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.

The Dead-End Of Liberalism

This is a special review. It is special because it is the last of its kind. I no longer intend to spend my time, and your time, on books that I know to be completely wrong, merely to show they are completely wrong. I am keenly aware of what I call “the closing door,” embodied in the words of John 9:4 – “the night cometh, when no man can work,” which Samuel Johnson had engraved on the inside cover of his pocket watch. This does not at all mean that I am stopping writing, only that I will no longer write in the vein of correcting errors of the political Left. For the hour is late, and the Right has better things to do.

Thus, I will no longer review, or read, leftist claptrap. That includes a substantial majority of modern popular works; essentially all books on history and politics that receive wide publicity, from the latest anti-Trump screed to anything on race, along with a great deal else. It also includes many, though not all, older leftist works that are leftist canon. Does it profit me to read any such book and demonstrate its innumerable falsehoods and logical errors? No, because I know the truth already, and I know the minds of all these writers and the vast majority of their readers are a closed circle, filled with lies and impervious to the truth. I will discover nothing new; and they benefit by me wasting my time, because opportunity costs.

True, my writing about such books might profit others who are less informed or have spent less time evaluating leftist claptrap, and who are drowning daily in the disinformation spewed out by leftist media and culture. But I can add the same value for those people by sometimes discussing leftist propaganda when I am discussing legitimate works. All the leftist agitprop I am now going to ignore is worse than worthless. It is total lies, which, fascinatingly, is a relatively new departure for the Left.

Over decades, the Left was rewarded for slanting and twisting the truth, never punished, and now that they have total control over the organs of communication, culture, and power, simply disregarding the truth in the service of power, serving instead lying propaganda, is the inevitable consequence. What you reward, you get more of. For the Left, since 1789, after all, the ends justify the means, and the purported goal of their Utopian cult is now in sight, so any tool is justified. So I understand why they lie, and how and why the New York Times today became no different than the Pravda of 1988. But I see no reason I should legitimate their webs of lies.

It is all a question of priorities. My core priority is to establish the Foundationalist state, under which human flourishing may again occur. What is the chief obstacle to the Foundationalist state? The power of the Left, and the corruption of the West it has wrought, by rejecting the pursuit of excellence and accomplishment, and by corroding individual virtue. Working to demonstrate that the Left lies as it breathes merely grants power to their lies. As I have said, the only way out is through, and that means, most of all, offering a positive vision of what the future can look like, as opposed to the world visible around us wrought by the Left—and them implementing that vision.

More broadly, I no longer care what any organ of the Left, or any individual leftist, thinks or says about any topic. At all. I don’t need to understand them better; I already understand them completely, and what they have to say that is not lies, is evil that has led us to our current degenerate and decayed society, for which they bear primary responsibility. Nor is it important to understand better their motivations: greed, love of power, millenarian fervor, sheer stupidity, love of destruction, hatred driven by racist ethnonarcissism, animal rage generated by envy of beauty and accomplishment. No, there is no reason whatsoever to engage the Left, except in the act of utterly and permanently breaking their power and imposing a decent society. The time for debate with the Left is over; the time for the re-imposition of reality arrived long ago.

The Left, always and everywhere, has known the existential nature of the struggle, and the exterminatory character of their program, and in every case acted to the extent its power allowed. Today in America, they no longer pretend the Right is even permitted to debate; after all, error has no rights. They are now imposing their final end-state on us, a project they will soon complete if they are not stopped. Our only goal should be to smash the Left and impose the will of the Right, in a complete reformation of our society—if we can, a topic for another day. What form that imposition of will might take remains to be seen. It could be a democratic turn to a Viktor Orbán-type leader, though more aggressive, who combines economic populism and nationalism, and is not afraid to use existing tools to break the Left. It could be a fragmentation of the country, along Kurt Schlichter lines, where the Left is confined in their own new country to descend into Venezuela, or worse, and the Right can form a renewed society. It could be many other things, each prefigured by history. But the path leads inevitably to war, whether hot war or cold war. It already is war, though a war fought only by the Left. Time to fight back, effectively.

Oh, I will read plenty of books I disagree with, in whole or in part. But those will be books that illuminate the way forward. I will no doubt still find much to criticize in some books. I will continue to read and analyze books that I know are partially wrong, such as those written with a whole or partial Left bias that are not works of politics or history (e.g., science or economics), because in those something of value can often still be found.

I may sometimes read books that I strongly suspect are completely wrong, say anything new from Jonah Goldberg, but that could still contain something of interest, especially books whose readership may include those on the Right working toward victory. I may read classic Left works, because they are classic, thus they may contain something of value, and moreover I know they inform my enemies, so knowing their contents is of use. Lenin, for example. (Not all old Left works are classic, of course. Take Edward Said’s Orientalism—I tried reading that, and it was worthless, lying trash, and laughably, obviously so.) But for the most part, I will read either books that are not political at all, but of interest to me for other reasons, or books that I see as useful in building Foundationalism.

More generally, I intend to spend as little time as possible discussing political matters with the Left. They can read my works, or not, and there may be exceptions to my general rule. But why discuss political matters with leftist commenters on my writing, or with my left-leaning relatives? Their worldview consists wholly of lies, destructive lies, lies that corrode all societal virtue and wholly block all societal accomplishment. They cannot be convinced otherwise; like any cult member, and cult is what the Left is, as shown by that their ideology does not permit any new fact to contradict their prebaked conclusions.

Someone must rule; now it is them, and changing that is the challenge of the next decade, followed by the suppression of their evil works and the proper education of both our children and our brainwashed adults. Meanwhile, with leftists with whom we have a social relation, we can talk about other things—although since the Left insists on politicizing all of life, there is, sadly, often very little we can talk about.

But before I call it a day, let us discuss this book. In it, childlike naivete alternates with low malice, combining in an execrable stew. I read Why Liberalism Works because it claims to be an answer to Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed, a key text of today’s post-liberal Right. To my disappointment, other than in its title and one unbelievably stupid sentence inside, this book completely ignores Deneen’s book, and also ignores all claims and arguments of today’s post-liberals. Instead, it substitutes, for engaging with ideas, heated repetition of bogus ideological claims. It’s crushingly boring and tiresomely predictable. But reading this book made me understand more fully why and how we are all force fed propaganda, of which this is merely an exemplar, on a daily basis, and led me to the decision outlined above. I’m happy for that, at least.

The author, Deirdre McCloskey, is what we can call a “choice extremist.” This is a type of libertarianism, but not confined to limiting the state. Rather, it is an endorsement of man as mayfly, impelled by no other desire than maximizing pleasure, and insistent that any limitation on such pleasure is evil incarnate. People like McCloskey, who claim to be centrists seeking human flourishing, offer the distilled essence of the worst of the Left, without the leavening concern for social fabric that some of the Left offers, or used to offer. A clean sweep will begin with these people, McCloskey and his [indeed, his, ed.] neoliberal allies, many long falsely seen as conservatives. For me, this book was unpleasant to read, and this review a drag to write. Still, I read the whole book, every word, hacking through the ignorant writing and annoying tone of unjustified superiority combined with a jarring, oily pseudo-femininity. You’re welcome.

Totally aside from its other defects, McCloskey’s book is poorly structured, because rather than writing a new book, he cobbled together numerous existing short writings, added some filler, divided them into four rough groups, and presented the results as a tasty pottage to his masters at the American Enterprise Institute and other similar bastions of mendacious toadies to leftism and chaos. Constant repetition is therefore the hallmark of this book; it could have been a fifth of its length and said the same things. Again, you’re welcome. Rather than analyze the fifty essays in this book sequentially, I’m going to summarize the author’s key claims, which are merely repeated with slight variations and emphasis throughout the entire book. Let’s get on with it.

First, McCloskey draws the line of demarcation that snakes through the entire book. We have “true liberals.” And we have everyone else. True liberals are awesome. Everyone else is bad, and bad precisely to the extent he differs in any way from true liberals. By “true liberal,” McCloskey means someone who is a fan of the core tenet of Enlightenment political philosophy, of emancipation from all unchosen bonds, an atomized free actor in every facet of his existence. True liberals, you see, adhere to the Golden Rule, which is, properly viewed, merely Adam Smith’s principles of free trade applied to all activities of life. In fact, total emancipation is dictated by God—McCloskey claims that some fictional “Abrahamic egalitarianism” is common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and in case we are unclear, calls Smith, ad nauseum, “the Blessed Adam Smith,” who revealed the correct interpretation of the Gospel, which previously had escaped all of us.

The rest of the book is merely endless variations on ascribing superlatives to “true liberals” and attacking everyone not a “true liberal,” though flavor is added by changing the adjective occasionally from “true” to “humane,” “sisterly,” or “motherly.” To support this division as an intelligent way to view the world, McCloskey’s tool is not evidence or reason. Rather, his only tool is ignoring or totally mischaracterizing opposing arguments while using tendentious, emotion-laden terms. In the second paragraph of the Preface, for example, he contrasts true liberals, who have “splendid arts and sciences,… toleration,… inclusiveness,… cosmopolitanism” with “illiberal regimes,” from whose “violent hierarchies” true liberals have liberated us, though “brutal, scaremongering populists” such as Viktor Orbán are still fighting their inevitable defeat by the true liberal paladins. The rest of the book does not vary from this pattern.

Second, in order to praise true liberals as the source of all that is righteous, McCloskey offers a puerile and false chain of historical causation. It is hard to exaggerate how simplistic this book is. In a nutshell, which is all we are offered, in the late 1700s, true liberalism began, when demands for emancipation and atomized liberty, that is, the Enlightenment, began. This political philosophy created the “Great Enrichment,” “economic betterments for ordinary people,” by “giving voice” to people who were formerly voiceless and utterly passive. This has continued, so now we are rich and getting richer, which is all that matters.

Now, McCloskey does recognize the glaring problem in this set of claims, which is that only clowns believe that the Industrial Revolution had any connection to the Enlightenment. So he dodges by trying to separate the supposed Great Enrichment from the Industrial Revolution. He claims that the latter was a mere commonplace, frequent throughout history, of doubling income, but that the Enrichment was a new thing in history, created purely by true liberalism. In one of the most bizarre passages of a book that is filled with them, McCloskey claims that equally important industrial revolutions also occurred in Islamic Spain and Song China. Before 1800, you see, progress was regarded as dishonorable and sinful, something “economists and historians are starting to recognize”—led, of course, by the most insightful historian of the modern age, McCloskey himself. Our unexceptional industrial revolution continued, creating the Great Enrichment, because “liberalism inspirited the masses to devise betterments and to open new enterprises and to move to new jobs.”

