“Classical liberalism” and contemporary conservatism 0

We find this essay by Yoram Hazony peculiarly interesting, so we are posting it in full.

It was published in the Wall Street Journal two days ago on October 13, 2017.

We have long assumed that contemporary Western conservatism is “liberal” in the sense that John Locke and Adam Smith used the term. This essay enlightens us about that. We discover that we are not “classical liberals” after all.

And we are surprised to learn from Yoram Hazony that Friedrich Hayek, whom we much admire and often quote, was at one time an advocate for world government. (We have called world government “the ultimate nightmare” in an essay listed under Pages in our margin). The same goes for Ludwig von Mises. And we are less surprised but still concerned to learn that Charles Krauthammer is too.

We offer no criticism, make no comment, except to say that, like Hayek, Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand, we still “place religion outside the scope of what is essential to know about politics and government”.

Is ‘Classical Liberalism’ Conservative?

American conservatism is having something of an identity crisis. Most conservatives supported Donald Trump last November. But many prominent conservative intellectuals—journalists, academics and think-tank personalities—have entrenched themselves in bitter opposition. Some have left the Republican Party, while others are waging guerrilla warfare against a Republican administration. Longtime friendships have been ended and resignations tendered. Talk of establishing a new political party alternates with declarations that Mr. Trump will be denied the GOP nomination in 2020.

Those in the “Never Trump” camp say the cause of the split is the president—that he’s mentally unstable, morally unspeakable, a leftist populist, a rightist authoritarian, a danger to the republic. One prominent Republican told me he is praying for Mr. Trump to have a brain aneurysm so the nightmare can end.

But the conservative unity that Never Trumpers seek won’t be coming back, even if the president leaves office prematurely. An apparently unbridgeable ideological chasm is opening between two camps that were once closely allied. Mr. Trump’s rise is the effect, not the cause, of this rift.

There are two principal causes: first, the increasingly rigid ideology conservative intellectuals have promoted since the end of the Cold War; second, a series of events — from the failed attempt to bring democracy to Iraq to the implosion of Wall Street — that have made the prevailing conservative ideology seem naive and reckless to the broader conservative public.

A good place to start thinking about this is a 1989 essay in the National Interest by Charles Krauthammer. The Cold War was coming to an end, and Mr. Krauthammer proposed it should be supplanted by what he called “Universal Dominion” (the title of the essay): America was going to create a Western “super-sovereign” that would establish peace and prosperity throughout the world. The cost would be “the conscious depreciation not only of American sovereignty, but of the notion of sovereignty in general.”

William Kristol and Robert Kagan presented a similar view in their 1996 essay “Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy” in Foreign Affairs, which proposed an American “benevolent global hegemony” that would have “preponderant influence and authority over all others in its domain”.

Then, as now, conservative commentators insisted that the world should want such an arrangement because the U.S. knows best: The American way of politics, based on individual liberties and free markets, is the right way for human beings to live everywhere. Japan and Germany, after all, were once-hostile authoritarian nations that had flourished after being conquered and acquiescing in American political principles. With the collapse of communism, dozens of countries — from Eastern Europe to East Asia to Latin America — seemed to need, and in differing degrees to be open to, American tutelage of this kind. As the bearer of universal political truth, the U.S. was said to have an obligation to ensure that every nation was coaxed, maybe even coerced, into adopting its principles.

Any foreign policy aimed at establishing American universal dominion faces considerable practical challenges, not least because many nations don’t want to live under U.S. authority. But the conservative intellectuals who have set out to promote this Hegelian world revolution must also contend with a problem of different kind: Their aim cannot be squared with the political tradition for which they are ostensibly the spokesmen.

For centuries, Anglo-American conservatism has favored individual liberty and economic freedom. But as the Oxford historian of conservatism Anthony Quinton emphasized, this tradition is empiricist and regards successful political arrangements as developing through an unceasing process of trial and error. As such, it is deeply skeptical of claims about universal political truths. The most important conservative figures — including John Fortescue, John Selden, Montesquieu, Edmund Burke and Alexander Hamilton — believed that different political arrangements would be fitting for different nations, each in keeping with the specific conditions it faces and traditions it inherits. What works in one country can’t easily be transplanted.

