal and the subsequent liquidation of the museum; that’s another story. I was saddened at the time that they threw out the baby with the bathwater.

William Dalrymple is a prominent advocate of such a museum and I agree with him in principle. My main reservation about both Dalrymple and the prevalent political climate is that if established today, the museum would almost certainly be instantly dominated by decolonising “woke” forces, the Edward Saids of this world rather than the Robert Irwins (or Mark Stockers!). Politics – and Britain’s dire economy – conspire to put such a putative museum on hold, but let’s not lose sight of it. The museum could indeed serve as some kind of repository for victims of statue toppling or shifting.

The former British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (2002-2013), Bristol.

6. Problems With Museums

Should offending monuments go to museums, as sometimes relative moderates in this debate argue? To contradict my previous point, mostly the answer is, No. How come?

Firstly, the basics – museums worldwide are critically short of storage space and offering them a 3-metre-high statue plus pedestal would exasperate any reasonable collection manager.

Secondly, Colston aside, and even Colston before June 2020, Robert Musil’s famous dictum that there is “nothing in the world quite as invisible as a public monument” held good and perhaps should still do so. It’s not as if a monument’s offensiveness will suddenly be dispelled by its more prominent location and visibility within a museum. The arguments against it won’t miraculously stop – or still more miraculously become more intelligent.

Thirdly, having a Victorian worthy or three in your atrium would almost certainly clash aesthetically with any desired installation of art after c. 1920.

Fourthly, which explains why any proposed relocation of Cook to a museum is crass, how can you possibly do justice to the modelling, the aspect, the halation, the everything really, of a colossal four-metre-high statue on a seven metre columnar base? It would dwarf its new setting, whereas its original location, carefully envisaged by Woolner, is ironically too commandingly successful and dramatic. Cook pays the price in today’s fraught political climate.

Yet a museum just might be a suitable location for a work like Francis Williamson’s statue of Sir George Grey in Auckland. Despite its te reo Maori pedestal inscription translating as “The Future will be grateful for thy universal goodness,” it wasn’t. Grey was decapitated by activists in 1987, while in recent months his replacement head, together with fingers, have been vandalised and his body daubed with paint, in obviously crude copycat actions. Marble is particularly vulnerable, Grey with his fairly recent head still more so, and in the absence of alternative measures a museum could provide an appropriate refuge when out there in Albert Park he’s too much of a risk to society.

Sir George Grey.
Sir George Grey, 2020.

7. Copycat Activism

I take a dim view of copycat attacks or calls to defund the police. Just as statuary needs to be appraised on a case-by-case basis, so do the historical records of respective nation states. New Zealand’s colonial past rendered deep injustices to Māori, but these should not be equated with the US’s brutal past. I said this in response to the New Zealand historian Professor Tony Ballantyne when he advocated removal to museums of figures “who propelled colonialism and whose values and actions are now fundamentally at odds with those of our contemporary communities.” I demanded to know “which statues does he mean?” and Tony didn’t answer me. The great white Empress Queen Victoria obviously upheld the Empire but was not racist, and her carving at Ohinemutu was honoured and indeed appropriated by the Ngāti Whakaue sub-tribe, placed on a splendid post and sheltered by a canopy. In Canterbury province, J.R. Godley established a colony which deliberately sought to avoid conflict with Maori and is immortalised in another outstanding statue by Woolner.

Thomas Woolner, John Robert Godley, 1862-65, Christchurch.

Sir George Grey’s role is highly equivocal, reviled in his lifetime by some Maori, eulogised by others; working closely with his friend Te Rangikaheke, he recorded Maori legends, traditions and customs, doing much more here than most academics today. The list goes on, and I concluded: “We should think twice before we violate our legally protected heritage.” Famous last words – but heated discussion has definitely died down locally.

8. Not Everyone Has It In For Statues

The art critic and cultural commentator Alexander Adams has noted the merciful immunity from iconoclasm in the European continent, which views woke excesses with intelligent scepticism, and the perceived heritage value of its historical monuments prevails over politics. President Emmanuel Macron has explicitly stated that France won’t indulge in tearing-down operations, while Ian Morley’s paper has just explored the refreshingly different attitude in the Philippines. Perhaps this is yet another unfortunate instance where the exceptionalist British world, as seen in Brexit, sets itself apart and tears itself apart.