These are radical historical claims, but no evidence at all is offered for them, or any other historical claim. McCloskey is a historian by trade, but almost zero history appears in this book. To be fair, that may be the nature of such a cobbled-together book; he mentions his trilogy of other books about “bourgeois values,” with a passing claim that those books support what he says here, so perhaps one has to read those too to get any actual arguments from history. I won’t read them, because life is too short.

But back in the real world, there is no mystery as to how the Industrial Revolution created the economics of the modern world, and there is no such thing as a separate Great Enrichment. The West, starting in England, combined the advances of the Scientific Revolution (created purely by Europeans) with the right cultural practices, such as hard work and the rule of law, added some other factors endlessly debated (coal? intelligence? sea power?) and thereby escaped from the Malthusian Trap, which had never occurred a single time anywhere else in the world. Once created by the West, this package feeds on itself, and can be exported to any culture willing and able to adopt the gifts of Western technology and culture.

Some are; most aren’t either willing or able, and haven’t been for the past two hundred years. If they do, and to the extent they are willing to adopt these cultural and technological practices (which do not include frippery such as democracy), countries are lifted out of poverty, a process continuing, in fits, starts, and steps backward, today. The end. The rickety and ahistorical claims that McCloskey makes are simply objectively false, which he probably realizes, since beyond announcing conclusions, he makes no effort to support them. (No surprise, McCloskey ignores China’s and Singapore’s adoption of Western technology and methods to escape the Malthusian Trap, since those successes alone disprove every single claim he makes).

Third, there are enemies of true liberalism, who want to cast the whole world into darkness and end the Great Enrichment by opposing choice extremism. These are, today, primarily the parties democratically elected in Hungary and Poland, though occasionally Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are thrown in too. As with all of his odious neoliberal caste, McCloskey hates and fears those in power in Hungary and Poland, because their success and popularity prove everything he says false, and he is afraid their powerful ideas will spread to dominate throughout Europe and the United States (a fear that is, fortunately, well on its way to being a reality).

McCloskey does not deign to tell us why Hungary and Poland are bad, or how the policies enunciated by their governments will end the Great Enrichment. He just mouths the usual total lies that the press is attacked and the rule of law eroded, without any actual attempt to demonstrate those claims. In reality, of course, censorship and erosion of the rule of law is far more prevalent in the United States and Western Europe; but that’s censorship and erosion of the rule of law McCloskey likes. He’s very much a fan of flexible principles – for another example, despite his claim that we should all operate only on “sweet talk,” he openly celebrates in this book how he helped destroy the life of J. Michael Bailey, a Northwestern University professor who failed to adequately celebrate sexual degeneracy.

In addition to Viktor Orbán and some Poles, there are also domestic enemies. McCloskey hates American conservatives, that is, anyone on the Right not a corporatist, Koch-type Republican, with an ill-concealed burning passion. No surprise, he never once engages their arguments, even though he chants “let’s listen, really listen, to the arguments of our supposed enemies, and consider their logic and evidence.” The core of McCloskey’s “thinking” is a crude logical trap. We should have “a society held together by sweet talk among free adults rather than by coercion applied to slaves and children.” What if that sweet talk concludes that most people want to, let’s say, ban pornography? That’s coercion! So, in other words, McCloskey wants talk, as long as that talk has no chance of ending in conclusions other than the ones he has already mandated as the only acceptable ones for society. That’s just dishonest. But that’s this book.

We reach the nadir of McCloskey’s hate and stupidity in the single sentence devoted to Deneen. I was excited to get there, figuring I would get an actual response to post-liberal arguments. What I got was this, in toto. Brace yourself. “Liberalism, intones Deneen, entails ‘the loosening of social bonds’ (bonds such as slavery in the British Empire), ‘a relentless logic of impersonal transactions’ (so unlike the transactions of pious Israelites selling lumber to Egyptians, say), and the proposition that ‘human beings are thus, by nature, non-relational creatures, separate and autonomous’ (as for example in the non-relational exploration of human relationships in the bourgeois and liberal English novel since 1700).”

That’s it. That’s the entirety of McCloskey’s “argument.” The first parenthetical, about slavery, is apparently meant to be a refutation of Deneen in some way I cannot fathom. I have no idea what the second and third parentheticals, about Israelites, lumber, and English novels, are trying to say; they are not tied to anything else McCloskey says elsewhere. I am still scratching my head. But I can assure you that McCloskey thinks he has crushed Deneen, which says a lot more about him than anything else.

Fourth, for McCloskey, there are no enemies on the Left. Sure, some on the Left are mistaken, notably Thomas Piketty, on whom McCloskey spills a lot of gently-phrased words. But everyone on the Left is “earnest and amiable,” just a little wrong, like the “sweet slow socialist” George Soros or McCloskey’s unnamed “beloved and extremely intelligent Marxian friend.” The New York Times is wrong sometimes, but “sweet” and “benevolent.” Anyone on the Right, though, is “vicious,” a “thug,” or any of innumerable similar terms, and McCloskey certainly has no friends who are conservatives.

Fifth, true liberalism must struggle against bad policies, some of which are pushed by evil people and some by ignorant people. Any policy that has any element of “coercion” is bad. The worst policy of all is any restrictions whatsoever on immigration. We are told that “bad people” in the United States “wish to deport law-abiding and hardworking immigrants, in response to a scientifically bankrupt economic notion, which is anyway unethical, that immigrants take jobs away from natives, or a scientifically bankrupt sociological notion, also unethical, that their children will never become properly American.” If the “Hungarian farmer or West Virginia coal miner” complains that he can no longer feed his children, he has no legitimate complaint, rather, “what is being complained about is change, and as it happens desirable change.” We know it is desirable because it is happening because of the free market, for “Profits are a signal of general worthiness.” The end. Really.

You can see why neoliberals love this stuff, but the normal reader wonders why no effort, none at all, is ever made to demonstrate the truth of these claims and why we are never, not once, given any suggestion that we should perform cost-benefit analysis on any social policy. McCloskey’s claims and demanded social policies are uniformly and without exception wonderful and costless, and this truth is self-proving. Any questioning proves you are “authoritarian” or “fascist,” not “humane” and McCloskey’s “dear friend.”

Sixth, total emancipation in all areas of life will lead to total human flourishing. We are guaranteed that it is an absolute certainty that so long as we are true liberals, unlimited wealth will be ours, which will make us happy (not for McCloskey any wondering about the relationship, beyond a certain point, of wealth to happiness). And not just happiness—the resulting “enrichment will cause . . . a cultural explosion, casting into the shade the achievements of fifth-century Athenian drama and T’ang poetry and Renaissance painting.” His evidence for this? That the 1960s, the dawn of emancipation in America, were culturally, especially in art, far superior to the Renaissance. Yes, that’s what he claims.

Woven throughout the endless repetitions of this six-point plan is much other dumbassery. We are lied to that the “classical definition of liberty/freedom is the condition of being liberated/free from physical interference by other human beings,” which is the exact opposite of the truth. Pericles would reject everything McCloskey says out of hand, then have him flogged for corrupting the virtue of the body politic. Economic fallacies abound, most of all the exaltation of GDP as a measure of human flourishing (combined with the only other measure of human flourishing, the absolute right, derived from nothing in particular, to not be “pushed or bossed around without voluntarily given consent or contract”). “Leisure… should be accounted as income.” If you can’t find a job because an illegal immigrant took it, you are still making money, peasant, so stop complaining! Third-rate thinkers like Tyler Cowen and Eric Hoffer are extolled as brilliant. If some things are better now, everything that exists now must be good. And, most of all, culture doesn’t matter for anything, and no human motivation other than the desire for maximized freedom exists.

I’m not going to waste any more time on the claims of this book, but I want to examine what this book means. That is, on its face, nearly everything in this book is shockingly dumb, and I don’t think McCloskey is dumb (though he’s not nearly as smart as he thinks he is). So why did he write it? Ah, there’s where it gets interesting, and indicative of our politics today. Every so often the real agenda’s slimy face peeks through. We see it in the occasional obeisances [sic] to a free-floating “dignity.”

McCloskey’s project is to endorse a vision of humanity completely atomized, and he knows that to sell this he has to claim that all the worthwhile advances of the modern world are created by atomization. Okay, but why is McCloskey paid to purvey propaganda under the guise of being a purveyor of history and ideas, and then lionized across many forms of media? It’s because this is merely one small facet of the giant propaganda machine that spews its output across our society today.

We are everywhere surrounded by endless propaganda designed to push an agenda that simultaneously pushes the Left goal of emancipation combined with forced egalitarianism while lining the pockets of our neoliberal overlords. Every movie, computer game, or other form of media involving violence or the military features a complete inversion of reality, where female warriors exemplifying alpha male characteristics triumph over weak men with feminine characteristics. Every movie and TV show, for children or adults, celebrates homosexuals and sexual degenerates. Advertisements do the same. Wise Latinas instruct stupid white people. The propaganda machine is kept going by aggressive censorship across all media and social media, silencing the strongest voices of opposition and ensuring that those that remain self-censor to avoid deplatforming.

Still, at the end, this is a clarifying book. It made me realize what I started this review with—that debate is a waste of time, and the choice is utter defeat by the Left, or destroying the Left. Dispose yourselves accordingly.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The image shows a detail from the Crucifixion and Last Judgement diptych, by Jan van Eyck, ca. 1430 and 1440.

Misunderstanding, Then Misrepresenting Milton Friedman

In the September 11, 2020 issue of the New York Times, Kurt Anderson wrote a critique of Milton Friedman entitled, “How Liberals Opened the Door to Libertarian Economics.” There are numerous errors in Anderson’s assessment. Let us try to correct at least some of them.

He starts off on the wrong foot, characterizing Friedman’s view as “extreme free-market libertarianism.” In the libertarian movement of Ludwig von Mises, Murray N. Rothbard, Ron Paul and Robert Nozick, the 1986 Nobel Prize winner in economics was regarded (along with his fellow University of Chicago colleague, Friedrich A. Hayek) as a very moderate supporter of free enterprise, barely a libertarian. One market fundamentalist libertarian commentator even probed, seriously, as to whether or not Friedman was a socialist, given his many and serious deviations from pure laissez faire capitalism (the negative income tax, tax withholding, anti-trust, support for school vouchers and the Fed, rejection of gold as money). No one who claims “We’re all Keynesians now” can be located at the furthest reaches of free enterprise.

It, of course, cannot be denied that Prof. Friedman opposed unions – they unfairly restrict entry into the labor market; that he wanted fewer pernicious business regulations; and he opposed socialist medicine. He was as least a moderate supporter of economic freedom after all.