On that view, the U.S. Constitution worked so well because it preserved principles the American colonists had brought with them from England. The framework — the balance between the executive and legislative branches, the bicameral legislature, the jury trial and due process, the bill of rights — was already familiar from the English constitution. Attempts to transplant Anglo-American political institutions in places such as Mexico, Nigeria, Russia and Iraq have collapsed time and again, because the political traditions needed to maintain them did not exist. Even in France, Germany and Italy, representative government failed repeatedly into the mid-20th century (recall the collapse of France’s Fourth Republic in 1958), and has now been shunted aside by a European Union whose notorious “democracy deficit” reflects a continuing inability to adopt Anglo-American constitutional norms.

The “universal dominion” agenda is flatly contradicted by centuries of Anglo-American conservative political thought. This may be one reason that some post-Cold War conservative intellectuals have shifted to calling themselves “classical liberals”. Last year Paul Ryan insisted: “I really call myself a classical liberal more than a conservative.” Mr. Kristol tweeted in August: “Conservatives could ‘rebrand’ as liberals. Seriously. We’re for liberal democracy, liberal world order, liberal economy, liberal education.”

What is “classical liberalism,” and how does it differ from conservatism? As Quinton pointed out, the liberal tradition descends from Hobbes and Locke, who were not empiricists but rationalists: Their aim was to deduce universally valid political principles from self-evident axioms, as in mathematics.

In his “Second Treatise on Government” (1689), Locke asserts that universal reason teaches the same political truths to all human beings; that all individuals are by nature “perfectly free” and “perfectly equal”; and that obligation to political institutions arises only from the consent of the individual. From these assumptions, Locke deduces a political doctrine that he supposes must hold good in all times and places.

The term “classical liberal” came into use in 20th-century America to distinguish the supporters of old-school laissez-faire from the welfare-state liberalism of figures such as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Modern classical liberals, inheriting the rationalism of Hobbes and Locke, believe they can speak authoritatively to the political needs of every human society, everywhere. In his seminal work, “Liberalism” (1927), the great classical-liberal economist Ludwig von Mises thus advocates a “world super-state really deserving of the name”, which will arise if we “succeed in creating throughout the world . . . nothing less than unqualified, unconditional acceptance of liberalism. Liberal thinking must permeate all nations, liberal principles must pervade all political institutions”.

Friedrich Hayek, the leading classical-liberal theorist of the 20th century, likewise argued, in a 1939 essay, for replacing independent nations with a world-wide federation: “The abrogation of national sovereignties and the creation of an effective international order of law is a necessary complement and the logical consummation of the liberal program.”

Classical liberalism thus offers ground for imposing a single doctrine on all nations for their own good. It provides an ideological basis for an American universal dominion.

By contrast, Anglo-American conservatism historically has had little interest in putatively self-evident political axioms. Conservatives want to learn from experience what actually holds societies together, benefits them and destroys them. That empiricism has persuaded most Anglo-American conservative thinkers of the importance of traditional Protestant institutions such as the independent national state, biblical religion and the family.

As an English Protestant, Locke could have endorsed these institutions as well. But his rationalist theory provides little basis for understanding their role in political life. Even today liberals are plagued by this failing: The rigidly Lockean assumptions of classical-liberal writers such as Hayek, Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand place the nation, the family and religion outside the scope of what is essential to know about politics and government. Students who grow up reading these brilliant writers develop an excellent grasp of how an economy works. But they are often marvelously ignorant about much else, having no clue why a flourishing state requires a cohesive nation, or how such bonds are established through family and religious ties.

The differences between the classical-liberal and conservative traditions have immense consequences for policy. Establishing democracy in Egypt or Iraq looks doable to classical liberals because they assume that human reason is everywhere the same, and that a commitment to individual liberties and free markets will arise rapidly once the benefits have been demonstrated and the impediments removed. Conservatives, on the other hand, see foreign civilizations as powerfully motivated — for bad reasons as well as good ones — to fight the dissolution of their way of life and the imposition of American values.