An irony of the peaceful BLM demonstration in Wellington was the crowd gathering under the watchful eye of Thomas Brock’s parliamentary statue of R.J. Seddon, New Zealand premier from 1893 to 1906. While his relations with Maori were benign, Seddon’s racism towards New Zealand Chinese today appears disgusting: he denied them state pensions, imposed stiff poll taxes on them and called them racial “pollutants.”

I asked a good friend who is a Professor of Chinese if Seddon should go. She replied: “I’m probably more conservative than you on this issue. For me, we should leave the statues alone and they are only and can only be partial representations of history. Destroying statues doesn’t destroy historical injustice or biased historical narratives. Besides, historical fashions come and go. The Russians and the Chinese have destroyed enough statues but failed to rectify any historical wrongs. So, for me, debate historical figures and events as much as one likes but leave material historical remnants alone. I guess that also answers your question about Seddon. The statue can also enable a conversation about racism in NZ.”

Wise words, don’t you think?

Thomas Brock, Richard Seddon, 1911-1914, Wellington.

Conclusion

Statues and monuments are art, they are heritage – and sorry, Professor Richard Evans, as a historian you need to realise they are also fascinating and insightful, highly charged historical documents. And unless they are Gilbert & George, statues can’t answer back when abused by the crowd. What we should do with them will be addressed by subsequent speakers, but I personally advocate additional plaques or virtual ones through QR codes and apps to spell out the case for people’s perceptions today. Conciliation not confrontation, love not war, and thank you Church Monuments Society, don’t expunge, explain. And, last but not least, heed the watchword of the PSSA, “retain and explain.”

Dr. Mark Stocker is an art historian and art curator who lives in New Zealand. His publications are on Victorian public monuments, numismatics and New Zealand art. His recent book, When Britain Went Decimal: The Coinage of 1971, will be published by the Royal Mint in 2021.

The image shows, “Pulling Down the Statue of George III in New York City,” by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel, painted in 1859.

Open Letter To Fellow Jews About The November Election: You Should Have Supported Donald Trump

How did Jews vote in the 2020 presidential election? It is still too early to determine this, fully accurately, but early evidence indicates that we supported Biden to the tune of about 72% and Trump the remaining 28%. To add insult to injury, of the 34 members of Congress who are Jewish, fully 32 of them are Democrats.

What more did poor Donald Trump have to do to earn an overwhelming majority of the Jewish vote? He moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something promised on numerous occasions by his predecessors. Several members of his family converted to Judaism; did he break with them, sit shiva? Of course not. Compare his relationship with Bibi with that of Barack Obama; night and day: no comparison.

He pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal. An executive order of his targeted anti-Semitism – primarily in the form of Israel boycotts – on college campuses. At the annual White House Hanukkah Party, Trump ordered the US Department of Education to effectively interpret Judaism as a race or nationality in addition to a religion. As a result, those universities which fail to take steps to quell discrimination against Jewish students may have their funding cut off. He withdrew the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council, which has unfairly been on the Israeli case for years, ignoring numerous serious human rights violations elsewhere.

In the summer of 2019, Trump even outdid Israel. That country was in the process of making an exception to their rule barring entry of all BDS supporters for Congressmen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Trump intervened, and they were disinvited. What else did he do that Jews ought to appreciate?

  • He initiated the Trump Plan, Peace to Prosperity
  • He stopped financial support for the UNWRA
  • He supported Israel sovereignty over the Golan
  • He kicked the Palestinian Authority out of Washington and defunded them

Most recently, the only president we presently have waved his magic wand and helped make peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. Normalized relationships are now being implemented. And, too, it looks as if this will be repeated with Oman and several others. Trump is a mensch. OK, OK, he doesn’t bake bagels or manufacture gefilte fish. C’mon, give this man a break!

How many more mitzvot does Trump need to perform in order to get Jews to appreciate him? In fact, it would be difficult to mention a more philo-Semitic president than the Donald. Has any other US president come within a million miles of these deeds, with the possible exception of Harry Truman who recognized Israel? To ask this is to answer it.

And, yet, according to that old aphorism, “Jews have the wealth of Presbyterians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” Most recently, more than six hundred Jewish groups went on record in support of Black Lives Matter, not the idea, which all men of good will can support, but the Marxist “peaceful” marchers.

What did things look like for the People of the Book on the other side of the aisle? Oy vey. Bernie (“Bibi is a racist”) Sanders did not win the Democratic nomination for president, but his negative viewpoints on Israel have left an indelible impression upon the foreign policy platform of that party. OK, you say, platform schplatsform; no one has to abide by it, no one ever does. But, still, it indicates where the hearts and minds of the Democrats are located. It is indicative of the types of advisors who will be surrounding the very possible President Biden, come 2021.

