“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a fat sheboon twerking atop the ruins of Western Civilization forever.”pic.twitter.com/NHAodVUPXt— Grug Fellow (@somefellow6) May 30, 2020
wtf is this about? pic.twitter.com/SfFxSgOuiD— shadygiz (@shadygiz) June 3, 2020
While I was in my pajamas last night, I finally got around to reading C. Bradley Thompson’s defense of the liberal Right at the Claremont Institute.
“The publication of my new book, America’s Revolutionary Mind: A Moral History of the American revolution and the Declaration that Defined It, comes at a crucial moment in American history. Academic study of the American revolution is dying on our college campuses, and the principles and institutions of the American Founding are now under assault from the nattering nabobs of both the progressive Left and the reactionary Right. These two ideological antipodes share little in common other than a mutually-assured desire to purge 21st-century American life of the founders’ philosophy of classical liberalism.
On this point, the radical Left and Right have merged.
The philosophy of Americanism is, as I have argued in my book and elsewhere, synonymous with the founders’ ideas, actions, and institutions. Its core tenets can be summed up as: the moral laws and rights of nature, ethical individualism, self-interest rightly understood, self-rule, constitutionalism, rule of law, limited government, and laissez-faire capitalism. …
Classical and Progressive liberalism are not of the same ideological species. They are natural enemies. The difference between the founders’ liberalism and Progressive liberalism is one of kind and not of degree, whereas Deneen’s critique of the founders’ liberalism actually shares a great deal in common with the Progressive critique of classical liberalism. Like his Progressive and socialist allies, Deneen is opposed to classical liberalism’s advocacy of individualism, limited government, and laissez-faire capitalism. …
Lastly, a word to the young—to those who have been let down or feel abandoned by the cowardice and unmanliness of Conservatism and Libertarianism, Inc.—know this: you have not been abandoned. There is a new generation of intellectuals willing to take up the cause of Americanism.
More to the point, you should know this as well: I will be, to quote William Lloyd Garrison, as “harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice” when it comes to defending the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The principles and institutions of the founders’ liberalism are worth defending because they are true. The reactionary Right is a dead end; it’s a dead end because it’s a lie. You should not let your despair turn you to the Dark Side. It’s time to come home.”
I was unimpressed.
Scrolling through my Twitter feed, I had just written a few articles about the events of the past week: 108,000 dead Americans, 40 million Americans unemployed, the worst race riots since the 1960s, blacks and anarchists burning down Washington, DC and laying siege to the White House, police officers kneeling before the mobs of looters who went on shoot them after dark, White Americans flagellating themselves and doing penance over their nonexistent white privilege, etc.
I’ve processed all of this and have reassessed my worldview. I have concluded that I was right that conservative liberalism is a failure. I have been skeptical of conservative liberalism for almost 20 years now. In my adult life, it has taken us from the disasters of the George W. Bush presidency through the disasters of the Donald Trump presidency. I have witnessed 20 years of unarrested national decline in spite of conservative liberals controlling the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court for most of this period. I don’t believe we just need to spin the merry-go-round and replace a few RINOs.
C. Bradley Thompson lays all of this at the doorstep of progressive liberalism which he believes is a difference of “kind” and “not of degree.” There is just one slight problem with that theory. I will amply quote George Fitzhugh who responded to William Lloyd Garrison on behalf of the South:
“Further study, too, of Western European Society, which has been engaged in continual revolution for twenty years, has satisfied us that Free Society every where begets isms, and that isms soon beget bloody revolutions. …
Now we plant ourselves on this passage from Carlyle. We say that, as far as it goes, ’tis a faithful picture of the isms of the North. But the restraints of Law and Public Opinion are less at the North than in Europe. The isms on each side the Atlantic are equally busy with “assiduous wedges,” in “loosening in every joint the whole fabric of social existence;” but whilst they dare invoke Anarchy in Europe, they dare not inaugurate New York Free Love, and Oneida Incest, and Mormon Polygamy. The moral, religious, and social heresies of the North, are more monstrous than those of Europe. The pupil has surpassed the master, unaided by the stimulants of poverty, hunger and nakedness, which urge the master forward.”
“THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE ISMS – SHEWING WHY THEY ABOUND AT THE NORTH, AND ARE UNKNOWN AT THE SOUTH.