Integrating millions of immigrants from the Middle East also looks easy to classical liberals, because they believe virtually everyone will quickly see the advantages of American (or European) ways and accept them upon arrival. Conservatives recognize that large-scale assimilation can happen only when both sides are highly motivated to see it through. When that motivation is weak or absent, conservatives see an unassimilated migration, resulting in chronic mutual hatred and violence, as a perfectly plausible outcome.

Since classical liberals assume reason is everywhere the same, they see no great danger in “depreciating” national independence and outsourcing power to foreign bodies. American and British conservatives see such schemes as destroying the unique political foundation upon which their traditional freedoms are built.

Liberalism and conservatism had been opposed political positions since the day liberal theorizing first appeared in England in the 17th century. During the 20th-century battles against totalitarianism, necessity brought their adherents into close alliance. Classical liberals and conservatives fought together, along with communists, against Nazism. After 1945 they remained allies against communism. Over many decades of joint struggle, their differences were relegated to a back burner, creating a “fusionist” movement (as William F. Buckley’s National Review called it) in which one and all saw themselves as “conservatives”.

But since the fall of the Berlin Wall, circumstances have changed. Margaret Thatcher’s ouster from power in 1990 marked the end of serious resistance in Britain to the coming European “super-sovereign”. Within a few years the classical liberals’ agenda of universal dominion was the only game in town — ascendant not only among American Republicans and British Tories but even among center-left politicians such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

Only it didn’t work. China, Russia and large portions of the Muslim world resisted a “new world order” whose express purpose was to bring liberalism to their countries. The attempt to impose a classical-liberal regime in Iraq by force, followed by strong-arm tactics aimed at bringing democracy to Egypt and Libya, led to the meltdown of political order in these states as well as in Syria and Yemen. Meanwhile, the world banking crisis made a mockery of classical liberals’ claim to know how to govern a world-wide market and bring prosperity to all. The shockingly rapid disintegration of the American family once again raised the question of whether classical liberalism has the resources to answer any political question outside the economic sphere.

Brexit and Mr. Trump’s rise are the direct result of a quarter-century of classical-liberal hegemony over the parties of the right. Neither Mr. Trump nor the Brexiteers were necessarily seeking a conservative revival. But in placing a renewed nationalism at the center of their politics, they shattered classical liberalism’s grip, paving the way for a return to empiricist conservatism. Once you start trying to understand politics by learning from experience rather than by deducing your views from 17th-century rationalist dogma, you never know what you may end up discovering.

Mr. Hazony is president of the Jerusalem-based Herzl Institute. His book “The Virtue of Nationalism” will be published next year by Basic.

 

(Hat-tip to our reader and commenter, Cogito)

To celebrate liberty 1

The American Revolution was against the Crown; against George III; against England, but not against the English tradition.

Thomas Jefferson would not recognize the “collective mentality of contemporary Americans” as being “in any meaningful way” what he thought of as “American”.

So writes the Libertarian columnist Ilana Mercer at Townhall. She goes on to say:

The Jeffersonian mind was that of an avowed Whig — an American Whig whose roots were in the English Whig political philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Come to think of it, Jefferson would not recognize [contemporary] England as the home of the Whigs in whose writings colonial Americans were steeped — John Locke, Algernon Sidney, Paul Rapin, Thomas Gordon and others.

The essence of this “pattern of ideas and attitudes,” almost completely lost today, explains David N. Mayer in The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson, was a view of government as an inherent threat to liberty and the necessity for eternal vigilance.

Indeed, especially adamant was Jefferson about the imperative “to be watchful of those in power”,  a watchfulness another Whig philosopher explained thus: “Considering what sort of Creature Man is, it is scarce possible to put him under too many Restraints, when he is possessed of great Power.”

“As Jefferson saw it,” expounds Mayer, “the Whig, zealously guarding liberty, was suspicious of the use of government power,” and assumed “not only that government power was inherently dangerous to individual liberty but also that, as Jefferson put it, ‘the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground’.”