Then there is the high-flying very powerful “Squad” (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar). These young women are the leading indicators of the Democratic Party. Their views indicate where this organization is likely headed for the next few years.

Sayeth Omar: “Israel has hypnotized the world.” She called upon Allah to “awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She supports BDS and has likened Israel to Nazi Germany. She has castigated Congressmen who support Israel, but not any other nation, “for allegiance to a foreign country.” And she maintains that favoring Israel is “all about the Benjamins” (gelt, for the unwary). She apologized for the latter, but not the former.

In the view of Tlaib: “We cannot be honest brokers for peace if we refuse to use the words ‘illegal occupation by Israel…’” Also: “I spoke today as the proud granddaughter of a strong, loving Palestinian woman in opposition to #HRes326. We must take bolder actions to ensure human rights are upheld in Israel and that Palestinians and Black Israelis are treated with the equality every human being deserves.” The clear fact is that Arabs in Israel are treated far better than in any other country in the Middle East, as indicated by “voting with the feet.” Arabs are not emigrating from Israel; they are trying to immigrate into that country.

Here is Pressley’s reaction to Bibi Netanyahu’s plan to annex Judea and Samaria: “Let me be clear, unilateral annexation is a threat to democracy and would create apartheid like conditions and entrench human rights violations against the Palestinian people…”

And AOC’s view of this matter? “Should the Israeli government continue down this path, we will work to ensure non-recognition of annexed territories as well as pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel to ensure that U.S. taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way.” In case some of you were busy davening, OK, Rip van Winkling it, these four congressmen are members of the Democratic Party’s “progressive” wing, and bitter enemies of President Trump. We’re going to vote for the Presidential candidate who supports them? Maazel Tov.

OK, we Yidden account for only some 2% of the electorate. Our vote, therefore, doesn’t count for too much, some might say. But we are more involved in politics than many, have larger megaphones than some, and are usually more than willing to put our money where our mouths are. We thus had a disproportionate effect on the 2020 election compared to our raw numbers. It is imperative, then, that we rethink our typical 90%-10% support of the Democratic Party. A shonda.

Every other demographic cohort casts ballots in the direction of their perceived interests. Why should we be any different? If we value a good U.S. relationship with the only civilized country in the Middle East, the only nation that treats gays, women and minorities decently, we should have rethought our knee-jerk aversion to Mr. Trump, and wish him another four years. We should have also gotten off our tuchases and worked for this eventuality.

I have no problem, none whatsoever, with the usual roughly 90-10 split in the Jewish vote between the two major parties. I just wish it were in the other direction. What are we, to bite the hand offered us in friendship over and over and over again? Meshugenahs? Moishe Pippicks? Schlemeeles? Schmendrecks? Schlemaazls? Luft-menschen? It was beshert that Trump be reelected. Don’t be a nudnick. Don’t be a putz. Yes, his schtick is a bit off-putting to some; but it shouldn’t be to most of us, who are also from the Big Apple. It goes with the territory.

I hate to be repetitive, but, oy vey.

On the other hand, thank God for Orthodox Jewry, may their numbers increase. At least those people have Yiddishe cups and more than just a bissle of ethics; maybe from the study of the Talmud? Most recently, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky encouraged his haredi followers to vote for Donald Trump. Why? In one word: gratitude.

All this, of course, is now in the past. But there will be elections, again, in two, four, six years from now, God willing. It is time, it is past time, for us Jews to seriously question, and then reject our aversion to the Republican Party. Are they perfect? Fully aligned with the Talmud. Of course not. But, compared to the alternative, it is an easy call in their behalf.

Walter E. Block is Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute.

The image shows a socialist Yiddish poster from 1917, which reads, “Vote for the United Jewish Socialist Workers Party.” [Thanks to Rafi Farber for the translation].

The Corrupting Of Power: Pride And Illegitimacy

In the tenth chapter of Ecclesiastes we read that, “The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord; the heart has withdrawn from its Maker. For the beginning of pride is sin; and the one who clings to it pours out abominations. The Lord overthrows the thrones of rulers; and enthrones the lowly in their place.”

Since time in memorial humans have tried – through their own arrogance and supposed knowledge to supplant the all-knowing God to become godlike. It is first recorded in the early chapters of Genesis with a tempting bite from the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden.

