Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Finding That Which is Lost

This essay, published at the Mises Institute site, offers interesting thoughts on the question in its title.  I would like to expand on some, challenge others. 

NB: To be clear: I know Raico has written volumes on this and related topics; hence, my challenges are not necessarily of Raico’s larger positions as they are merely to use this essay to continue a dialogue being held at this blog for some time.

The Framework

Raico opens with his definition of Classical Liberalism:

"Classical liberalism" is the term used to designate the ideology advocating private property, an unhampered market economy, the rule of law, constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and of the press, and international peace based on free trade.

Although its fundamental claims are universalist…

I am not sure I agree with this last statement – and I would welcome some assistance from the audience on this topic.  What Raico is including strikes me as too broad.  In the meantime…what is meant by “universalist”?

Moral universalism (also called moral objectivism) is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for "all similarly situated individuals", regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or any other distinguishing feature.

According to philosophy professor R. W. Hepburn: "To move towards the objectivist pole is to argue that moral judgements can be rationally defensible, true or false, that there are rational procedural tests for identifying morally impermissible actions, or that moral values exist independently of the feeling-states of individuals at particular times."

An example is offered, regarding The United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which “can be read as assuming a kind of moral universalism”:

Although the Declaration has undeniably come to be accepted throughout the world as a cornerstone of the international system for the protection of human rights, a belief among some that the Universal Declaration does not adequately reflect certain important worldviews has given rise to more than one supplementary declaration, such as the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam and the Bangkok Declaration.

This gets to my point.  Returning to Raico: many of the characteristics he identified (private property, unhampered market economies, freedom of religion) are looked at quite differently in other countries, with other cultures, traditions, religions.  Is it universalist to give them private property rights, good and hard? 

The Foundation

More significantly, it seems to me, consider the following from Raico:

…liberalism must be understood first of all as a doctrine and movement that grew out of a distinctive culture and particular historical circumstances.

Yes, it did.  Why?  And why not elsewhere?  Ever in recorded history, as far as I can tell.

That culture — as Lord Acton recognized most clearly — was the West, the Europe that was or had been in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

Yes it was that culture.  And there might be some significance in this regarding the inapplicability of the universalist idea.  There has to be some reason these characteristics sprang up in this culture and no other.

Raico points to the Dutch, who freed themselves from the Spanish Habsburgs, creating a polity grounded in the earliest manifestations of something approaching this liberal society. 

The historical circumstances were the confrontation of the free institutions and values inherited from the Middle Ages with the pretensions of the absolutist state of the 16th and 17th centuries.

I think this is a key statement: Raico offers a glimpse into how and why this liberal tradition gained a footing: it was built upon the decentralized institutions and values that were developed and sustained during Medieval Europe, butting these up against the absolutist kings (both Catholic and Protestant) that had a free hand once the competing authority of the “Bishop of Rome” was neutered. 

But it wasn’t the Dutch that created this form; they were merely attempting to mimic that which was formed in the Middle Ages; Althusius states this clearly – all the while giving credit to these Dutch “freedom fighters.”  But absent the competing authority of the Church against the king, this would prove to be an uphill, and ultimately a losing, battle.

It was in the space made available between the Church and the king where these institutions were given life and grew; it was in this space in between where these institutions could exercise authority; it was due to the Church acting as a check against the king, and vice versa, that the space in between could even exist.

Without the authority of the Church there was no institution with the authority to stand up to the king.  But it took some time for these intermediating institutions to die – and for the kings to become Monarchs and eventually, States.


…John Locke framed the doctrine of the natural rights to life, liberty, and estate — which he collectively termed "property" — in the form that would be passed down, through the Real Whigs of the 18th century, to the generation of the American Revolution.

America became the model liberal nation, and, after England, the exemplar of liberalism to the world.

Finally, a chance to prove out the theory.