For this reason, the philosophy of government articulated by Jefferson in the Declaration radically shifted sovereignty from parliament to the people.

“Equality” did not mean to Jefferson what it means to the mind of most  American political leaders now:

By “all men are created equal,” moreover, Jefferson, who also wrote in praise of a “Natural Aristocracy”, was certainly not implying that all men were similarly endowed. Or, that they were naturally entitled to healthcare, education, a decent wage, amnesty, or entry into the country he and the Constitution makers bequeathed.

Rather, Jefferson was affirming the natural right of “all men” to be secure in their enjoyment of their “life, liberty and possessions”.

But Jefferson’s muse for the “American Mind” is even older.

Notwithstanding the claims of the “multicultural noise machine”, the Whig tradition is undeniably Anglo-Saxon.

Our Founding Fathers’ political philosophy originated with their Saxon forefathers

With the Declaration, Jefferson told Henry Lee in 1825, he was also protesting England’s violation of her own ancient tradition of natural rights.

As Jefferson saw it, the Colonies were upholding a tradition the Crown had abrogated.

Philosophical purist that he was, moreover, Jefferson considered the Norman Conquest to have tainted this English tradition with the taint of feudalism. “To the Whig historian,” writes Mayer, “the whole of English constitutional history since the Conquest was the story of a perpetual claim kept up by the English nation for a restoration of Saxon laws and the ancient rights guaranteed by those laws.”

If Jefferson begrudged the malign influence of the Normans on the natural law he so cherished, imagine how he’d view America’s contemporary cultural and political conquistadors — be they from Latin America, the Arabian Peninsula, and beyond — whose customs preclude natural rights and natural reason!

Naturally, Jefferson never entertained the folly that he was of immigrant stock. He considered the English settlers of America courageous conquerors, much like his Saxon forebears, to whom he compared them. To Jefferson, early Americans were the contemporary carriers of the Anglo-Saxon project.

The settlers spilt their own blood “in acquiring lands for their settlement”, he wrote with pride in A Summary View of the Rights of British America. “For themselves they fought, for themselves they conquered, and for themselves alone they have right to hold.” Thus, they were “entitled to govern those lands and themselves”.

Like it or not, Thomas Jefferson, author of The Declaration, was sired and inspired by the Anglo-Saxon tradition.

We wish all lovers of liberty a jubilant Independence Day!

The US and the EU are entirely different 7

There is a profound difference between the US and the EU, and one that will never disappear. The US has a single culture, a single language, a single and powerful global brand, and a single government that commands national allegiance. It has a national history, a national myth, a demos that is the foundation of their democracy. The EU has nothing of the kind. In urging us to embed ourselves more deeply in the EU’s federalising structures, the Americans are urging us down a course they would never dream of going themselves. That is because they are a nation conceived in liberty. They sometimes seem to forget that we are quite fond of liberty, too.

Boris Johnson, the buoyant, brilliant, good-humored Mayor of London, who may be and ought to be a future Conservative prime minister, writes at The Telegraph:

I love America. I believe in the American dream. Indeed, I hold that the story of the past 100 years has been very largely about how America rose to global greatness – and how America has helped to preserve and expand democracy around the world. In two global conflicts, and throughout the Cold War, the United States has fought for the founding ideals of the republic: that government of the people, by the people, for the people should not perish from the earth. So it is on the face of it a bit peculiar that US government officials should believe that Britain must remain within the EU – a system in which democracy is increasingly undermined.

Some time in the next couple of months we are told that President Obama himself is going to arrive in this country, like some deus ex machina, to pronounce on the matter. Air Force One will touch down; a lectern with the presidential seal will be erected. The British people will be told to be good to themselves, to do the right thing. We will be informed by our most important ally that it is in our interests to stay in the EU, no matter how flawed we may feel that organisation to be. Never mind the loss of sovereignty; never mind the expense and the bureaucracy and the uncontrolled immigration. The American view is very clear. Whether in code or en clair, the President will tell us all that UK membership of the EU is right for Britain, right for Europe, and right for America. And why? Because that – or so we will be told – is the only way we can have “influence” in the counsels of the nations.