Mr. Anderson states, “The New Deal … out of which our well-functioning, prosperous postwar political economy grew.” Not so, not so. It grew in spite of this policy, not because of it. This Hoover-Roosevelt bout of economic interventionism prolonged the depression of 1929 for a decade. Compare this to the depression of 1921 which lasted months, not years, as a result of a “do nothing” (don’t interfere in the market) governmental policy.

Our author conflates libertarianism and libertinism. The former maintains that “capitalist acts between consenting adults” in the felicitous phraseology of Robert Nozick, all of them, commercial ones and also those regarding drugs and sex, should be legal, but takes no position whatsoever as to whether or not these practices should be followed. The latter urges participation in them, the weirder, the better.

Mr. Anderson characterizes the desire to maximize profits as “coldheartedness,” lacking “decency or virtue,” “selfish, callous and reckless,” and sets as the ideal operating “somewhere in the broad range between break-even and absolute-maximum profitability…” In doing so, he demonstrates a lack of understanding of this economic phenomenon. When a hiker is lost in the woods, in order to be rescued he shouts, “Help” (whether verbally or in some other way). Accepting “slightly smaller profit margins” when a businessman could maximize them is akin to imposing a decibel control over the endangered hiker. Profits are in effect a cry for help. When a firm accepts lower profits than were otherwise obtainable, it is reducing the economic welfare of the very “employees, customers, communities, society at large” championed by stakeholder supporters.

Jones now earns 5% profit. How could he increase this rate? Why, by producing more of what consumers are clamoring for. If he sticks to the status quo, he will not be rescuing as many “lost hikers” as he could have. True, he could also increase profits by lowering salaries. But if he decreases them below marginal revenue productivity levels, he will lose his best employees and reduce profits, not increase them. Profits can be maximized by paying optimal compensation, not a penny more, but not a penny less, either. Yes, Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life, are the true heroes, and only economic illiterates can fail to see this primordial point. Friedman is to be congratulated for trying to educate people in that regard.

No, it is simply not true that in Friedman’s view that “Any virtuous act by businesses beyond what the law requires is simpering folly.” Rather, it is fraud. Suppose you deposit your money in a bank, and the officer of that institution gives these funds to good charitable, stakeholder, causes. Not kosher! It is one thing to be kind and generous with your own property. It is quite another, to do so with other people’s wealth. That is a violation of the fiduciary relationship of the savings institution. The CEO has a responsibility to the shareholder, not to the stakeholder. There is nothing wrong, a la Friedman, with both of them, all of us, with being “decent” and “virtuous” with our own money. But the very opposite obtains when accomplished with, in effect, stolen cash.

Mr. Anderson attributes Friedman’s support of free enterprise to “screw-the-Establishment confrontationalism” of the Woodstock 1970s. I have known this Chicago economist for many decades and never did I discern even a whiff of this sort of thing. Who knew that my friend Milton was a secret hippie?

Our critic accuses Friedman of wanting to “rewrite the social contract.” But no one ever signed this “contract,” so it is without any legal power to control our lives. He all but criticizes him of hypocrisy for using “his noncommercial government-subsidized PBS platform to argue that the Food and Drug Administration, public schools, labor unions and federal taxes, among other bêtes noires, were bad for America.” But Friedman also used public parks, the U.S. post office, museums, sidewalks, even though he might have wanted to privatize them.

Mr. Anderson, presumably, is an egalitarian. Yet, he undoubtedly lives in a nice neighborhood, has a quality car, air conditioning, color tv, a computer. Why doesn’t he give most of this away to the poor? But a retort is open to Friedman: The government financed these amenities, in part, with Friedman’s tax dollars. He is hence justified in using them. Mr. Anderson has no such defense against the charge of hypocrisy.

To the extent that Friedman can take credit for Gordon Gekko (greed is good), it is a feather in his cap. Here, Mr. Anderson’s target is merely channeling Adam Smith’s “invisible hand;” a basic premise of economics: People are led by the lure of profits to cooperate with others for mutual gain. The “Wealth of Nations” is based on just this sort of consideration.

Our critic is particularly exercised about a “S.E.C. rule change (which) effectively gave free rein to public companies … to buy up shares of their own stock on the open market in order to jack up the price.” But what, pray tell, is wrong with voluntary exchanges of this or any other sort, which are necessarily mutually beneficial at least in the ex ante sense, and usually so ex post? He is also upset that “U.S. executive pay … shifted from consisting mainly of salary and bonus to mainly stock and stock options.” Banks sometimes give out toasters and radios to depositors. Must all financing consist of cash? There are also good and sufficient reasons for this alteration in terms of taxation and the aligning of incentives.

Our critic then bewails the fact that “the richest 10th of us have 84 percent of all stock shares owned by Americans, and a ravaged economy in which the stock market is close to an all-time high.” Should we also regret that a similar proportion of NBA players are African American? Thomas Sowell, a student of Milton Friedman’s, has done more than any other economist to pierce the myth that if strict proportionality does not prevail everywhere, it is untoward.

Mr. Anderson mentions “the full Friedmanization of our economy for the last four decades (which) has generated such greed-driven extremes of inequality, insecurity and immobility that the system is now on a path that looks crazily self-destructive.” This man is living in a dream world. Full Friedmanization would include a world with no tariffs or interferences with free trade, the end of licensing, not only for hair braiders, Uber, AirBnB, but also for medical doctors! Governmental tax would be in the neighborhood of 10% not 50% of GDP. Such “destruction” of the economy, to the extent it exists, stems not from Friedman’s public policy proscriptions, but mainly from their rejection.

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. He earned his PhD in economics at Columbia University in 1972. He has taught at Rutgers, SUNY Stony Brook, Baruch CUNY, Holy Cross and the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of more than 600 refereed articles in professional journals, two dozen books, and thousands of op eds (including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and numerous others). He lectures widely on college campuses, delivers seminars around the world and appears regularly on television and radio shows. He is the Schlarbaum Laureate, Mises Institute, 2011; and has won the Loyola University Research Award (2005, 2008) and the Mises Institute’s Rothbard Medal of Freedom, 2005; and the Dux Academicus award, Loyola University, 2007. Prof. Block counts among his friends Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard. He was converted to libertarianism by Ayn Rand. Block is old enough to have played chess with Friedrich Hayek and once met Ludwig von Mises, and shook his hand. Block has never washed that hand since. So, if you shake his hand (it’s pretty dirty, but what the heck) you channel Mises.

The image shows a portrait of Milton Friedman by Lindsay Mitchell.

Why The ‘Left’ Is Intolerant

Introduction

There are many forms of intolerance and many different kinds of explanations, motives, and defenses for the various forms. There is no presumption here that intolerance is always and everywhere unacceptable. In this essay, I shall focus on that form of intolerance manifested as censorship of what is permitted in writing and speech, limitations on what kinds of questions, the manner of their formulation and the kinds and range of answers permitted. In addition, I shall focus on censorship that takes the form of editing, reinterpreting and reporting what other people say; finally, I shall focus on censorship of the presumed motives (not just the reasons) of what other people are thinking. The particular historical and institutional context I have in mind is contemporary so-called free societies such as the US and the UK and specifically within them government bureaucracies, universities and all forms of public communication, such as newspapers, magazines, blogs, internet, publishers, TV, radio, etc.

Precisely because of the foregoing focus and the kinds of individuals that would be relevant, my explanation will be interested primarily in the intellectual origins of the intolerance, or, if you like, the kinds reasons offered or that might be offer in defense of the intolerance.

Human beings sometimes, but not always, find it necessary to offer a formal reason(s) for their public policy positions. We do so when we believe that the people to whom the formal explanation is addressed are, or will be, members of the same moral community as ourselves. Otherwise, the offering of reasons is irrelevant, often counterproductive, or dishonest.

When I refer to the ‘Left’, I shall mean those who advocate radical social change instituted by the force of the state and justified by appeal to some moral abstraction or Utopian aim. Given my understanding, the ‘Left’ will refer in general to so-called progressives, modern liberals, socialists, Marxists, those who self-identify in terms of identity politics, and the like. Political affiliation is no longer particularly helpful here.

Intellectual Origins of Social ‘Expertise’

In the 18th-century, the French philosophes developed the idea that there could be social sciences, modeled after the physical sciences. These alleged social sciences would be able to explain, predict, and control social phenomena. Thus was born the idea of a social technology. The belief that a social technology would enable us to create a Utopian society was the shared intellectual inheritance of liberals, socialists, and Marxists (Becker 1962). Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity expressed such a view. Fromm described it in the following way: “[Skinner’s] system attracts those psychologists who are liberals and who find Skinner’s system an argument to defend their political optimism. He appeals to those who believe that desirable social goals like peace and equality are not just rootless ideals, but can be established in reality. The whole idea that one can ‘design’ a better society on a scientific basis appeals to many who earlier might have been socialists. Did not Marx, too, want to design a better society. Did he not call his brand of socialism ‘scientific’ in contrast to ‘Utopian’ socialism… Moreover, Skinner’s theory rings true, because it is (almost) true for the alienated man of the cybernetic society. In summary, Skinnerism is the psychology of opportunism dressed up as a new scientific humanism” [The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1973].

The Enlightenment Project is the Pelagian attempt to define and explain the human predicament through science as well as to achieve mastery over it through the use of a social technology. This project originated in France in the18th-century with the philosophes, Diderot, d’Alembert, La Mettrie, Condillac, Helvetius, d’Holbach, Turgot, Condorcet, Cabanis, and Voltaire:

[T]he conviction that the world, or nature, was a single whole, subject to a single set of laws, in principle discoverable by the intelligence of man; that the laws which governed inanimate nature were in principle the same as those which governed plants, animals and sentient beings; that man was capable of improvement; that there existed certain objectively recognizable human goals which all men, rightly so described, sought after, namely, happiness, knowledge, justice, liberty, … that these goals were common to all men as such, were not unattainable, nor incompatible, and that human misery, vice and folly were mainly due to ignorance either of what these goals consisted in or of the means of attaining them-ignorance due in turn to insufficient knowledge of the laws of nature… Consequently, the discovery of general laws that governed human behaviour, their clear and logical integration into scientific systems of psychology, sociology, economics, political science and the like… would, by replacing the chaotic amalgam of guesswork, tradition, superstition, prejudice, dogma, fantasy…that hitherto did service as human knowledge and human wisdom (and of which by far the chief protector and instigator was the Church), create a new, sane, rational, happy, just and self-perpetuating human society, which, having arrived at the peak of attainable perfection, would preserve itself against all hostile influences, save perhaps those of nature.[Berlin, 1993, pp.27-28].

The social science disciplines now housed in the universities claim to possess the relevant truths that would enable them to produce a social utopia if they can gain control of the only institution capable of controlling all the other institutions, namely the government.