I think this is quite right.  It cannot go unsaid that the first steps to empire for this model liberal nation were attempted in 1812.  Further, it cannot go unsaid what happened just short of four-score-and-seven-years after the glorious Declaration. 

While a strand of Whiggish liberalism was not averse to wars (beyond self-defense) for liberal ends, and while wars of national unification provided a major exception to the rule, by and large liberalism was associated with the cause of peace. (Emphasis added.)

An understatement, I would say.  In other words, the “model liberal nation” lasted, at most, two generations.  This suggests something wrong in the theory – as America was the best example of application on earth.  If the “model liberal nation” had no more staying power than this, what might one say about the theory of liberalism put into practice?  Is it fair to ask what went wrong, what is missing?

Reason Absent God?

Regarding the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment, “particularly David Hume, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, and Dugald Stewart”:

They developed an analysis that explained "the origin of complex social structures without the need to posit the existence of a directing intelligence" (in Ronald Hamowy's summary).


The Physiocratic formula, Laissez-faire, laissez-passer, le monde va de lui-même ("the world goes by itself"), suggests both the liberal program and the social philosophy upon which it rests.

Might these point to what is missing, the ingredient without which even the model liberal nation was unable to stand four-score-and-seven?

There was an irreplaceable loss to liberty with the loss of Christendom – or whatever label you want to put on the period when the medieval Church acted as separate and competing governance authority.  The spaces between king and church allowed liberty to grow; these spaces were no more.


A path forward?

The basis for a possible reconciliation of liberalism and antistatist conservatism emerged after the experience of the French Revolution and Napoleon. Its best exponent was Benjamin Constant, who…looked for social buffers and ideological allies wherever they might be found. Religious faith, localism, and the voluntary traditions of a people were valued as sources of strength against the state.

For this, two things must occur – necessary but certainly not sufficient: first, there is no point to focus on the individual in the face of an absence of these intermediating institutions.  We are seeing the focus on the individual being played out today in many ways, not least of which soon having upward of seven billion individual gender distinctions.

Intermediate institutions, providing demonstrable functional benefit in the lives of individuals, must once again play their role instead of allowing – in some cases, gladly – the state to usurp these responsibilities.  These intermediate institutions must once again play a meaningful functional role in the lives of a free people.

Second, Christian churches must act like Christian churches and not like mouthpieces for the military state, cheerleading Armageddon with all the pre-millennial baggage that comes with it.  Perhaps they could stand against victimless crimes.  Try a little of the Gospels, for a change, instead of your world-ending view of Daniel and Revelation: if God is going to work in the way that you hope, with an army of 200 million converging on Israel, He certainly doesn’t need your help.  Anyway, I certainly doubt that He wants us praying for such a result.

My issue is not your eternal soul – find a different blog for that.  My desire is not a theocracy – nothing like this existed during the Middle Ages nor would I wish it on society today.  Instead, I see no other institution with the capacity and moral standing to offer a challenge to the violence of the State – both domestically and on the international stage.  When it comes to liberty, that would be a good start.

Where it goes after that…well, I will leave it in God’s hands!


Liberalism's adherents were not always consistent. This was the case when they turned to the state to promote their own values.

The model liberal nation lasted all of one generation and not longer than two. “But that wasn’t true liberalism!”  Is it fair to challenge Marxists when they make this retort when it comes to Lenin and Stalin, yet utilize it as a defense of liberal political theory?  Instead, perhaps it is worth finding what is missing from liberalism that caused it so quickly to fail.

Maybe mix some of that into our theory.


  1. "Second, Christian churches must act like Christian churches.."

    Hear, hear, especially the not acting like mouthpieces part. Meanwhile, one problem might be right there in the quote: "Christian Churches," (read: Protestant) instead of the medieval Latin Church.

    Secondly, in the history of America there seems to have been no absence of God, but an absence of the Church. Perhaps the kind of Calvinist God the puritan extremists brought with them from Europe (when they were finally kicked out of Leiden by the Dutch) has something to do with the possibility that the US never really was the kind of model liberal nation to begin with.