It is an important argument, and deserves to be taken seriously. I also think it is wholly fallacious – and coming from Uncle Sam, it is a piece of outrageous and exorbitant hypocrisy.

Only it is not coming from Uncle Sam. It is coming from Uncle Sam’s enemy, President Barack Hussein Obama.

There is no country in the world that defends its own sovereignty with such hysterical vigilance as the United States of America. This is a nation born from its glorious refusal to accept overseas control. Almost two and a half centuries ago the American colonists rose up and violently asserted the principle that they – and they alone – should determine the government of America, and not George III or his ministers. To this day the Americans refuse to kneel to almost any kind of international jurisdiction. Alone of Western nations, the US declines to accept that its citizens can be subject to the rulings of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. They have not even signed up to the Convention on the Law of the Sea. Can you imagine the Americans submitting their democracy to the kind of regime that we have in the EU?

Under Obama, the US has not been defending its sovereignty. And Obama would love it if America could be totally ruled by a world communist government. But the rest is true.

Think of NAFTA  – the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement – that links the US with Canada and Mexico. Suppose it were constituted on the lines of the EU, with a commission and a parliament and a court of justice. Would the Americans knuckle under – to a NAFTA commission and parliament generating about half their domestic law? Would they submit to a NAFTA court of justice – supreme over all US institutions – and largely staffed by Mexicans and Canadians whom the people of the US could neither appoint nor remove? No way. The idea is laughable, and completely alien to American traditions. So why is it essential for Britain to comply with a system that the Americans would themselves reject out of hand? Is it not a blatant case of “Do as I say, but not as I do”?

Of course it is. As for this precious “influence”, so dearly bought, I am not sure that it is all it is cracked up to be – or that Britain’s EU membership is really so valuable to Washington. Since the very foundation of the Common Market, the Washington establishment has supported the idea of European integration. The notable state department figure George W Ball worked on drafting the Schuman plan in 1950. He was a pallbearer at the funeral of Jean Monnet, the architect of the European project.

The Americans see the EU as a way of tidying up a continent whose conflicts have claimed huge numbers of American lives; as a bulwark against Russia, and they have always conceived it to be in American interests for the UK – their number one henchperson, their fidus Achates – to be deeply engaged. Symmetrically, it has been a Foreign Office superstition that we are more important to Washington if we can plausibly claim to have “influence” in Brussels. But with every year that passes that influence diminishes.

It is not just that we are being ever more frequently outvoted in the council of ministers, and our officials ever more heavily outnumbered in the Commission. The whole concept of “pooling sovereignty” is a fraud and a cheat. We are not really sharing control with other EU governments: the problem is rather that all governments have lost control to the unelected federal machine. We don’t know who they are, or what language they speak, and we certainly don’t know what we can do to remove them at an election.

When Americans look at the process of European integration, they make a fundamental category error. With a forgivable narcissism, they assume that we Europeans are evolving – rather haltingly – so as to become just like them: a United States of Europe, a single federal polity. That is indeed what the eurozone countries are trying to build; but it is not right for many EU countries, and it certainly isn’t right for Britain.

There is a profound difference between the US and the EU, and one that will never disappear. The US has a single culture, a single language, a single and powerful global brand, and a single government that commands national allegiance. It has a national history, a national myth, a demos that is the foundation of their democracy. The EU has nothing of the kind. In urging us to embed ourselves more deeply in the EU’s federalising structures, the Americans are urging us down a course they would never dream of going themselves. That is because they are a nation conceived in liberty. They sometimes seem to forget that we are quite fond of liberty, too.

That last sentence of Mr. Johnson’s is typical British understatement.

At least three of the most important thinkers of the Enlightenment whose ideas inspired the Founders to ground the United States of America in liberty were British: Hobbes, Locke, and Paine. From the Glorious Revolution of 1688 on, Britain, though in form a constitutional monarchy, was a free democracy, with suffrage spreading eventually to all citizens – until it entered the European Economic Union, which evolved into the European Union. That fatal step took democratic self-government away from the United Kingdom.