Over and over again, in biblical literature and in subsequent history, we find the same aberrant phenomenon repeating itself. That’s why in Judaism, pride was called, “the root of all evil.“

It is as if we never learn.

Since the violent terror of the French Revolution man has thrown off any semblance of normative, God-given rules and exerted – a pure lust for power.

The Left, oftentimes under the guise of so-called liberal enlightenment, tries to “immanentize the eschaton” – to bring their definition of heaven to earth.

We saw this most vividly is the 2020 US election and the false promises made by the Democrats and their compliant, senile, illegitimate leader.

In political theory, this means trying to bring about the final, heaven-like stage of history in the present fallen world.

In all these contexts it means attempting to make that which belongs to the afterlife happen here and now – on earth.

In other cases, it means killing God altogether or denying His very existence.

In the process, instead, what we find is modern history littered with movements, leaders and ideologies that, as the poet William Blake shouted, ‘More! More!’ is the cry of a mistaken soul; less than All cannot satisfy Man.”

In the twentieth century alone more than 120 million lives were lost in wars and campaigns started by the Left: national socialism, communism, genocides, revolutions and various liberations. This year we commemorated the start of the last such world war in Poland.

The Left never has enough power.

We also heard the chairman of the Democrat National Party (DNC) was very enthused by the fact that religion is on the wane in America and that the secularist persuasion has endorsed and embraced the increasingly Leftist, Democrat Party.

The Republicans, too God-fearing, evangelical and anti-revolutionary, are to be banished and censored in the latest pride of the Left.

The Left has clear ambition to wipe out all transcendent faiths as the ‘opium of the people,’ as their hero, Karl Marx termed it. His ardent follower, Vladimir Lenin called for a Leftist revolution by the “vanguard of the proletariat,” to take hold of all history.

Listen to some of the 2020 Democrat voices demonstrating this same and ominous pride of the Left:

Celebrating Hugo Chavez’s leadership in Venezuela, “His brand of socialism achieved real economic gains.”

“China under Mao made more progress than any other to end poverty.”

“Homophobia is the real enemy of America.”

“Fck that dude. I’ll smack that fcker’s comb-over right off his fcking scalp. Like, for real, if I met Donald Trump, I’d punch him in his fcking face. And that’s not a joke.”

“It’s a political civil war, Trump’s racist tirades set the tone for 2020.”

“Republicans don’t believe in the imagination, partly because so few of them have one, but mostly because it gets in the way of their chosen work, which is to destroy the human race and the environment.”

“May your children all die from debilitating, painful and incurable diseases.”

“I wish they (Republicans) were all f*cking dead!”

” Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I’m outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House, but I know that this won’t change anything.”

“It’s time we seized control and had democratic socialism for working families .“
Well, we all know the saying, “Pride cometh before the fall.”

It is pride – in the power of the State and its omnipotent rulers that leads to the destruction of America and its very Founding values of ordered liberty and limited government.
It is the Left who continuously and vividly exhibit that sin.

Someday, perhaps we will acknowledge biblical wisdom again and turn away from the ever-present pride of the Left, wherever and whenever, it raises its ugly head.

Recall, the antidote to pride and hubris is trust in God’s providence. The hubris of Biden-Harris is most abundantly found in their presumption of victory.

In political science, legitimacy is the right and acceptance of an authority, usually a governing law or a regime itself. Whereas authority denotes a specific position in an established government, such as the Presidency in American government, the term legitimacy denotes a system of government—wherein government denotes “sphere of rightful and legal influence”.

The 2020 elections call the legitimacy of the Democrats and their candidate and those down ballot as well, into question. If Biden is sworn in on January 21, 2021 which is by no means certain at this point, he will be an illegitimate President.

An illegitimate presidency of Joe Biden based on mounting; documented evidence is the culmination of the pride of the Left.

In overt actions to steal the election from the rightful winners and insert their lame duck, senile cut-out, the Left has manufactured the greatest pride of all – a corrupting of power that Lord Acton himself predicted years ago in his famous dictum.

Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, scholar-diplomat-strategist, is CEO of the thought leadership firm, The Roosevelt Group. He is author of eighteen books, including, The Plot to Destroy Trump and Trump’s World: GEO DEUS. Dr. Malloch appears regularly in the media, as a keynote speaker, and on television around the world.

The image shows “Tondal’s Vision,” by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch, ca. mid-16th century.