    1. Sag, I am not sure if your modification applies to the first use of the phrase "Christian churches" or the second... so I will comment each way.

      Yes, the Latin Church should start acting Christian again...

      As to the various denominations of Christian churches acting Latin again...I have not given a lot of thought to this because maybe I don't think bigly enough.

      I am willing to accept a first step - a major miracle on its own: It will be a great start if they just stop worshiping the military and the millions of lives destroyed by this institution of hell.

  2. That first step would indeed be a miracle and a great step forward.

    The other things in short:

    Medieval Europe: one Church, many small "states"

    US today: one State, chattered Christianity, i.e. many "Churches"

    America someday: many different states, united Christianity

    Last option would somewhat resemble medieval Europe, but it will never happen.


    1. One giant step for man is one small step for God. I wonder how most libertarians would react if I said that prayer was our best hope?

      Never mind, I know the answer.

    2. Something with Dracula to a cross? Fun idea though. I'll give it a go someday in the comments section on the LvMI site:

      Prayer is our best hope

      And then wait..
      Chances are, it will be ignored entirely.

  3. "Although its fundamental claims are universalist…"

    It should be no surprise since it was derived from and shepherded into existence by a universalist faith, i.e. Catholicism. The word "Catholic" itself is made up of the Greek words "kata" meaning 'according to' and "holos" meaning 'whole,' which together forms "katholicos" meaning 'universal.'

    Both the Church and liberalism have universalist claims, because both point toward object values for mankind. The former claims to be the only true revealed ethic and the latter claims to be the only true rational ethic. I would say both, with notable exceptions in history, regard their ethics as only 'universalizable' (meaning they can be adopted with success if chosen) and don't feel compelled to impose these ethics on the whole world by force.

    Frank van Dunn gave a good talk about this in a recently published speech on YouTube from PFS 2018 entitled, "What did the Reformation Reform?"

    In it, he speaks of the transformation of the person from Medieval Christendom into the individual in the Enlightened States which followed and the concomitant loss of a common conscience. I think what he was saying is that the Reformation killed this 'common conscience' fostered by the Church which facilitated people being treated and regarding themselves as persons in a shared community of truth. In place of this sort of community, we got communities of opinion where powerful individuals sought their own 'truth' in a sort of moral anarchy. I'm sorry to say that Frank van Dunn is not a very good speaker, so it was hard to get all the way through it, but I found it was worth it for me.

    I actually got chills when I realized while listening to his speech that the ancient occult saying "as above so below" was a rejection of the Logos, or objective moral truth, and a call toward moral relativism or moral anarchy.

    1. I know this isn't exactly the right way to put it, but maybe my mistake is in thinking of application, not theory....

      Maybe a better for me to say it..."we, who believe in liberalism, believe it to be universal - whether you agree or not," just as it might work to say "we, who believe in the Christian faith believe it to be universal - whether you believe it or not."

      In other words - to the believers, it is universalist, no matter that the non-believers have their own views... which they might also consider universalist.

      But... we can't all be right....

    2. Hi ATL,

      What I sometimes felt when I heard Dr Paul speak in the televised debates, I feel ten times worse when I see Frank van Dun deliver a speech. At least when it took Ron Paul a moment or two to collect his thoughts, it added authenticity amidst all of the other talking soundbiting suits. Alas with Van Dun, the authenticity doesn't quite make up for a severely hampered delivery in public. "Not a very good speaker," is a huge understatement.

      The funny thing is that he's enjoying himself tremendously. Though he's struggling, the one who really suffers is me. At least it's good to know that I'm not alone in this, ATL ;)

      He's actually not doing a speech in English, but thinking out loud in Dutch (with some rapidly disorganized notes to remind him of some lecture the public is expecting). One can clearly see that - belonging to an elder generation - he has to translate off the cuff in English what comes to his mind in Dutch (or better: Flemish).

