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Mixing it up over Maistre

An old libertarian friend, Todd Seavey, posted an entry in his blog regarding The Works of Joseph de Maistre that complained about Maistre and mentioned me, so in response I posted a couple of comments that I think make sense even apart from the original setting. The point at issue, as you will see, was Maistre’s sometimes startling emphasis on the role of violence in human life.


Freedom and the political good

I have a piece by that name (subtitled “some preliminary considerations”) up at the Liberty Law Blog.


What is the etiology of liberalism?

The question seems important, since where liberalism comes from affects how we should deal with it and where it is likely to go. Many right-wingers, for example, think of it as psychological or instrumental: people are liberals because they feel this way or that, or because they want to get money, power, status, or whatever. Such views suggest that liberalism need not be taken seriously on its own terms, and will disappear when events shift the balance of advantages or put people in a different mood.


Liberalism, Catholicism, and the Good

I have another column, this one on liberal and Catholic conceptions of the good and the just, at Catholic World Report.


More on freedom and tyranny

That’s the original title of my latest column at Catholic World Report. It’s basically an argument that Catholics shouldn’t base their political arguments on freedom, they should base them on substantive goods. (I don’t know what it shows that they renamed it “Tyranny, Religion, and the Fight for Freedom.”)


Does inclusiveness include?

Here’s a study that may be more interesting than the author realizes: people in Ann Arbor, Michigan, presumably mostly quite liberal, literally don’t realize that people whose politics differ from their own react to cold the same way they do. Does that explain the Gulag, or am I wrong in my immediate reaction that (at least at present) leftists are particularly likely to consider their opponents not-really-human?

Justly or not, the result puts me in mind of Jonathan Haidt’s finding that liberal respondents incorrectly predict the rationales given by conservatives for their positions, whereas moderates and conservatives characterize the rationales given by liberals accurately.


After Liberalism: Notes toward Reconstruction

That’s the title of an essay I wrote that appears in the Spring 2012 issue of the Intercollegiate Review.


Caught in the Morass

[The following review, somewhat edited in ways I did not have a chance to look at (and in some respects would not have approved), appeared under the title Libertarian Limits in the January 2012 issue of First Things]

On Tolerance: A Defence of Moral Independence, by Frank Furedi, Continuum, 224 pages, $22.95

The independently-minded British sociologist Frank Furedi has variously been a Hungarian refugee, a self-proclaimed revolutionary communist, and a libertarian public intellectual. The last tendency seems likely to stick, and it has led him to write this critical analysis of therapeutic and custodial liberalism and plea for the restoration of classical liberalism.


God and liberal modernity

That’s the name of my March column at Catholic World Report.


The tyranny of misunderstood freedom

That’s the name of a piece I have up at Catholic World Report.


More on Islam, women, and the West

A correspondent, who had read my previous comments on women in Islam, asked whether I thought he was hysterical to say Islam enslaves women. He lives in a part of England where Muslims have recently become more of a presence, finds the routine sight of women in niqab shocking, and can’t understand why intellectual Western women take it in stride as an addition to multicultural richness or whatever. What, he asked, could ever serve as a wake-up call?



It seems accepted among educated Westerners that the rationality of an action is a matter of means and ends, of what we want and whether what we do is going to bring that about.

That’s true even among people who consider themselves right-wingers, reactionaries, traditionalists and so on, and who in many ways really are so. I’ve complained about that tendency in Roger Scruton, and to my mind a recent discussion over at Bruce Charlton’s blog put it on display as well. It seemed impossible for many of those in the discussion to see the issue (contraception) from any other perspective. The problem was not that they thought consequences were relevant, but that they thought only consequences were relevant, and that raising other issues was simply nonsensical.


Merry Christmas!

How to remember 9/11?

The current issue of First Things has a piece by R. R. Reno that’s worth reading on The Failed 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center. The basic issue it raises is that it’s odd to have a large impressive memorial in a location that’s as prominent as the WTC, only to have the memorial dissolve the event commemorated into 3,000 private events of a kind (murder) that’s very traumatic but happens quite often every year in America.


Liberal Values and the Seduction of the American Right

The following is a talk delivered at the 2011 Conference of the H. L. Mencken Club.

Why has American conservatism been such a flop? It finds it impossible to define what it wants, stick with it, and defend it. The result is that it never wins and never even stands its ground.

To understand what’s happened you have to go to basics.


Liberal theosis

Modern thought can’t make sense of man. Science wants to treats him as part of single system of cause and effect, and liberalism also takes that approach when considering social policy. The problem though is that science and liberalism need scientists and liberals as they understand them—that is, they need thinkers, observers and agents who are autonomous and therefore outside the system of material causation.


Every spring has its fall ...

Larry Auster notes an odd unexplained shift in the New York Times coverage of the “Arab Spring” and its aftermath: it used to be unproblematically good, because Arabs of course can’t be distinguished from Eastern Europeans, whereas now it’s suddenly an issue, because the Arabs of course mostly support Islamic politics.


Two films with food mysticism (spoiler alert!)

A blogger’s complaints about foodies put me in mind of a couple of award-winning and actually quite good movies I saw recently about food and drink as religion, Sideways and Babette’s Feast.


Propositioning the nation

Princeton professor Robert George gives a remarkably pure presentation of the “America as proposition nation” thesis here. If you want to know what that thesis is, watch the clip—it’s only a couple of minutes, and it’s a collector’s item.

Here are a few obvious issues the thesis raises:


A fragment on democracy

The world is run by people who run things. Liberalism eliminates the principle of authority and puts the individual and his desires at the center of concern, so it makes it important for people who run things to be able to claim that the people at large have agreed to what they’re doing—they approved the particular measure, or the basic principle. or the decisionmakers, or anyway they could vote everybody out and change the constitution if they’ve really got a problem.



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