Hence, the social sciences, which have colonized all other disciplines including the arts, sciences, schools of communication, law schools, and even schools of business, have produced a faculty that overwhelmingly supports government that is ever more powerful. This is what intellectuals tell themselves makes them the most important people in society. It is there raison d’être. Since education is now understood to be a form of technology, education is indistinguishable from indoctrination. Universities and colleges may advertise to parents that a college degree increases lifetime income but that is not the major mission of present higher education. Its mission is social reform.

Unfortunately, for them, The U.S. has a constitution, an electoral college, and a republic as opposed to a pure democracy. This makes it difficult to obtain the correct personnel for the government. Hence, it is necessary to indoctrinate the ignorant public. This requires:

First, purge the faculty of those who do not believe in either the intellectual legitimacy of the social ‘sciences’ or the practical effectiveness of social technology. Academic freedom is a relic of a bygone pre-scientific era. It may have been necessary at first to entrench leftist professors, but it is no longer needed. This exemplifies the old saying that “when in the minority demand tolerance on your host’s principles but when in the majority deny it on yours.”

In an analogue to the Vatican, only some have access to all writings; all others, including authors (instructors) must be silenced. A catechism displays the only admissible questions and the only admissible answers.

Second, sanitize and redefine the curriculum. Remove all offensive and counter-productive material.

Third, create a paid group of monitors to observe and report on faculty and staff who might deviate from or sabotage the curriculum.

Fourth, insist that everyone get a college degree and adjust the requirements (lower standards) to facilitate this.

Fifth, train journalists to spread the truth. Since these journalists will be taught the hidden truth about how people think, in the same way that physicists understand the behavior of unseen molecules, journalists do not report what people actually say because it is mere surface phenomena. They report what people really mean, the hidden structure, even if that is not what those people say. This is not in their eyes fake news or misrepresentation. It is social ‘science’. It is telling the ‘real’ hidden truth.

It is not only permissible but also morally required to do or say whatever is necessary because the end justifies the means. The end always justifies the means only as long as the end is incontrovertibly acceptable (i.e. beyond dispute). Presumably, only the ‘elect’ know that ‘end’ and therefore are in a position to impose it on others.

Working with allies in the bureaucracy, this may at times look like spying on a campaign, sabotaging an election and an administration, and rigging the outcome of future elections, but what it really means to advocates of social technology is the giving of total fulfillment. They know the truth and they will make us really free.

There are many prominent thinkers, such as Hayek, who have debunked the whole idea of a social ‘science’. Human beings are not mechanisms and not simply organic entities. Moreover, there cannot be a science of humanity or of the social world. Any description of the human world would be valid only if agreed to within a pre-existing social/cultural framework. Any attempt to explain that framework (as opposed to describing it) would be a further explanation that would be valid only if agreed to within some other framework, and so on ad infinitum!

My argument should not be confused with the older claim that you cannot deduce a norm (an ‘ought’) from a fact(s) (‘is’), an argument wrongly attributed to Hume. There cannot be facts or anything designated as a fact unless we already agree on a prior set of (epistemological) norms/practices. So, norms are more fundamental than facts, and hence it is obvious why we do not deduce norms from facts – a trivial point and not a profound insight. This goes to the heart of the argument: all (any) civilization is possible only if there is some kind of agreement on norms. What the new left does is to obscure this point by talking as if they are articulating an intellectual or symbolic position when in fact they reject a common set of norms (e.g., burning the flag or not kneeling at the national anthem). That is why they systematically obscure (or are confused about) the distinction between the existence of a norm and the extent to which we instantiate the norm in our practices.

Let me give an example of how this works.

I shall refer to this maneuver as CYA. Progressive advocates of social technology claimed for many years that dysfunction within the African-American community was solely the result of poverty or the lack of resources and that a variety of welfare programs would solve the problem.

As Charles Murray documented it in his book, Losing Ground, that progressive strategy not only failed to solve the problem but also made it worse! Two consequences followed. First, Murray was vilified as a racist for this book. Second, progressives invented a new or meta-theory to cover the failure of the first theory/policy.

The new theory was ‘institutionalized racism’. I shall ignore the fact that such an expression is a meaningless abstraction that confuses different categories (if you are a logician you will understand this) and hence cannot be, and is therefore not, confirmable. The explanans is identical to the explanandum. On the contrary, by every objective measureable the U.S. is not racist (Connerly, WSJ, 7/24/20), and popular opinion increasingly favors doing everything reasonable to improve opportunities for Blacks. ‘Reparations’ is not reasonable because it is more of the same failed program of transferring resources.

CYA also reflects another dishonest intellectual stratagem. Advocates of social technology assume that whatever is true of physical science is the model for everything else. There are two versions: elimination and exploration. In elimination, there is an explicit substitution of new ideas for old ideas. Elimination is a form of radical replacement through innovation. Examples are the elimination of Ptolemy’s geocentric view of the universe and its replacement by Copernicus’ heliocentric view of the universe; another is the elimination of traditional theories of disease by the discovery of microbes. Elimination makes sense if there is some prior agreed upon framework in terms of which we can judge that one new theory is better than an old theory.

In exploration, on the other hand, we begin with our ordinary understanding of how things work and then go on to speculate on what might be behind those workings. The new understanding replaces the older one by appeal to underlying structures. The underlying structures are discovered by following out the implications of some hypothetical model about those structures. The discovery is empirically confirmable and replicable by using telescopes, microscopes, and other sophisticated devices. Exploration is exemplified in the use of the atomic theory to explain chemical behavior or the behavior of gases.

Exploration is the mode of thought of academic social science. By analogy with physical science, the social sciences have persistently sought to discover the hidden structure behind the everyday understanding of social activities. From Durkheim to Marx, and beyond, social scientists have persistently sought to reveal a structural level of which we are not immediately aware. Exploration is the search for structure rather than for meaning, the search for the formal elements underlying the everyday world rather than believing that the everyday world can constitute its own level of understanding.

The problem with exploration is that there is no way to confirm or disconfirm an exploration in the social sciences. There are no sophisticated devices such as social microscopes to reveal what cannot be seen by the naked eye. There is no progress in the social sciences like the progress in the physical sciences. There is merely the substitution of one fashionable language for another. The riders and the tunes change, but the carousel only moves in a circle.

We are unable to choose among competing explorations. Denied formal criteria or extra-systematic criteria for evaluating their own hypotheses, social theorists can only fall back upon aesthetic and/or informal criteria. Immense prestige is accorded to those individuals skillful in formulating clever, ingenious, and sometimes bizarre hypotheses. Ingenuity becomes the benchmark of success, and as in present day movements in the arts leads to sudden shifts in fashion. Another dead-end is the appeal to intuition so that rival explorers claim that their hidden structure hypothesis ‘better’ captures some private intuition about our ordinary understanding. There is, of course, no independent way of establishing this.

How, then do we avoid nihilism? Progressives do so by offering a further or meta-exploratory account of why their opponents opposed the first level exploratory account. Therefore, if I disagree that the lack of resources is the cause of dysfunction, the progressive accuses me of racism, of harboring a secret dislike or revulsion of some group of people. This is no more rational or confirmable than the first level exploration, but it is a very clever and sometimes effective political/rhetorical maneuver, especially with the intellectually unsophisticated. One Tower of Babel replaces another.

There are alternative and competing accounts of what underlies our normative framework, but there is no way of resolving, in exploratory terms, which one is correct. Without a consensus on the framework, there is no way of distinguishing between when a thinker helps us to alter our norms by clarification of the alleged underlying structure and when he or she is just an advocate of a particular set of norms. Without a consensus on the framework, we might be led to the cynical conclusion that the very idea of a framework is a myth. That is, we are led to nihilism. Once we are willing to face nihilism, we can well ask “Why seek to resolve differences peacefully?”

By subscribing to scientism, theorists are also led to embrace determinism. Rawls is an example of an environmental determinist when he says that “Even the willingness to make an effort, to try, and so to be deserving in the ordinary sense is itself dependent upon happy family and social circumstances” [Theory of Justice (1971), p. 74]. That is why these theorists deny things like the Augustinian or Kantian conception of the moral free will and deny, as well, the notion of an autonomous internal self. The traditional, pre-Enlightenment, conception of a moral agent subject to internal sanctions is denied. It is plausible to such theorists to take seriously the question “Why should I be moral?” If there are no internal sanctions, then there can only be external sanctions. Social equilibrium is to be maintained through external social control, i.e. intolerance and ultimately force!

There are enormous and insurmountable problems here. If we are nothing more than creatures of stimulus and response then why choose to institutionalize any one particular set of norms? Of course, we can maintain that these ‘machines’ have an internal telos or purpose, but how do we confirm this allegation or decide which alleged goal is the true one. You cannot establish the truth of teleology in an empirical way, and neither can you square individual free will with teleology.

I shall refer to the ‘old left’ as those who sincerely believed that they could win the argument on purely intellectual grounds. However, as epistemological sophistication grew in the physical sciences (1960s and 1970s), it became increasingly clear to philosophers of science (e.g. Kuhn, Feyerabend) that there was no independent way to establish the objective truth or the notion of objective progress even in the physical sciences. The Enlightenment Project dream of a social technology needed a new foundation.

Post-Modernity

As opposed to classical thinkers, modern or post-Renaissance thinkers have come to recognize that norms and standards (truth, beauty, goodness) are not grounded in, nor do they refer to, structures independent of human perspectives. One sees this in Copernican astronomy, Einsteinian relativity, the revival of ancient skepticism and what Kant, influenced by Hume, called the Copernican Revolution in philosophy. This notion of relativity to human perspective is already present in Renaissance works of art. For the benefit of the obtuse, to proclaim that something is true, beautiful, or good, etc. is to say that members of some relevant community will agree with that assessment. You might not agree with this modern epistemology, but there is nothing contradictory or irrational about it.

Postmodernists consider all norms as products of historically contingent circumstances that reflect cultural hierarchies. As such, any prior claim to social authority is delegitimized. This involves two separate beliefs: (a) the empirical claim that there are no universally significant facts about humanity and (b) the existent norms are historically accidental and therefore challengeable.

For our purposes, the second claim is the most significant. To begin with, whatever current norms there are for scholars and journalists (including the norms of academic freedom, veracity, interpretation, etc.) are challengeable or deconstructable. We live in a world of norm pluralism. If so, how do we go about managing disputes or replacing norms? There are traditional norms of challenge and replace, but those norms are themselves contingent. Here we have reached a dead end. You cannot even say that “anything goes” because that too is a contingent norm. We are left with the appeal to force.