      Anyhew, among many interesting parts, here's an essential one you salvaged:

      "In place of this sort of community [persons in a shared community of truth], we got communities of opinion where powerful individuals.."

      To this I'd like to add that it even goes beyond communities of opinion and powerful individuals. Frank van Dun points out the radical impact of the total privatization of conscience (not "opinion") for each and every individual (my own "direct line to God"). After that, it becomes increasingly difficult to appeal to a conscience held "in common".


    3. I think that is a good way of saying it. Both liberalism and Catholicism need to be believed, at least by a critical amount of people, for these ideas or truths to reflect into the broader socio-political culture.

      "But... we can't all be right...."

      That's easy. Of course we're the ones that are right! =)

      "I'm sorry to say that Frank van Dunn is not a very good speaker" - Me

      Thinking on this a bit, I've realized that it was an unfair statement. English is probably not the guy's first language, and I can't even speak another language, let alone give a technical presentation of a vast historical and philosophical subject in one, so who am I to criticize his presentation skills?

    4. Yes, I think you misconstrued Raico's point that "Although its fundamental claims are universalist…"

      The point is not that the claims of liberalism are universally accepted, which is certainly untrue, but rather that liberalism claims that its positions should be universally accepted.

      And, I suspect that you yourself hold the latter view: i.e., that you think that all human societies would be better off if they embraced free markets, rule of law, freedom of religion, etc.

      Of course, it does not follow (and Raico did not believe) that we must therefore force other societies to accept liberal principles.

    5. Sag,

      "He's actually not doing a speech in English, but thinking out loud in Dutch "

      That explains it!

      "...the total privatization of conscience (not "opinion") for each and every individual (my own "direct line to God"). After that, it becomes increasingly difficult to appeal to a conscience held "in common"."

      Good point. I suppose I should have said that it began at first with a few powerful deviations from the common conscience, but soon thereafter evolved into complete individualization of conscience.

      This brings to mind the Depeche Mode song, which was later adapted by Marilyn Manson into a veritable satanic anthem, called "Personal Jesus."

      "Your own personal Jesus
      Someone to hear your prayers
      Someone who's there
      Feeling unknown
      And you're all alone
      Flesh and bone
      By the telephone
      Lift up the receiver
      I'll make you a believer"

      The song ends with the repeated mantra:

      "Reach out and touch faith."

    6. P-Dave

      "And, I suspect that you yourself hold the latter view: i.e., that you think that all human societies would be better off if they embraced free markets, rule of law, freedom of religion, etc."

      Even this I am not sure of. Many tribal societies lasted for centuries without these things. It "worked" for them...until it didn't.

      But it did "work" for far longer than many of the post-Enlightenment experimental societies "worked."

      As for examples today...I am only hesitant to agree as I don't know how much of my view is biased based on living in a culture / society that generally accepts these things - or at least has a strong history of living in this way.

  4. Jeremiah Moss

    For one, a lot of this is deep in the DNA of America; it appeals to the individual. This might be going too far afield, but the loss of religion as an organizing force of a sort of hopeful benevolence or as an authority — you see what I’m saying? The people need authority, and so the new authority is the CEO. This is how Bloomberg became mayor after 9/11. This is how we end up with President Trump.

    From here:


  5. What is it in Christianity that proved to make a difference?

    I am tentatively taking the position that it is the external judge for moral questions. I.e. God. Plus the fact that everybody (kings and peasants) will be judged in the exact same way.

    Are there any non-abrahamic religions that have a similar "judge in the afterlife" like christianity?

    (Reincarnation would seem to provide some of it, but less stringent)

    1. I think the idea of afterlife and judgment is critical, as you suggest.

      Compare how one would live if this was the generally accepted norm vs. our norm today, which is "he who dies with the most toys wins."

    2. Hi Rien,

      Notice that in Protestantism, predestination (related) doctrine, espec. when combined with the doctrine of man's "total depravity" in fact undermines the idea you and I might have of celestial judgement (and equality for all before this Judge). Something to consider when talking about "Christianity" in general.