The exploitation, or unjust exactions of skill and capital in free society, excite the learned and philanthropic to devise schemes of escape, and impel the laborers to adopt those schemes, however chimerical, because they feel that their situation cannot be worsted. They are already slaves without masters, and that is the bathos of human misery. Besides, universal liberty has disintegrated and dissolved society, and placed men in isolated, selfish, and antagonistic positions – in which each man is compelled to wrong others, in order to be just himself. But man’s nature is social, not selfish, and he longs and yearns to return to parental, fraternal and associative relations. All the isms concur in promising closer and more associative relations, in establishing at least a qualified community property, and in insuring the weak and unfortunate the necessaries and comforts of life. Indeed, they all promise to establish slavery – minus, the master and the overseer.” …
“In free society none but the selfish virtues are in repute, because none other help a man in the race of competition. In such society virtue loses all her loveliness, because of her selfish aims. Good men and bad men have the same end in view: self-promotion, self-elevation. The good man is prudent, cautious, and cunning of fence; he knows well, the arts (the virtues, if you please) which enable him to advance his fortunes at the expense of those with whom he deals; he does not “cut too deep;” he does not cheat and swindle, he only makes good bargains and excellent profits. He gets more subjects by this course; everybody comes to him to be bled. He bides his time; takes advantage of the follies, the improvidence and vices of others, and makes his fortune out of the follies and weaknesses of his fellow-men. The bad man is rash, hasty, unskillful and impolitic. He is equally selfish, but not half so prudent and cunning. Selfishness is almost the only motive of human conduct in free society, where every man is taught that it is his first duty to change and better his pecuniary situation.”
“The first principles of the science of political economy inculcate separate, individual action, and are calculated to prevent that association of labor without which nothing great can be achieved; for man isolated and individualized is the most helpless of animals. We think this error of the economists proceeded from their adopting Locke’s theory of the social contract. We believe no heresy in moral science has been more pregnant of mischief than this theory of Locke. It lies at the bottom of all moral speculations, and if false, must infect with falsehood all theories built on it. Some animals are by nature gregarious and associative. Of this class are men, ants and bees. An isolated man is almost as helpless and ridiculous as a bee setting up for himself. Man is born a member of society, and does not form society. Nature, as in the cases of bees and ants, has it ready formed for him. He and society are congenital. Society is the being – he one of the members of that being. He has no rights whatever, as opposed to the interests of society; and that society may very properly make any use of him that will redound to the public good. Whatever rights he has are subordinate to the good of the whole; and he has never ceded rights to it, for he was born its slave, and had no rights to cede.”
“Government is the creature of society, and may be said to derive its powers from the consent of the governed; but society does not owe its sovereign power to the separate consent, volition or agreement of its members. Like the hive, it is as much the work of nature as the individuals who compose it. Consequences; the very opposite of the doctrine of free trade, result from this doctrine of ours. It makes each society a band of brothers, working for the common good, instead of a bag of cats biting and worrying each other. The competitive system is a system of antagonism and war; ours of peace and fraternity. The first is the system of free society; the other that of slave society. The Greek, the Roman, Judaistic, Egyptian, and all ancient polities, were founded on our theory. The loftiest patrician in those days, valued himself not on selfish, cold individuality, but on being the most devoted servant of society and his country. In ancient times, the individual was considered nothing, the State every thing. And yet, under this system, the noblest individuality was evolved that the world has ever seen.”
“Why have you Bloomer’s and Women’s Right’s men, and strong-minded women, and Mormons, and anti-renters, and “vote myself a farm” men, Millerites, and Spiritual Rappers, and Shakers, and Widow Wakemanites, and Agrarians, and Grahamites, and a thousand other superstitious and infidel isms at the North ? Why is there faith in nothing, speculation about everything? Why is this unsettled, half demented state of the human man mind co-extensive in time and space, with free society? Why is Western Europe now starving? and why has it been fighting and starving for seventy years? Why all this, except that free society is a failure ? Slave society needs no defence till some other permanent practicable form of society has been discovered. None such has been discovered. Nobody at the North who reads my book will attempt to reply to it; for all the learned abolitionists had unconsciously discovered and proclaimed the failure of free society long before I did.”
There is nothing new about this debate.
George Fitzhugh diagnosed classical liberalism as a disease before progressive liberalism ever existed in the 1850s. In fact, he predicted quite accurately the future course of American history.
“Nothing in the signs of the times exhibits in stronger relief the fact, that free society is in a state “of dissolution and thaw, “of demoralization and transition, than the stir about woman’s rights. And yet it is time to work …
The people of our Northern States, who hold that domestic slavery is unjust and iniquitous, are consistent in their attempts to modify or abolish the marriage relation. Marriages, in many places there, are contracted with as little formality as jumping over a broom, and are dissolved with equal facility by courts and legislatures. It is proposed by many to grant divorces at all times, when the parties mutually consent. The Socialists suggest that the relation should be abolished, private family establishments broken up, and women and children converted into joint stock. The ladies are promoting these movements by womens right’s conventions. The prospects of these agitators are quite hopeful, because they have no conservative South to oppose them. It is their own affair, and we will not interfere with its regulation.