Some postmodernists are undismayed by the foregoing. They will claim that they speak for a previously unrecognized set of norms variously described as the norms of the dispossessed, the marginalized, the exploited, etc. The Marxist provenance of this view is obvious and should be kept in mind. In fact, these particular postmodernists claim to be the articulators or spokespersons of those norms. Put into action, these spokespersons will try to persuade advocates of the traditional norms by various means to embrace the norms of the downtrodden. Those means include direct action and violence if necessary. There is no set of super-norms in their eyes for resolving these disputes.

Personally, I think these postmodernists are correct in pointing out the limits of rational discourse. It also seems historically accurate to claim that many disputes were resolved only by conflict (rebellion, revolution, civil war, etc.). Under such circumstances, intolerance is a perfectly consistent response.

Friends, colleagues, and others who do not get this point dismay me. The latter keep trying to find some logical flaw in postmodernism. For example, how can we agree that all norms are historically contingent? Does that not show that we agree on something? Of course it does; but ‘agreement’ is a social process. Philosophically, we do not all agree on what ‘agreement’ means.

My other friends seek some ‘rational’ way, some form of negotiation or concession, perhaps secession, to resolve the dispute. These otherwise ‘good’ people understandably want to avoid the use of force. In failing to understand those partisans of the left who are postmodern, the ‘good’ people (Neville Chamberlain comes to mind) are helpless, if not hopeless intellectually, and they will lose without a fight.

The well-intentioned but obtuse readers will jump-in at this point and claim that the appeal to historical events is a self-contradiction on the part of postmodernists. Again, this misses the point. Agreement on the occurrence of one event shows at best that we share at least one norm. Sharing one norm does not translate into sharing a set or framework of norms. Even agreement on the application of a norm to a set of circumstances is compatible with different interpretations of the same event in the light of a set of norms. No single norm operates in total independence of the set to which it belongs.

It is not simply the case that there are significant ethical disagreements about substantive issues. Many if not most of these controversies do not appear to be resolvable through sound rational argument. On the one hand, many of the controversies depend upon different foundational metaphysical commitments. As with most metaphysical controversies, resolution is possible only through the granting of particular initial premises and rules of evidence. On the other hand, even when foundational metaphysical issues do not appear to be at stake, the debates turn on different rankings of the good.

Again, resolution does not appear to be feasible without begging the question, arguing in a circle, or engaging in infinite regress. One cannot appeal to consequences without knowing how to rank the impact of different approaches with regard to different ethical interests (liberty, equality, prosperity, security, etc.). Nor can one uncontroversially appeal to preference satisfaction unless one already grants how one will correct preferences and compare rational versus impassioned preferences, as well as calculate the discount rate for preferences over time. Appeals to disinterested observers, hypothetical choosers, or hypothetical contractors will not avail either.

If such decision makers are truly disinterested, they will choose nothing. To choose in a particular way, they must be fitted out with a particular moral sense or thin theory of the good. Intuitions can be met with contrary intuitions. Any particular balancing of claims can be countered with a different approach to achieving a balance. In order to appeal for guidance to any account of moral rationality one must already have secured content for that moral rationality.

It even does not matter if I am wrong in my understanding and partial defense of postmodernism. It does not matter if there are non-trivial universal truths about humanity or universal/timeless norms. If a group of people do not believe in or accept those norms the consequences are the same. It does not matter if some postmodernists are advocating some benign change, for others can consistently demand something more radical. It does not matter if one is willing to allow co-existence or partition or secession if the other side wants dominance. The need for dominance will be discussed in the next section.

The transition from social technology to postmodernism marks the transition from liberalism to socialism and/or Marxism. The ‘new’ left has replaced/superseded the ‘old’ left.

In fact, we do live in a world, and even in our own U.S. society, of moral pluralism. There is one social tradition (norm, practice), namely the Anglo-American one, where moral pluralism has been largely and successfully managed. It is called the rule of law. We live in different substantive moral communities (Christian, Jewish, etc.) and, at the same time, we all subscribe (or we used to) to the procedural norm of toleration. Despite these different substantive communities, all of them contain within themselves the resources to adopt the procedural norm of toleration. Of course, this tradition (articulated by Milton, Locke, Mill, Hayek, Oakeshott) is historically contingent.

Many post-modernists reject this tradition (they claim it is an expression of a hidden structure of oppression). This tradition does nothing to glorify/redeem the status of intellectuals, activists, or those with a radical agenda.

Oakeshott has captured this mindset of these particular post-modernists in his description of the anti-individual. Throughout most of history and everywhere in the world, human beings have identified themselves as members of a community. There were neither autonomous individuals not anti-individuals.

The most important event in modern European history is the rise of the autonomous individual beginning in Renaissance Italy (13th – 15th centuries). There are no autonomous individuals anywhere before the Italian Renaissance. Autonomous individuality is a feature of Western European civilization and later spread elsewhere. All creative activity [creative/destruction] is the product of autonomous individuals: “It modified political manners and institutions, it settled upon art, upon religion, upon industry and trade and upon every kind of human relationship.” Not everyone makes the transition – some are left behind (by circumstance and by temperament): Individuals manqué and anti-individuals.

The mind-set of the new ‘individual’ (Hobbes, Kant) is auto-nomous (self-rule is the translation). They impose order on themselves; self-disciplining, not self-indulgence, rather than requiring outside control and direction; risk-takers; self-defining; self-respect (something you give to yourself); pursue self-chosen courses of action rather than playing traditional roles. Policies advocated by autonomous individuals include encouraging creativity, a free-market economy, limited government, limited to being an umpire – enforce the rules of the game and not pre-determine the outcome; liberty and equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome; the rule of law. Society is viewed as a civil association: there is no overall collective good/goal. Economic entrepreneurs and conservative lawyers are the ones with superior status in this world.

The new left, the new breed of post-modernists, do in fact hold a kind of substantive account of morality. They can no more step out of all historical contexts than anyone else.

What is that mind-set? It is the mind-set of the anti-individual. They like being part of a protective community that takes care of them and relieves them of the anxiety of making choices; they are risk-averse –dominated by the fear of failure; they seek self-esteem (something that other people give you). There were some people, by circumstance or by temperament, less ready than others to respond to this invitation to become autonomous. Once some people become autonomous individuals and others do not, those who do not make the transition become anti-individuals. Anti-individuals are a reaction against autonomous individuals.

They are resentful of autonomous individuals and feel envy, jealousy, and resentment. They have feelings rather than thoughts, impulses rather than opinions. They need a leader; they want equality and solidarity. They blame autonomous individuals for the anxiety; want to destroy the prestige of autonomous individuals and make everyone an anti-individual; they want equality of outcome. They are not necessarily poor, not necessarily ignorant, and often members of the intelligentsia. Because of their mind-set, they cannot and will not function in a market economy; hence, they are dysfunctional in a modern commercial society.

The public policies advocated by anti-individuals include encouraging uniformity, the Democratic-Socialist abolishment of private property, government ‘guarantees’ and the regulation of everything. Law is reduced to politics – laws are supposed to achieve a political agenda. Society is conceived of as an enterprise association: there is a collective goal (vouchsafed to the elect) in which each person sublimates his/her own goals and is fulfilled by their social roles.

As you can see their substantive account of morality is wholly negative – they know what they are against but are unclear on what they favor – or – they favor a laundry list of abstractions that temporarily allow them to pour whatever meaning they want into it. What holds them together is what they are against. One cold maintain, as Ortega did, that this is actually the absence of morality as opposed to an alternative morality.

Ideology as Religion

It has been observed for some time, e.g. Nietzsche’s assertion that ‘God is dead,’ that Western societies are increasingly secular. The older comprehensive religious cultural narratives such as Christianity and Judaism seem less and less relevant or meaningful to more and more people. One could argue that THIS IS A FURTHER CONSEQUENCE OF EMBRACING The Enlightenment Project.

Even new variants of these older narratives keep moving further and further ‘left’ in their orientation. By this, I mean that they increasingly support policies that promise immediate earthly postponement or resolution of the human predicament, to wit that we can suffer physical and mental dysfunction from the time we are conceived and that as we grow older we become more infirm and then die. Perhaps in a broader sense we all seek to make sense of our mortal lives.

Politics is now the new religion. Politics, understood as some institutional arrangement that defines the master moral community, has replaced the family and religion or what we used to call civil society. In some cases, the alleged new community can go beyond traditional nation states and now encompass a super-state (e.g. EU) or a global entity (e.g. U.N.) or even encompass non-human things such as animals, plants, the whole earthly environment. “Today, the New Left is rushing in to fill the spiritual vacuum at the center of our free and capitalist society.” [Irving Kristol, 1972, “Capitalism, Socialism, and Nihilism”]. There is no longer any pretense that centralized control of the economy is more productive or efficient; equality of outcome and communal solidarity are intrinsic ends that take absolute precedence over everything else. They no longer care about the reasons that past agents had for what they did; all history is to be judged and written from the progressive moral perspective.

Post-modern thinkers have a better understanding of our epistemological predicament than do hopeless advocates of older forms of liberalism (libertarian, classical liberal, etc.). Many traditional religious thinkers also understand the limits of discursive reason but they have either stopped believing the literal truth of their tradition or simply do not know how to defend their commitment. The latter have forgot that the advocacy of toleration is a largely cultural or civil achievement.

Religions have traditionally been enterprise associations, that is, promoting a collective goal to which individual goals, freedoms, etc. are subordinated. In practice, that has meant excluding others, i.e. intolerance. Christianity and Judaism, notably among others, subsequently (i.e. after centuries of religious wars) found the internal resources to accept procedural tolerance. This is not true of some others. Among the latter (supply your own list) there is a strict policy of intolerance if not hostility and outright suppression of dissenters. After all, it is not possible to win an argument rationally. The ‘left’ of late has adopted this attitude even in the U.S. and the U.K. Once you understand the logic of enterprise association, the felt need of salvation and total meaning (a comprehensive purpose to everything), you can understand the policy of intolerance.

Domination is not some intrinsic feature of the human predicament, rather, it is the response of those who fear any threat to their enterprise association. Since they ARE UNWILLING TO LIVE WITHOUT A TOTAL VISION, they can prevail only by eliminating opposition. Intolerance is a simple reflection of how the new left has become a religion that brooks no opposition.

I offer a crucial example. What a religion or political system understood as a religion offers is total meaning, total commitment, and salvation (fill in the content). The major policy proposal in the U.S. and elsewhere of the ‘left’ is single-payer health care – you will be kept alive as long as possible (in case there is no after-life or you might fail to qualify for it) at ‘public’ expense. Once this part of the economy is under central government control, there is no going back and total control of the economy and of all institutions is inevitable in order to guarantee that there is no going back. If you subscribe to this, intolerance of all kinds is permitted/required, or you are guilty of destroying the lives of millions upon millions of other human beings. Intolerance in the eyes of the new left would be a small cost to pay given the benefits.