      Same goes for the use of the term "Abrahamic" religions, which is a propaganda device straight out of the "interfaith dialogue" playbook. Short version of this dialogue goes something like this:

      Christians: "We're guilty.."
      Muslims/Jews: "You are indeed!"



    3. Rien,

      "Plus the fact that everybody (kings and peasants) will be judged in the exact same way."

      I think the magic is in your sentence above. A law above the heads of both kings and peasants alike. That plus a common culture dispersed among many politically distinct relationships. In other words, there was a healthy level of competition in the means of promoting and safeguarding the common ends of Latin Christendom.

      Fritz Kern, in his "Kingship and Law of the Middle Ages," points toward the emergence of the legal doctrine of 'popular sovereignty' toward the end of the Middle Ages, which was aided by the rediscovery of the pagan laws of the Roman Empire. This made the people, rather than God, the ultimate lawmaker, and in the Roman conception of it, once this sovereignty, originally possessed by the people, was transferred to a king or an emperor, it was irrevocable.

      "But almost immediately the excesses of the Church militant reacted in favour of the monarchy. To meet the boundless claims of the Church, royalism broke away from its customary mediaeval moderation, and preached the doctrines of the passive obedience of the subject, and of the irresponsibility of the monarch. The fully-fledged theory of the Divine Right of Rings began to take shape, but this theory was never completed in the mediaeval world; for theoretically the king could not be absolute, being below the law. Nevertheless, if the king were responsible to no earthly court, he was in practice, though limited in certain respects by the law, uncontrolled-and that was substantially the position of the monarch in England as elsewhere at the end of the Middle Ages. It was, then, the struggle between the sacerdotium and the regnum, and the interaction of secular and ecclesiastical ideas that made possible the intellectual conditions necessary for the emergence of the modern sovereign State, and therefore, in the long run, of modern constitutionalism. For the excessive claims of the sacerdotium provoked an exaltation of the monarch, which was in some measure also encouraged by the revived study of Roman law, and all this in turn elicited the doctrine of popular sovereignty."


      "This revolutionary theory of popular sovereignty, however, never caught on in the mediaeval world. The struggle remained a struggle between monarchical principle and the right of resistance; from the eleventh century, between passive obedience and the doctrine of tyrannus. The prevailing lack of public law encouraged both restraint of the king on the one hand, and practical absolutism on the other. It was necessary for new institutions to be evolved before these extremes could be reconciled, and they appeared only in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries."


      "Two closely connected developments, coming from outside these spheres, were needed before the modern sovereign constitutional State was possible. For one thing, the monarch had to acquire sovereignty by shattering the old mediaeval idea of the ruler being bound to the existent law, which was accomplished by the doctrines of raison d'Etat and necessity of State; for another thing (inseparable from the previous one), the conception of law itself had to be fundamentally modified by the drawing of sharp distinctions between ideal and positive law. The monarch or the State could then become above positive law, whilst remaining below natural law and natural rights."

    4. For a true believer like me I think the reason goodness has sprung from Christianity is because it is true.

      When mankind thinks and behaves in the way God, who is good and loving, designed and intended prosperity occurs.

    5. RMB,

      "goodness has sprung from Christianity is because it is true."

      Good point, I also believe that played a major if not absolutely necessary role. I do, however, think the social and political conditions of the Middle Ages helped maintain a healthy interpretation of God's word. Juxtapose that with today's Christians who often advocate both sides of the warfare / welfare coin of modern hegemony.