There is to be a referendum in June on whether or not a majority of Britons want to stay in the undemocratic EU or leave it. It is time for Britain to reclaim self-determination, and Americans, of all the peoples on earth, could surely be expected to applaud the British for doing so.

Posted under Britain, Europe, United States by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, March 15, 2016

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Let them read John Locke 4

… and David Hume, and Baruch Spinoza, and the US Constitution …

(We specially mention Hume and Spinoza because they were philosophers of atheism. But all the thinkers of the Age of Reason should be prescribed reading in all schools everywhere.)

THEY – the Muslims – are investing billions in trying to convince us that their ideas are good – though they aren’t. But we are doing nothing at all to persuade them that our ideas are good – which they are.

Ed West puts forward a very good plan. We quote from his Spectator (UK) article:

The persecution of Christians, the greatest story never told in the Western media, is finally building momentum as a story, after a year which has seen villagers massacred in Syria, dozens of churches burned down in Egypt’s worst religious violence for centuries, and the Peshawar atrocity in which the suicide-bombing of a church killed more than 80 people.

Earlier this week several MPs discussed the issue in Parliament, Fiona Bruce saying that ‘We should be crying out with the same abhorrence and horror that we feel about the atrocities towards Jews on Kristallnacht.’ And Baroness Warsi …

… a token Muslim woman on display in the House of Lords …

… will say in a speech in Washington today that: ‘A mass exodus is taking place, on a Biblical scale. In some places, there is a real danger that Christianity will become extinct.’

Warsi made the same point on the [BBC’s] Today programme this morning, and I applaud her, but an aspect rather missing from the coverage was the fact that the vast majority of serious anti-Christian violence is carried out in the name of Islam. It would be like discussing anti-Semitic pogroms of the medieval period without mentioning Christianity, its theology, history and practice.

No surprise there.

That is telling, since one of the reasons for the media’s voluntary blackout on this issue is our fear of appearing to be inciting hatred against Muslims. This allows the persecutors to get away with it, which is ironic since most violence carried out against Muslims is also done in the name of Islam. 

The simple fact is that Islamic law as it is applied in Egypt (where apostasy is extremely difficult and dangerous, and family law was based on Sharia even before the revolution), Iraq and the Gulf States is incompatible with religious liberty. There is no way around that. In Iraq, most bizarrely, the US government presided over a constitution that introduced elements of Sharia.

Such are the vicissitudes of world management. When the British illegally gave three-quarters of the land in their Palestine mandate to the Emir of Transjordan, they found themselves in charge of a polity that allowed and practiced slavery. British law forbade this to happen, but it happened, and they didn’t do a thing about it while they had the power to do anything they chose. And now  Britain deliberately allows sharia law to run parallel with British law inside the United Kingdom itself. That too should never have happened, but it has.

The issue therefore is not just that Christians are being punished because of anger at the West. It is the specific application of Islamic law, and most centrally [anger at the West’s] ideas about freedom of religion [which include] freedom of un-religion and the freedom to deviate from the rulers’ particular interpretation.

He mentions also the intolerance by each Muslim sect of all other Muslim sects, in particular “the horror inflicted on the unorthodox Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan”.

Much of the intolerance in Pakistan stems from the influence of the Saudis, who are trying to reshape Islam in their image, and are helped by Westerners because of their vast reserves of money. Shamefully the British Museum put on an exhibition on Mecca funded by the Saudis, even while those iconoclasts were vandalising the city; I can’t think of anything so contrary to the spirit of that fine institution. 

But they’re not the only ones – universities and organisations all over the West take Saudi money, and they should be publicly shamed … Likewise countries that do not allow freedom of religion should be made pariahs …

At the heart of the problem is that we’re too scared of even admitting that the problem is within Islam, perfectly illustrated by the BBC’s coverage of events.

Then he proposes his brilliant idea:

This is perverse, because our belief in equal rights before the law stems from the liberal tradition, yet while the Saudis spend millions promoting their beliefs abroad, we don’t. According to human-rights lawyer and advocate for Christian religious freedom Nina Shea, many of the classical liberal western works, such as John Locke, have no modern Arabic translations. Why isn’t one of the west’s many liberal billionaires paying for translations, to be made available free on Kindle? 