What is Really Wrong Intellectually/Morally With The New Left

As I have argued above, you cannot defeat the new left with arguments about objective truth, and you cannot refute them by claiming that post-modernism is somehow incoherent. Simply restating your own commitment is not a refutation of those who do not share that commitment.

What can we do? On the positive side, we can appeal to the Anglo-American cultural inheritance which is grounded in custom/practice (not theory) and the practice of resolving disagreements about practice. This does not require an abstract theory, nor a theory of history, nor a narrative of any kind. People either share or they are willing to share these practices or they do not. Histories (narratives, theories) do not resolve these matters because, at best, history can only legitimately tell us what happened (e.g. a battle took place on such and such a date) or what the agents involved understood themselves to be doing (not some theory of what we attribute to them).

If we do not share the same understanding of the practices, then there is nothing more to be said. Yes, I know we yearn for more. Holding on to the illusion of some ‘objective’ truth either turns us into the same direction as those we oppose or it undercuts our ability to fight back. We do not have to hold onto the belief in an objective truth except as a private substantive view; what we need to hold onto is the belief in the validity of our practice of procedural tolerance. Some of us have no difficulty in squaring this procedural norm with our different substantive views. The ‘left’ is incapable of doing this, and that is why they not only want to change the rules but also want to change the rules for changing the rules.

What the new left does is to say that they share the practices (e.g. free speech, democracy, etc.) but reserve the right to interpret them in a way with which we do not and cannot agree. There is a word for this, and it is ‘dishonesty’. The new left understands this game, but their critics do not.

The left is constantly calling for “equity” and “diversity” and tolerance, but as soon as you say something they don’t like they’ll attack you personally, and in a really mean way. And, when you try to talk with them about it, they tell you that you’re hurting their feelings and they can’t talk about it. This among academics, who are supposed to be trained in rational argument! There is so much resentment in the anti-individual—the calls for group solidarity and the constant airing of endless grievances really do seem to point to a kind of pathology in the soul.

In failing to see that the left is a form of religion what is missed in all of this is that the left will argue that things like free speech, the right to self-defense, in fact the whole of the Bill of Rights is not a set of procedural norms but a substantive morality that is being imposed on them. To disagree with them is to impose the Judeo-Christian morality on them. Who knew that Locke’s invocation of our God-given natural rights was a form of aggression? So the new scholarship is meant to make us understand that it’s actually the non-left that is now being accused of intolerance.

We must face what is really going on. Intellectuals who oppose the new left have difficulty with accepting reality because as intellectuals they naturally want to believe that we can arrive at agreement through free and open discussion, that we can either refute the other side or that the other side can convert us rationally. After all, that is what intellectuals do (like the man with a hammer who sees everything as a nail) or is their only claim to superiority, and that is also why they have never been able to resolve our deepest conflicts. Activists (e.g. Alinsky) understand this weak point and exploit it without hesitation.

As I write this, I have become acutely aware that what I have written will be rejected by some because it is not wholly scholarship but a form of advocacy. Perhaps it is time to recognize the limits of scholarship and the point at which rhetoric needs to take hold.

What would the left do with their lives if everything were made perfect, in their estimation? That’s the real question. They thrive on injustice and dissatisfaction. The pertinent other question is, I think, what ought I myself to be doing to promote a flourishing life for myself and my family?

Many ordinary people have a better grasp of this than do our educated elites. That is because our educated elites have undergone a process that has blinded them with abstractions. This is no longer a parlor game; it is no longer an issue of saving American civilization. It is an issue of saving civilization itself. What we tend to forget is that civilization is a product of evolving practices and not a product of theory.

In the end, we have to take responsibility for how we choose to understand ourselves and our relationships with others. If we are honest with ourselves, we shall recognize that we are about to engage in a civil war or revolution; there is no theoretical justification for our choices. But we can hope to God that we are doing the right thing.

As Herbert Butterfield once put it, “When we have reconstructed the whole of mundane history it does not form a self-explanatory system, and our attitude to it, our whole relationship to the human drama, is a larger affair altogether – it is a matter not of scholarship but of religion… Ultimately our interpretation of the whole human drama depends on an intimately personal decision concerning the part we mean to play in it” [Christianity and History (1949), pp. 27 and 86].

Nicholas Capaldi, a Legendre-Soule Distinguished professor at Loyola University, New Orleans, USA, is the author of two books on David Hume, The Enlightenment Project in Analytic Conversation, biography of John Stuart Mill, Liberty and Equality in Political Economy: From Locke versus Rosseau to the Present, and, most recently, The Anglo-American Conception of the Rule of Law.

The image shows “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans,” by Salvador Dalí, painted in 1936.

The Death of Liberalism? An Interview With Nicholas Capaldi

This month we are so very pleased and honored to present this interview with the renowned philosopher, Nicholas Capaldi, who is the Legendre-Soule Distinguished professor at Loyola University, New Orleans, USA. He is interviewed by Dr. Zbigniew Janowski, who himself is a philosopher and author of several important books and is currently working on a collection of articles, entitled, Gods Will Have Blood: Rise of Totalitarianism in America.

Zbigniew Janowski (ZJ): My image of Nicholas Capaldi is that of an American intellectual and academic, rather than a philosophy professor. The reason is, correct me if I am wrong, that in your books you always try to tackle a big intellectual problem, just like in your book on analytic philosophy, which you inscribed in the Enlightenment Project. It is not just narrow philosophical problems that you see, but you see them in a broad historical context. The same goes for your other books and the one you have just finished, The Anglo-American Conception of the Rule of Law. Is my description of you correct?

Nicholas Capaldi (NC): Yes! Thank you. Philosophical issues do not exist in a vacuum but within a larger context. It is always important to ask “why” an issue is an issue and for whom. The academic world, wrongly modeled along scientific grounds, forces people to know or think they know more about less and less. The result is a series of fashionable discussions akin to a carousel on which the riders and tunes change but there is no progress or direction.

ZJ: Your other book is a biography of John Stuart Mill, the father of the Liberal Idea. What made you write it?

NC: As an undergraduate seeking to find my own voice, I was inspired both by Mill’s defense of individual autonomy and by the critique of censorship. A career in academe has only reinforced the need to seek for the truth and to be free to articulate it, even more so as the academic world becomes increasingly politicized and intolerant.

ZJ: As the author of two books on Mill, you are well qualified to assess Liberalism as a doctrine. Liberalism travelled a long way from where it started in 1820, as a criticism of the establishment of the aristocratic Anglican order to what it became in Mill, and to where it is now, essentially a form of Politically Correct orthodoxy. One could probably find a number of other intermediate stages in the 20th century (welfare state, extension of suffrage, etc.) How do you explain its plasticity, the ability to adapt itself to the changing circumstances? In ten years, it will be roughly 200 years since the emergence of the Liberal Idea in Oxford in the 1820s, as Cardinal John Henry Newman explained it in his Apologia.

NC: I think it is a mistake to talk about Liberalism. It would be better to focus on the importance of individual freedom and how it emerged/developed historically within the European psyche, but most especially in the English world. Once you try to understand this as an isolated concept (philosophical, political, economic, etc.) you have created a contextless abstraction – and abstractions can be interpreted to mean anything. The best discussion I know is Oakeshott’s distinction between civil and enterprise association, wherein the former is a society without a collective end, but exists to allow individual members to pursue their own individual ends with a minimum of conflict.

The existence of people (anti-individuals) who are incapable or unwilling to live in such a world enables them to take an abstract concept and make it mean the opposite of its original meaning. I might add that intellectuals who are limited to using only Greco-Roman models have bought into an intellectual frame of reference that limits their ability to understand individual freedom. Such intellectuals want to be free to impose their own model on others – freedom of speech for them means freedom to impose their private vision on others.

ZJ: What, in your opinion, were the classical characteristics of Mill’s Liberalism and which are the ones which today’s Liberals promote?

NC: Mill sought to respect individual freedom; today, many so-called Liberals seek to “promote” individual freedom by collectivist means. Assuming they know what they are talking about, they are blind to the inherent contradiction of ‘forcing people to be free’ (Rousseau). It all goes back to what Voegelin called “Gnosticism.”

ZJ: Let me give you one example, from his On Representative Government. Mill was a great proponent of universal suffrage. Yet, he understood that it was not a God given right, like the American inalienable rights, but contingent upon certain factors – education, for example. “Universal teaching must precede universal enfranchisement.” In other words, basic education, which he considered to be the knowledge of basic mathematics, reading, geography, national and world history is the foundation on which suffrage rests. We, today, on the other hand, believe that it is a right, that democracy can function anywhere, and that regardless of our personal and intellectual qualities, democracy can function. Democracy in Mill’s writings appears to be a very fragile and complex mechanism. How would he see the democratic world today?

NC: Mill wrote the essay, On Liberty, in part, to call attention to the difference between the negative role of democracy in the eighteenth century (favored by the U.S. founders) and the “tyranny of the majority,” against which Tocqueville argued so eloquently. Mill also called attention to the difference between what the majority might think and what those who claim to speak for the majority (power elite) claim on behalf of the majority.

ZJ: We seem to be obsessed with the idea of wide participation of the masses. No exclusions; in fact, every exclusion is called discrimination. Mill, sympathetic as he was to the idea of extending the right to vote, was very clear that, first, criminals’ right to vote should be suspended, that people who live off others should not have a right to vote, and those who are unemployed for an extensive period of time (he thought of 3-5 years), should not have a right to vote either. Today, Mill would be accused of discrimination.

NC: Today, democracy has become a mask for oppression. So-called “identity politics” brings together all the of the anti-individuals (mentioned earlier – see Oakeshott) to undermine the achievements and prestige of autonomous individuals. Instead of transferring resources from the rich to the poor, we transfer power from individuals to the state (de Jouvenel). Political discourse has become Orwellian.

ZJ: Let me go back to his educational requirements – literacy, national history, global history and geography. This is what he thought was necessary in 1861 when he published his work! The world of 1861 and the world of 2020 are not the same, and by that, I mean the world is so much more complicated and complex that even the best educated among us cannot claim to be experts in political matters.

Let me draw a parallel, I am not sure how useful it is, between criticism of Socialism by Hayek and democracy’s ability to sustain itself. According to Hayek, one major reason why Socialist economics is not viable is because no one can have complete knowledge that goes into pricing, and therefore, only free market can provide us with correct price of goods. Planned economy can’t work. The idea that the masses somehow have enough knowledge to run the social and political realms seems to me Utopian in nature, in the same way that Socialism was.

NC: You are absolutely correct. Keep in mind that Hayek’s argument against planning is a restatement of his mentor Mill’s position that no one can be infallible (remember the context of 19th-century debate on infallibility). The U.S. was founded as a Republic (constitutional protection of individual liberties) as opposed to a DEMOCRACY (majority-tyranny).