    6. Sag: I am no expert on religions, but I am aware that 'general rules' always fail to apply to every aspect. ;-)

      ATL: To me, this hints at something else: Christianity is not enough. After all, christians can be found the world over. Yet only in W-Europe did it take this particular shape. There must be a (genetic) aspect that somehow amplified the effect of christianity (or vice versa). Most likely there is genetic predisposition towards "independent cooperation". Possibly caused by the development of the western tribes on the plains of Eurasia. But that part gets very obscure fast (it is a nice enough theory, but things that long ago tend to lead towards theories that cannot be verified in any way - but they sound good)

    7. Rien, I think the factor that you refer to was the politically diverse nature of Western Europe, not necessarily something genetic. The geography of Western Europe is fractured through large rivers and mountain ranges. It is that reality that caused kingdoms to be small and relatively isolated (more easily defended). The other areas where Christianity existed didn't have that geographic, political setup. That means the political culture didn't allow for freedom to flourish. I think that at least explains another piece.

    8. Rien / RMB

      If you have not seen these posts on the topic of the Germanic tribes and Christianity, you will find several here:


    9. BM: I am familiar with them. But it does not satisfy my gut-feeling for truth. It is mostly a lot of inferring of postulates. Very weak.
      Yet I have no better explanation. I am hoping that further research into polygenic scores for psychological traits may yield more tangible results.

  6. In non-Christian religions, the individual is either irrelevant or part of a greater whole - hence the "illusion" of individuality.

    Christianity (mostly) rejects this idea. The worth of the individual is "great in the sight of God". This idea of individual worth may be why Christian societies achieved what other societies did not. Valuing the individual leads to the ideas of individual self-ownership and individual ownership of property. Once the individual is secure in his property, the floodgates of prosperity and innovation are open.

    However, Christianity also teaches that real freedom and happiness can only be achieved by obedience to certain laws and those who choose disobedience will receive their "reward".

    Bionic's lines of reasoning in this regard flies in the face of the politically correct idea that all cultures are equally valid. History shows that cultures are not equally valid from the standpoints of liberty or spiritual or technical progress.

    A cultural litmus test may be this: Is the individual valued? If so, is the individual valued to the point where it impinges on the lives and property of other individuals? Since Christianity in general and German middle-age Christianity in particular has been shown to be the best example of this, it should be given preferential treatment insofar as determining what impinges on others.

  7. "[I]f God is going to work in the way that you hope, with an army of 200 million converging on Israel, He certainly doesn’t need your help. Anyway, I certainly doubt that He wants us praying for such a result."

    Dispensationalists are bizarre. Not only do they pray for Armageddon, but they vote for American politicians who lay the groundwork for bring it to fruition. Would Dispies similarly have cheered the Jews and Romans on in their scourging and crucifixion of Jesus? You know, to fulfill prophecies of His atoning death and resurrection?

    1. Tony,

      I found this great refutation of Dispensationalism at a traditional Catholic website I found recently.

      "Not only do they pray for Armageddon, but they vote for American politicians who lay the groundwork for bring it to fruition"

      Sounds kinda like left libertarian 'accelerationists' who advocate open immigration in order to collapse the American State through the inundation of its welfare programs.

    2. You can be a dispensationalist and not be for war and skeptical of modern Israel. I think it is the most reasonable interpretation of passages dealing with eschatology. Though I know there is a great diversity of thought on that.

      I admit dispensationalism does cause one to root for Israel a bit and get a little excited when current events seem to be following the Biblical pattern. That doesn't mean we want bad things to happen. But watching God work is still amazing.

      I will say we don't pray for Armageddon. We pray for God's kingdom to come like all Christians. Also, regardless of the flavor of eschatology you adhere to, there is judgment and destruction. None of us celebrate that. We celebrate Jesus' return and His goodness.

    3. Hear hear, Tony.

      Here's another legacy of the Puritans (radical Calvinists) in the US: the corporatist/statist party system. As per Rothbard:

      "Also animating both groups of progressives was a postmillennial pietist Protestantism that had conquered "Yankee" areas of northern Protestantism by the 1830s and had impelled the pietists to use local, state, and finally federal governments to stamp out "sin," to make America and eventually the world holy, and thereby to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth. The victory of the Bryanite forces at the Democratic national convention of 1896 destroyed the Democratic Party as the vehicle of "liturgical" Roman Catholics and German Lutherans devoted to personal liberty and laissez faire and created the roughly homogenized and relatively non-ideological party system we have today."