“Many” have not been translated? How many have been? And who reads them? Are they in the university libraries of the Muslim countries? Are there objective lecturers in Western Thought? Why don’t some of the wealthy who endow subversive academies like Harvard, Yale, Princeton wake up and instead endow chairs, or whole faculties, or even entire universities in the Islamic world dedicated to the teaching of Western Philosophy, Politics, History, Ethics, Economics, Literature, Law, and Science? (Not Religion – there’s no sense in opposing one irrationality with another.) They should be taught not as they are seen through Marxist distorting lenses in most American universities, but the way John Locke himself, and Benjamin Franklin would do it.      

Oh, of course. No Islamic country would allow it. Still, we should try every way we can think of to get our ideas into as many Muslim heads as we possibly can.

Ed West concludes:

Time may be running out, for one of the many tragic results of Christian persecution is that a vital bridge between the Middle East and Europe is being wrecked. Of the 60 scholars who translated the ancient Greek classics into Arabic during the [falsely so-called] Islamic Golden Age, according to scholar Dr Suha Rassam, 58 were Syriac Christians (and of the others, one was Jewish and the other a Sabian), since generally only Syriacs could speak both Arabic and Greek.

Not one of them was a Muslim.

Without these 60 men the Renaissance would never have happened, and the very ideas that gave us liberalism would never have emerged.

Classical liberalism that is – the belief in tolerance and individual freedom.

 

The libertarian ideal 2

This is from a fine article by Jonah Goldberg at Townhall:

Definitions vary, but broadly speaking, libertarianism is the idea that people should be as free as possible from state coercion so long as they don’t harm anyone.

Or as we put it in our Articles of ReasonMy liberty should be limited by nothing except everyone else’s liberty.

The job of the state is limited to fighting crime, providing for the common defense, and protecting the rights and contracts of citizens. The individual is sovereign, he is the captain of himself.

It’s true, no ideal libertarian state has ever existed outside a table for one. And no such state will ever exist. But here’s an important caveat: No ideal state of any other kind will be created either. …

Ideals are …  goals, aspirations, abstract straight rules we use as measuring sticks against the crooked timber of humanity.

In the old Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia and today’s North Korea, they tried to move toward the ideal communist system. Combined, they killed about 100 million of their own people. That’s a hefty moral distinction right there: When freedom-lovers move society toward their ideal, mistakes may be made, but people tend to flourish. When the hard left is given free reign, millions are murdered and enslaved. Which ideal would you like to move toward?  …

How statism/collectivism  ever came to be an ideal is puzzling enough, but that there are millions who still want it after those calamitous experiments Jonah Goldberg names, remains to us a mystery beyond all comprehension.

It’s a little bizarre how the left has always conflated statism with modernity and progress. The idea that rulers – be they chieftains, kings, priests, politburos or wonkish bureaucrats – are enlightened or smart enough to tell others how to live is older than the written word. And the idea that someone stronger, with better weapons, has the right to take what is yours predates man’s discovery of fire by millennia. And yet, we’re always told that the latest rationalization for increased state power is the “wave of the future.”

That phrase, “the wave of the future,” became famous thanks to a 1940 essay by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She argued that the time of liberal democratic capitalism was drawing to a close and the smart money was on statism of one flavor or another – fascism, communism, socialism, etc. What was lost on her, and millions of others, was that this wasn’t progress toward the new, but regression to the past. These “waves of the future” were simply gussied-up tribalisms, anachronisms made gaudy with the trappings of modernity, like a gibbon in a spacesuit. 

The only truly new political idea in the last couple thousand years is this libertarian idea, broadly understood. The revolution wrought by John Locke, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith and the Founding Fathers is the only real revolution going. And it’s still unfolding. …

We would add that this revolution has been advanced in thought further by Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Robert Nozick, and (more popularly) Ayn Rand, to name just some of the later philosophers of individual freedom.