ZJ: In the beginning of his On Liberty, Mill states: “The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature of history with which we are earliest familiar, particularly in that of Greece, Rome, and England. But in old times this contest was between subjects, or some classes of subjects, and the government.”

This idea sounds very familiar to the readers of Marx and Engels, who at the opening of the Communist Manifesto formulated their vision of progressive history as well. In their view history is a class struggle, between oppressors and the oppressed. The oppressors are in Mill’s scheme the Party of Authority, and the oppressed are the Party of Liberty. Is it a coincidence that Mill – the Liberal – and Marx and Engels sound so alike? Or does the similarity stem from the popular understanding of History as Progressive, a popular conception in 19th-century.

NC: Great question. There were different conceptions of history in the 19th-century debate. For the mature Mill, history evolved but did not progress; as in the common law, we constantly seek to retrieve, explicate, and restate for new contexts the inherent norms of our inherited civilization. For Marx, Comte, etc. “history” was understood “scientifically” as a form of teleology or progress. The great attraction of the latter view is that it allows you to invent self-serving narratives.

ZJ: Do you think there are consequences of such an interpretation of history? In Marxism it was called “Historical Inevitability,” which in practice gave the communist apparatchiks a theoretical tool to eliminate the enemies: If History is progressive, if it unfolds itself in a certain direction, there is nothing wrong in eliminating the enemies of Progress. The idea had serious consequences in real life. Millions of people killed! The Stalinist trials, for example, are a good exemplification of it.

Let me quote a few sentences from Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, a book about trials, in which Gletkin, the interrogator, explains what kind of historical thinking drives the communists and what justifies the elimination of the enemies: “My point is, one may not regard the world as a sort of metaphysical brother for emotions. This is the first commandment for us. Sympathy, conscience, and atonement are for us repellent debauchery… to sell oneself to one’s conscience is to abandon mankind. History is a priori amoral; it has no conscience.”

Thus, one can torture, kill. History provides justification. Are today’s Liberals heading in the same direction? Not necessarily by physically extermination, but by destroying everyone who disagrees with them? I am asking this question because their intolerance is growing; they attempt to shout down any critical voice; they become increasingly more violent; and the words, such as progress, progressive agenda, progressive policies, etc. are their only vocabulary.

NC: I fear that you are correct. All of this nonsense reflects the fact that the British and U.S. Revolutions were “conservative” in the sense I attributed to Mill above. The Russian and all subsequent Revolutions have been “radical,” that is, based on abstractions. Furthermore, the intellectual origin of all of this dangerous nonsense is what I have described as “the Enlightenment Project” – the belief that we could construct a social ‘science’ and thereby a social technology. You alluded to this in mentioning my other book. Like all bad ideas it originated in 18th-century France. If there is a social technology then dissent undermines utopia. Again, this appeal to infallibility is what Mill objected to in Comte.

ZJ: These dangerous tendencies in mass behavior are not new. They were noticed by philosophers, sociologists and psychologists. Let me begin with Mill who talks about tyranny of the majority in a democracy often in his On Liberty. How do you account for his favorable, even enthusiastic support for the rule of the majority, on the one hand, and his contempt for them (the collective mediocrity), as he refers to them?

NC: Mill saw political democracy as inevitable—curiously a product of industrialization. What he advocated was a cultural and political bulwark against its excesses.

ZJ: Was his contemporary, Nietzsche, a more perceptive critic of democracy and majority rule than Mill? Sometimes they sound the same, but Nietzsche took the masses for what they are – mediocrity, and saw what Mill refused to see – lack of aristocratic virtues. In fact, Mill hated aristocracy; wrote nasty things about it. Do you think it was a well-argued position, or was it a psychological suspicion of someone who did not belong to an aristocratic order, and who gave support with the power of his considerable intellect to the rule of mediocrity?

NC: lan Kahan has written a good book, Aristocratic Liberalism, in which he makes the case that Mill, Tocqueville, and Burckhardt were exemplars. I have argued that England (individual autonomy tradition) was different from the Continent (long history of collectivism). I see Nietzsche as responding to the more threatening Continental context.

Elsewhere, I (following many previous writers) have identified the extent to which intellectuals are attracted to holistic, collectivist, and Utopian thinking (e.g. Enlightenment Project, Hoffer’s men of words in his book True Believer). So, it is no surprise that the ‘Continental Disease’ has slowly infiltrated the Anglo-American world.

I also believe that the cultural dimension is more important than the purely intellectual one. In the U.S., many ordinary people understand and respond positively to Clint Eastwood’s Western films and to Frank Sinatra’s song “My Way.” This is behind Buckley remark that some of us would rather be governed by the first 300 people in the Boston telephone directory than the faculty of Harvard.

ZJ: Ever since the beginning of the 20th-century, that is, the rise of psychology and sociology, we know not only how, but why masses behave the way they do. Freud devoted an interesting book, The Group Psychology, to the topic. In a nutshell, man loses his individuality and identity in a crowd. Following Le Bon, Freud claims, man goes back to his primitive instinct and nature, and acts like a member of a herd, again, an expression that Nietzsche uses frequently to describe what he calls slave-morality. Only individuals, not crowds, not masses, have a moral compass. How does it square, in your view, with the idea of a democratic, mass society? Is such a society bound to be immoral?

NC: This is the very issue that Oakeshott addresses in his essay, “The Masses in Representative Government.” His conclusion was that “….[the anti-individual or mass man] remains an unmistakably derivative character…helpless, parasitic and able to survive only in opposition to individuality….The desire of the ‘masses’ to enjoy the products of individuality has modified their destructive urge.”

ZJ: Let me turn to something that has been on my mind, and which made me put out a new edition of Mill’s writings, where I think one can trace the trajectory of his development; namely, the idea of authority, which is so inimical to Mill. He made it, as the quotation from his On Liberty which I used before reveals, the centerpiece of his philosophy. Authority is the enemy of Liberty. Plato, in Book. VIII of his Republic, on the other hand, saw the dissolution of authority as the beginning of anarchy, which, in turn, is the result of expanding equality in a democracy.

Now, Mill, as you know, translated several of Plato’s dialogues and knew his philosophy well. Did he miss something? Did he expect democracy to last despite Plato’s warnings? Or did he think that everyone is rational? Or was he just too steeped in the English tradition of respect for law, order, conservatism in private life, etc.? Did he think that the social order is self-sustaining, that we will not cross a certain line? How would you explain his position?

NC: The intellectual and moral responsibility of the public intellectual, whether he/she be Plato, Mill, or us, is to (1) identify the social problem, (2) defend one alternative solution/policy against others, and (3) offer a rhetorical (artistic) expression, designed to persuade others to see the world as we do. Plato clearly did this in writing dialogues. You captured some of this in your collection of Mill’s more popular writings. You also capture this in some of your own cultural writing. It has been my great failing not to have done more of this in my own.

ZJ: Is the suspicion or hostility, in your view, as it is in Mill, characteristic of Liberalism? And if so, how far can the Liberals go, you think, without destroying social order?

NC: The greatest threat to tyranny is the capacity of a few people to stand up and say, “The Emperor has no clothes.” Keep it simple, clear, and authentic. It takes enormous courage to do this. In the end, the question is never how far tyrants will go, but how far we are willing to go to oppose them.

ZJ: Let me return to the idea of order. In Aristotle, we find a claim that the function of a good law giver is to make citizens good. In his defense, one of Socrates’ accusers makes the same point. When I taught those thinkers, it struck me that if Aristotle had a chance to read the American founding documents—pursuit of happiness, that is, leaving an individual to his own devices, without any moral compass—he would give the Founding Fathers an F. The idea that human behavior can be left unregulated would be preposterous to the ancients.

Now, given the American Founding Fathers’ brilliance, did they miss something? It is unlikely, which leads me to my question. The US was founded by the sectarian Protestants, with a very strict moral code. They, particularly Jefferson, could believe that the public realm can remain neutral because the citizens’ religiosity, or the Churches, will keep pumping, so to speak, the moral code. What are your thoughts on this?

NC: I think you are correct. The U.S. is, as Samuel Huntington said, an Anglo-Protestant culture. I would also make the case that since Mill and Nietzsche, it has become necessary to find an intellectual/cultural defense of the values of such a Protestant culture not tied to a specific theology as traditionally understood. I have tried to make such a case in a way that is compatible with some but not all traditional forms of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Curiously, we live now in an increasingly secular culture where clergy who no longer believe in God are attracted both to mindless defenses of abstractions, like tolerance of intolerant religious sects and movements, and, at the same time, a therapeutic view of the welfare state as the new moral community. When I meet such people, I am not sure whether I should laugh or cry. Perhaps we need a new Reformation. This is part of what it means to retrieve our moral tradition in a new context. Retrieving a tradition can never be a simple matter of an uncritical return to the past. Instead, it is the re-identifying of something that is a permanent part of the human condition, even though it is always expressed in specific historical contexts.

ZJ: Now, 250 years later, with the decline of religiosity, low church attendance—and the same seems to be true of Judaism (as my Orthodox Rabbi friend tells me, reformed Judaism is likely to cease to exist in a few decades) – there is no moral or ethical powerhouse. It is almost as if Sartre and de Beauvoir’s dream came true. Everyone invents his own moral code, lives according to his own rules. Are we becoming a nihilistic society? Is this nihilism?

NC: I would make two points. First, there are lost souls, some of whom embrace the latest fashionable, and sometimes destructive, enterprise association. Second, nihilism is not to be confused with moral pluralism. We have always lived in a morally pluralistic world. The mistake we have always made is to try and find the one new true collectivist faith and impose it on others.

What we need, and what we have to some extent, is a plurality of substantive moral communities who need to agree on common procedural norms. I think many such communities exist. I think some of those communities presently lack the internal resources to agree to common procedural norms. In our book on The Anglo-American Conception of the Rule of Law, my wife Nadia and I have tried to show how this is possible and actual.

ZJ: Just like Mill, Jefferson was hostile to aristocracy, in his own, so to speak, American way. He saw it as an extension of monarchical order rather than a class, or much less so, because in one of his letters, he made a very strong case for aristocracy of spirit, education. He even designed a way how such a democratic aristocracy should be bred. In one letter he made a list of mad European monarchs, which, he thought, to be a very good case for abandoning monarchy as an institution.

Now, let me make this point – seceding from the British Crown, declaring independence from Britain, is one thing, establishing a new political order is another. So, after painful debates, the Americans chose the republic. Here is my question – one could believe, as Jefferson did, back then, that a monarch can become crazy and corrupt, but, one could argue, that one can replace a corrupt or mad monarch. However, when the masses become corrupt, what then? What can you do? And our present social and political situation seems to point to a number of problems which, on an individual scale, you could term unhealthy, or even insane.

