“In May, New York Post op-ed editor Sohrab Ahmari published an essay in First Things with the eye-catching title (to me at least) of “Against David French–ism.” While the essay takes rather direct aim at me personally — including offering a false version of my career and beliefs to create a straw-man version of milquetoast libertarianism — his claims serve mainly as a proxy for two competing visions of American political engagement. …”
By arguing that the government can do nothing about social media censorship in his most recent article, David French illustrated Sohrab Ahmari’s point about how ineffective milquetoast libertarianism has rationalized conservatism getting steamrolled in the culture war.
“In essence, Ahmari is forsaking classical liberalism — the commitment to neutral principles (such as free speech, religious liberty, and due process) grounded in respect for individual liberty — for a largely undefined version of Christian statism. Classical liberalism (especially polite classical liberalism) is the path to defeat and decay. Only a more robust statist Christian response can meet the challenge of the illiberal secular onslaught. …”
Classical liberalism has lingered on as an ideology to cripple the Right in the form of the “eternal principles” of True Conservatism. In reality, classical liberalism in practice was discarded in the early 20th century. For all his handwringing about “statism,” David French has no objection to the United States maintaining a global military empire funded with an annual military budget of $750 billion dollars a year. Even to this day, he defends George W. Bush using state power to invade and destroy Iraq.
Let’s see David French stand up to Big Ag and tell agribusiness interests that the eternal principles of True Conservatism requires the end of all of their agricultural subsidies, disaster relief funds, their EBT subsidies in the annual Farm Bill and all their attempts to lobby the government to advance their interests by using the state to open up foreign markets to their exports.
“Yet in forsaking classical liberalism, Ahmari is essentially forsaking the framework for ordered liberty established by the Founders. “Frenchism” — to the extent such a thing exists — reflects the two main components of that commitment to ordered liberty. It combines a zealous defense of the classical- liberal order with zealous advocacy of fundamentally Christian and Burkean conservative principles. The government is responsible for securing American liberty; the people are responsible for advancing American virtue. …”
“Frenchism” has no principled objection to the use of state power to advance the interests of the wealthy and the powerful which is proven by his support for the military-industrial complex. The Founders clearly rejected the globalist foreign policy of entangling alliances that David French supports. They were also suspicious of standing armies which they perceived as a threat to liberty. The Founders didn’t support federal civil rights laws either which make a mockery out of the “classical-liberal order.”
The hypocrisy of Frenchism has been a punchline on Twitter for years:
“But the antidote to this illiberal assault is pluralism buttressed by classical liberalism, not a kind of Christian statism of undetermined nature, strength, power, and endurance. …”
If the solution is classical liberalism, then why are the principles of classical liberalism suspended in virtually every aspect of American life? Wasn’t it “the state” that created the internet in the first place? Isn’t state financed research and development creating all these new technologies?
“One solution is grounded in the wisdom of the Founders. The other refutes the fundamental principles of the Declaration of Independence — that “governments are instituted among men” to secure our “unalienable rights.” While governments should of course seek the common good, they do not and should not have the brute coercive force to “re-order” the public square to achieve that government-defined good. …”
Wait a minute.
Isn’t the government already doing this in countless areas? Take for example flood control on the Mississippi River or the generation of electricity by the TVA system. What about the restoration of wetlands? What about agricultural research at state funded universities? The government is already pursuing countless government-defined goods like the Trump administration’s global crusades for feminism and homosexuality.
“Does re-ordering the common good mean using the power of the state to prohibit that form of freedom of association? And if the state assumes for itself the power to stop the meeting and perhaps fire the librarian who organized it, why does anyone think that the forces of Christian statism will continue to prevail? What would prevent, say, President Kamala Harris from wielding the same power against a public reading of C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters?”
Excuse me, but didn’t the state prohibit freedom of association to satisfy the Civil Rights Movement? Didn’t the government reorder the entire Tennessee Valley in the 1930s? Didn’t the state reorder the Mississippi Valley to prevent flooding? Didn’t the state reorder Appalachia by creating Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Isn’t it reordering the Everglades in Florida? Didn’t the state develop the atomic bomb with the Manhattan Project? Didn’t the state build the interstate transportation system? Didn’t the state develop the technology to win the Space Race? If the state is doing all these things, why can’t it protect our free speech on the internet like it is already doing with telephone service? It’s not can’t so much as won’t because of the lack of will power due to Frenchism.
“So, yes, I do want neutral spaces where Christian and pagan can work side by side. I’ve lived in those spaces. I’ve helped create those spaces. I’ve hired Christians and atheists, traditionalists and LGBT Americans. In fact, those spaces are the rule, not the exception, in every region in this nation — and thank God for that. In other words, classical liberalism still lives, it still thrives, and it still merits a robust defense. …”
Is this the true story of how Silicon Valley was created? Is this historically accurate?
“If and when any of my political opponents seek to undermine our fundamental freedoms, we’re going to have a legal, political, and cultural fight. I won’t yield. I won’t stop. But I also won’t turn my back on the truths of scripture. Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly. There is no political “emergency” that justifies abandoning classical liberalism, and there will never be a temporal emergency that justifies rejecting eternal truth. …”
Classical liberalism has already been abandoned. The dead ideology lingers on in the minds of people like David French as the “eternal principles” of True Conservatism, but it increasingly has no correspondence to reality. The paradigm simply no longer describes how America operates in the 21st century. And yet, we continue to have these debates in terms of the values of an antiquated framework (i.e., freedom and equality and tolerance and individualism) which really no longer exists. We’ve moved on from classical liberalism at the ground level, but not from the ideology at the mental level.
Note: Just imagine David French and his family walking into the Constitutional Convention to hear a group of racists and white supremacists debate “Judeo-Christianity” and the eternal principles of True Conservatism. What do you think their reaction would have been to this weird, effeminate White man with his black kid? Why does French try to associate his ideology with the Founders who counted blacks under the 3/5th ratio in the U.S. Census and provided for the capture of runaway slaves in the Constitution? French is oblivious to the fact that he is a product of his own times.