We shall deplore the day when marriage and Christianity are abolished anywhere, but will not interfere in the social and domestic matters of other people. …”
All modern philosophy converges to a single point – the overthrow of all government, the substitution of the untrammelled “Sovereignty of the Individual,” for the Sovereignty of Society, and the inauguration of anarchy. First domestic slavery, next religious institutions, then separate property, then political government, and, finally, family government and family relations, are to be swept away. This is the distinctly avowed programme of all able abolitionists and socialists; and towards this end the doctrines and the practices of the weakest and most timid among them tend. Proudhon, and the French socialists generally, avow this purpose in France, and Stephen Pearl Andrews re-echoes it from America. The more numerous and timid class are represented by Mr. Greeley and the Tribune, who would not “at once rush,” like French revolutionists, “with the explosive force of escapement, point blank to the bull’s eye of its final destiny,” but would inaugurate social conditions, that would gradually bring about that result. Mr. Greeley does not propose to do away at once with marriage, religion, private property, political government and parental authority, but adopts the philosophy and the practices of Fourier, which promise gradually to purify human nature, and fit it, in a few generations, for that social millennium, into which the bolder and more consistent Andrews urges society at once to plunge.
… The other and bolder party, feel themselves “called” as special instruments, to give at once the coup de grace to the old world, and to usher in the new golden age, of free love and free lands, of free women and free negroes, of free children and free men. …
The Socialists promise that when society is wholly disintegrated and dissolved, by inculcating good principles and “singing fraternity over it,” all men will co-operate, love, and help one another.
They place men in positions of equality, rivalry, and antagonism, which must result in extreme selfishness of conduct, and yet propose this system as a cure for selfishness. To us their reasonings seem absurd. Yet the doctrines so prevalent with Abolitionists and Socialists, of Free Love and Free Lands, Free Churches, Free Women and Free Negroes – of No-Marriage, No-Religion, No-Private Property, No-Law and No-Government, are legitimate deductions, if not obvious corollaries from the leading and distinctive axiom of political economy – Laissez Faire, or let alone. …
They hold that all men, women, and negroes, and smart children, are equals, and entitled to equal rights. The widows and free negroes begin to vote in some of those States, and they will have to let all colors and sexes and ages vote soon, or give up the glorious principles of human equality and universal emancipation.
The experiment which they will make, we fear, is absurd in theory, and the symptoms of approaching anarchy and agrarianism among them, leave no doubt that its practical operation will be no better than its theory. Anti-rentism, “vote-myself-a-farm” ism, and all the other isms, are but the spattering drops that precede a social deluge.”
I don’t have much to add to what George Fitzhugh said in Cannibals All! Or, Slaves Without Masters and Sociology for the South, or, The Failure of Free Society. Thomas Carlyle said it all in his Latter-Day Pamphlets which influenced Fitzhugh in the antebellum South of the 1850s:
“To rectify the relation that exists between two men, is there no method, then, but that of ending it? The old relation has become unsuitable, obsolete, perhaps unjust; and the remedy is, abolish it; let there henceforth be no relation at all. From the ‘sacrament of marriage’ downwards, human beings used to be manifoldly related one to another, and each to all; and there was no relation among human beings, just or unjust, that had not its grievances and its difficulties, its necessities on both sides to bear and forbear. But henceforth, be it known, we have changed all that by favor of Heaven; the ‘voluntary principle’ has come up, which will itself do the business for us; and now let a new sacrament, that of Divorce, which we call emancipation, and spout of on our platforms, be universally the order of the day! Have men considered whither all this is tending, and what it certainly enough betokens? Cut every human relation that has any where grown uneasy sheer asunder; reduce whatsoever was compulsory to voluntary, whatsoever was permanent among us to the condition of the nomadic; in other words, LOOSEN BY ASSIDUOUS WEDGES, in every joint, the whole fabrice of social existence, stone from stone, till at last, all lie now quite loose enough, it can, as we already see in most countries, be overset by sudden outburst of revolutionary rage; and lying as mere mountains of anarchic rubbish, solicit you to sing Fraternity, &c. over it, and rejoice in the now remarkable era of human progress we have arrived at.”
The trajectory and endpoint of classical liberalism was known 170 years ago. The principles of classical liberalism are incompatible with order, cohesion, continuity, stability, decency and normalcy. As this system has become coterminous with the West since World War II, it has produced the same result -a perpetual state of social revolution – everywhere it has been implemented. It is a feature, not a bug. Liberalism is flawed in theory and incompatible with natural conservatism in practice.
Note: We don’t even have to consult Nietzsche to realize this. Just turn on your television.