What made the American experiment new were its libertarian innovations, broadly speaking. Moreover, those innovations made us prosper. …

I’m actually not a full-blown libertarian myself, but it’s an ideal I’d like America to move closer to, not further away from as we’ve been doing of late – bizarrely in the name of “progress” of all things.

Same goes for us.

Going with the wind 1

The article by James Delingpole from which we quote is about property rights and what he rightly calls the “green religion”; matters of concern equally on both sides of the Atlantic:

Property rights are a cornerstone of our liberty, our security, our civilisation. …

Here’s the Virginia Bill of Rights, precursor to the US Declaration of Independence:

“That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”

Here’s Samuel Adams:

“The Natural Rights of the colonists are these: first, a right to life; second, to liberty; third to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can.”

And here, most trenchantly, is the philosopher who inspired them, John Locke:

Whenever the legislators endeavour to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience …”

Time for a revolution, then, for the theft of our property rights is exactly what is happening to us now under our notionally “Conservative” prime minister and his increasingly desperate and damaging attempts to position his collapsing administration as the “greenest ever.” I’m thinking especially of the ongoing renewables scam.

The wind farm industry is surely the worst offender. Some vexatious twerp complained the other day about my claim that wind farms reduce property values by between 25 per cent and 50 per cent. Actually, if anything, I’m understating the problem here. I know of cases where properties have been rendered unsaleable by wind farms. But whatever the exact figures, I think those of us not in the pay of Big Wind or trotting out propaganda for the preposterous and devious Renewable UK would all agree that the very last thing we’d want on our doorstep would be a wind farm and that we certainly would never dream of buying a property near one. QED.

Since not a single one of the wind farms blighting Britain would have been built without state incentives (in the form of Renewable Obligations Certificates, Feed In Tariffs, and legislation which makes it very hard for communities to prevent wind farms being built in the area) we can reasonably say therefore that wind farms represent a wanton assault by the state on property rights. We expect such confiscatory measures “for the common good” from socialist regimes. But from a Conservative-dominated Coalition it’s a disgrace.

The Coalition itself is a disgrace. How a co-called Conservative Party ever decided to team up with a Liberal Democratic Party that is well to the left of the opposition Labour Party would be beyond comprehension to anyone who didn’t know that the so-called Conservative Party of Great Britain is not remotely conservative. In fact its leader, David Cameron, is an ardent fan of Saul Alinsky, the communist revolutionary who inspired Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

But it’s not just the wind farm industry which is complicitous in this scam. … The hydro power industry turns out to be very nearly as damaging, unpleasant, slimy and untrustworthy as its nasty elder brother Big Wind. …  yet another taxpayer-subsidised boondoggle for rent-seeking scuzzballs, which produces next to no electricity and which – just like wind farms – causes immense damage to wildlife (in this case fish rather than birds or bats). …

The hypocrisy of it! Environmentalists going to endless lengths to protect a smelt while they feed other fish and innumerable birds to their terrible engines. Above all, they hurt people. Delingpole gives a particular instance where property rights are harmed:

Nottingham Angling Club … in 1982 forked out £150,000 for the fishing rights to a one and half mile stretch of the river Trent above a weir which is now about to be converted to hydropower. The quality of their fishing will almost certainly diminish. And there are stories like this from all over the country. Whether its wealthy fly fishing enthusiasts who’ve paid a fortune for a prime stretch of river in Hampshire or Dorset, or an ordinary working man’s club like the one in Nottingham, people are going to suffer as a result of this state-sponsored drive for renewables. Again, as with wind power, the only reason these hydropower schemes are going ahead is because of the government subsidies and incentives for those canny or cynical enough to get in on the scam. So again, what we have here is a clear case of the state arbitrarily confiscating people’s property rights because of its desire to be seen paying lip service to the green religion.

But the harm to people caused by governments pursuing the green superstition is far greater than that. It is general, affecting the price everyone has to pay for electricity. Not just property rights but liberty itself is going with the wind.

All over America, city councils, implementing Agenda 21, are trying to increase the amount of energy they provide from “green sources” at ever greater expense. What’s more, they hope to ration it, to keep us colder in winter and hotter in summer.

This is the newest form of religious persecution.