NC: There are a number of issues here that need to be separated. First, I do not believe that the “masses” correctly captures the major issues. There are many people who cannot be classified as “intellectual,” but who are decent individuals and responsible citizens. You do not get to be decent and responsible by having a Liberal education. Second, the social pathologies I do see reflect the failure of major institutions (e.g. family, schools, religions). The failure of those institutions I would attribute to the false idea that we can have a social technology (i.e. the Enlightenment Project).

ZJ: You are an academic, having spent your life in academia. But you are more. You are associated with the Liberty Fund. When I think of the several conferences that I attended, I cannot resist the feeling that I have never, and I mean it, participated in more intense intellectual life than during the two days of their sessions. It is not only a well-organized setting, but it is a place where ideas matter. I am sure that you will agree with me. No university produces such an intense intellectual atmosphere as does the Liberty Fund. Do you agree?

NC: I would indeed agree. As long as the administration of Liberty Fund is true to donor intent, and is not captured by ideologues with a program, it remains the premier educational institution in America. Again, I would argue that the intellectual world in the last century has been a captive of the Enlightenment Project program of social technology. So-called higher education now disfigures the intellectual world, the worlds of the clergy, government administration, communication and journalism, law schools, teacher training, business, the arts, etc. At the risk of sounding self-promoting, higher education now controls the commanding heights of all that is wrong with our society.

ZJ: Given the absolutely dreadful state of education and universities in America, do you see a way out? The tenured academics will not give up their positions. Has academia been destroyed? Almost every week you can read an article of complaint from retiring academics stating how bad things are. Few people have the courage to stand up; and the majority of professors are afraid—afraid of students and administration. How did we come to be where we are?

NC: This is a long story. I started writing a book about it and became too depressed to finish it. It cannot be reformed internally, in part for reasons to which you have alluded. It can only be reformed from the outside. I do not see that happening in the short run. Our only hope is that it will collapse on itself, and the current financial crisis (student loan debt) may be how it happens. This is not an excuse for doing nothing – we keep up the rear-guard action. What we need to prepare is a positive alternative.

ZJ: What about the Liberty Fund method of education? Don’t you think that there is room for it to do the same kind of seminars with students? That Liberty Fund and other foundations could start real universities where education is what it used to be?

NC: I think the Liberty Fund model is a good one. I also think that education cannot be left to professionals alone. The articulation, defense, and critique of our fundamental norms should go on in every institution. The life of the mind also has intrinsic value. I end this interview as I plan to enter retirement with a program called “Community of Scholars.” Free from the constraints of teaching those who do not want to learn, freed from administrative B.S., free from the tyranny of journal editors and university presses; and with the help of the new technology and social media we can create a vast network of scholars who want to search for and articulate the truth, who want to share – for free – the wisdom of a lifetime of searching, and to do so in the spirit of Mill’s and Nietzsche’s ruthless self-examination. It requires both intellectual and moral virtue. It is our way, perhaps the only way, of keeping the Socratic faith.

ZJ: In 1977 Leszek Kolakowski published his opus magnum, Main Currents of Marxism. Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution. The first volume deals with the founders; the second with the golden age; the third with Marxism’s demise. Kolakowski’s work is, as I like to think about it, a death certificate of Marxist thought issued twelve years before the actual burial of Communism in Eastern Europe, and fourteen years before the end of the Soviet Union.

In his work, Kolakowski describes the vicissitudes of Marxism as a philosophy and practice. You wrote two books on David Hume, a massive book on the Enlightenment Project in analytical philosophy (or conversation!—as you called it), Liberty and Equality in Political Economy: From Locke versus Rousseau to the Present; and just a few months ago, you and your wife Nadia Nedzel, published The Anglo-American Conception of the Rule of Law.

The range of your interests is impressive, but you also wrote a fantastic biography of John Stuart Mill – a great read! Would you feel tempted to write a work on Liberalism à la Kolakowski’s Main Currents of Marxism? You could even title it, “Main Currents of Liberalism.” From our private conversations, I gather that you are thinking about it. Any thoughts on this and how would you structure it?

NC: I am most definitely interested in writing such a book. The general thesis is that what I have called the Enlightenment Project (18th-century French idea that there can be a social science modeled after physical science and that such a social science will give us a social technology) is the origin of Doctrinaire Liberalism, Marxism, and Socialism – these are all expressions of this bad idea (all bad ideas, by the way, come from France).

Doctrinaire Liberalism, I shall argue, is a French abstraction that (a) misunderstands Anglo-American culture, (b) and tries to introduce Anglo-American virtues into the Continent, but mistakes the abstraction for the reality. The mistake is then read-back into Anglo-American culture by British and American scholars and activists – thereby providing a fake history. All versions of the Enlightenment Project ultimately become totalitarian – hence, why what is happening in the U.S. (under the Democrats, not Trump) parallels what happened under Marxism.

ZJ: Marxism died not merely because the countries of real Socialism could not compete with the Western Liberal democracies, because the economy started to crumble, because of politics, etc., but because faith in Marxism died. Marxism, in its different stages of development, was not only a philosophy and political orientation, but a religion that required faith. One could say that its longevity depended on the existence of the believers. A host of intellectuals, writers, artists were Marxists; they gave support to the idea. When they lost faith in it – partly because of the form in which it manifested itself politically and socially – Marxism lost its magical power. Do you find any parallels between Marxism and Liberalism? Liberalism has also evolved, manifesting itself in different ways.

NC: I think you are correct that ideologies die when people lose faith in them. I do not think that this will happen soon in the U.S. In the U.S., the weakening has just begun; we need to make people aware that they are succumbing to an intellectual disease. We need to persist in weakening the faith.

ZJ: At the very end of volume one, Kolakowski characterized Marxism as man’s greatest 20th-century utopia, a flight to freedom. Today, the young generation is not familiar with such a hope and the Socialist idea, but being Politically Correct (with its call to social justice, the abolishing of “power structures,” etc.), which is a reformulation of Marxism. Do you think that the Liberal Idea is another utopia which replaced the old one, Marxism?

NC: Liberalism is just another version. What people confuse is our institutional structure with theory; we need to remind them that our structure is an historical product and not a theoretical product. I tried to initiate that in the book on The Anglo-American Conception of the Rule of Law.

ZJ: There are a number of books on Liberalism, beginning with Hobhouse’s classic, Liberalism (1911), which, in my opinion, comes very close to what we find in Mill’s writings; Harold Laski’s book The Rise of Eurpean Liberalism is another minor landmark in the development of the idea, and a number of minor works (O’Sullivan’s Liberalism, Schapiro’s Liberalism, Brinton’s The Shaping of the Modern Mind, part of which is devoted to liberalism, and so on). What is probably the most ambitious and serious book on the subject is De Ruggierro’s History of European Liberalism. It occurred to me that one could write a book on the development of Liberalism by tracing books called “Liberalism” or “History of Liberalism.” This is a phenomenon in itself, which makes one wonder why Liberals must redefine or readjust the notion of what Liberalism is every decade or so. Do you have an explanation?

NC: There is a disconnect between theory and practice, a disconnect that the discipline of philosophy has encouraged, namely, the belief that we can theorize the relation of theory to practice. Intellectuals, as Schumpeter noted, are the culprits here. Intellectuals so want to be the new clergy, they are unwilling to acknowledge the limits of discursive reason.

We cannot defeat them with more theory; we need to root out the notion that reason exists independent of all context (almost every major philosopher from Plato on has made this mistake). In the 20th-century, only Oakeshott and a few others have tried to reign in this rationalism.

ZJ: Do you think there is a need for a work on Liberalism, like Kolakowski’s Main Currents of Marxism, particularly now that Liberalism has assumed a freedom-threatening posture (I mean the PC movement, which is very destructive, socially, politically and culturally), just like Marxism before? Need the people be reminded how Socialism began and deteriorated? Liberalism is no longer an idea that promises liberation from the shackles of oppression but, like Marxism, has become an oppressive system, very much like what Tocqueville feared democracy would become.

NC: Several of us should write about it – not one book but a host of books. I do not think “democracy” is the problem. I think the problem is a collection of elites (academe, journalism, military, business, Hollywood, technicians in IT, etc.).

ZJ: Does Liberalism require and depend on faith as much as Marxism did? When this faith dies, does the Liberal Idea die with it?

NC: It is the same faith. We need to make clear what that faith is. Voegelin identified it as Gnosticism, a form of Pelagianism. It will never disappear; it will simply assume new guises. We have to be patient in dealing with its eternal return.

ZJ: Under Communism, where I spent the first 25 years of my life, we had a mild Marxist-Leninism indoctrination (it was not that mild in the 1950s or the 1960s); but no one believed this ideological rubbish. Opposing it meant serious consequences, losing a job, interrogations, prison, sometimes “an accident” (death). But people opposed it; there was an underground/ samizdat press. We would read Hayek, Milton Friedman, Roger Scruton, Kolakowski, and others in horrible underground editions. One book would be read by twenty individuals. People made the effort to clear their minds of the ideological pollution. But now they attend official university classes in feminism, gender studies, environmental justice, domination, patriarchy, colonialism, women in art, literature, and many others.

Here is my question: Why this weakness of man under Liberal Democracy, why such blindness? Is it because Liberal Democracies do not go after your body, but your soul, as Tocqueville observed? People prefer to lose their souls – integrity, conscience – than their jobs? This is not a recent phenomenon. Tocqueville saw it in 1835!

NC: We have to remember that the vast majority of Americans do not have college degrees; that the U.S. culture is not primarily an intellectual culture but a practice/pragmatic culture. The infected part of the population consists of two groups: (a) Intellectuals taking their cue from the Continental abstractions I previously identified, and (b) College students – most of whom are disinterested in ideas.

The public has been totally turned off by the media journalists (“fake news”), so they remain uninfected; and the public is largely oblivious to what goes on in higher education and still thinks it is about getting a better job. The problem is the intelligentsia (vast literature on why totalitarianism appeals to them) and the intellectual students who are indoctrinated. Most students are ignorant, disinterested, turned off, and remain quiet as a defensive maneuver.

It is OUR job to attack the intelligentsia (and remain unpopular with fellow faculty) to educate and re-educate those bright students with whom one comes into contact, and to reassure, by our opposition, the disinterested students that they do not have to take left-wing intellectuals and faculty seriously. The latter, ironically, may be the most effective thing we do.

ZJ: Thank you, Professor Capaldi, for this wonderful conservation!

The image shows, “Danish soldiers return to Copenhagen, 1849,” by Otto Bache; painted in 1894.

A Polish version of this interview appeared in Arcana.