      Cheers from Amsterdam,

    4. Thank you for your comments, A Texas Libertarian. You make an interesting observation. Left-libertarian accelerationists do harbor a fatal conceit in favor of societal collapse. They're so alienated from the world as it is currently constituted that they have no problem with alien hordes invading and wreaking havoc on it.

      Sag also makes an interesting point about the Puritans' efforts to enlist the State to stamp out sin. I am reminded of Gore Vidal's line: "The Puritans didn't come to America to escape religious persecution. They came to America to escape people who were tired of being persecuted by them."

  8. "Without the authority of the Church there was no institution with the authority to stand up to the king."

    I don't think that's correct. There were basically 3 classes: church, nobility and peasants. The king was part of the nobility and as a consequence was always closely monitored and distrusted by the other nobles as they would have liked to be king too. After all, if you chop his head of at the right time and place, you might be crowned king. Therefore the king usually sought support with the people (peasants) to build a front against the other nobles. In short, the other nobles were a massive force to control the kings behaviour.

    Also, and I'm not sure if the term absolute king is well understood in the US, the absolute kings were far less powerful than any, democratically elected leader. There were f.i. no or hardly any taxes (not much to tax anyway from the peasants). So, when the king wanted to go to war, he had to convince both the nobles and the church of the necessity to pay up which obviously cools anybody's enthusiasm rapidly. Further the king could not make or change laws, he was allowed - and obliged - to uphold the law.

    To summarize, the kings were not that powerful to begin with and there was a balance of power between the 3 classes that all needed each other.

    1. Youp, your point about the nobles is correct; I think I was a bit sloppy here. Thank you.

    2. Youp: "The king was part of the nobility and as a consequence was always closely monitored and distrusted by the other nobles as they would have liked to be king too."

      This is usually credited with the propensity for kingdoms to evolve into democracies.

    3. Hi Youp,

      "there was a balance of power between the 3 classes that all needed each other."

      Your remarks, while correct, refer mostly to the period before the chaotic time of transition when the balance of power began to slide real fast. This is obvious from your omission of the fast rising class of merchants in the cities of North-Western Europe (Amsterdam, Antwerpen, Brugge). Your 3 interdependent classes basically depict the medieval situation.

      A number of things, messed up the medieval stateless order: the slow poison of the re-establishment of Roman (Justinian) Law, The devastation of societal order by the Plague, The invasion of the Ottomans, the loss of secure trade via the Mediterranean (shift to Northern cities with their fast rising independent merchant class), the fall of Constantinople, the Latin Church losing authority, fracturing of Christianity by the Reformation, nobility/princes seizing the opportunity for definitive power grabs, trend towards absolutism (countered by formation of proto nation-states, like the Seven Provinces).

      I read BM's observation in this context.

      "Without the authority of the Church there was no institution with the authority to stand up to the king."

      You two are basically talking about different historical periods. Your correction applies to the medieval situation where it concerns the relation between king and nobles in medieval times, but that was all when the Latin Church still had overarching authority. Your king/nobles correction doesn't really apply to the radically new situation from the 16th C onwards. The relatively stable rivalry between king and nobility turned into very unstable power relations that could shift in the blink on an eye. King and nobles (using the Reformation as a power tool) could join in a struggle against some Catholic ruler; a king professing to be a Catholic could turn Protestant overnight and back again, with the nobility shifting from side to side at the turn of the tide. Add to this unstable mix a bunch of Calvinist extremists with the ability to tear up whole nations (partly the reason why Hobbes had to write his über-statist Leviathan), and a embarrassingly wealthy merchant class financing insurrections left and right, new nation-states acting as safe spaces churning out extremist propaganda (Low Countries were a propaganda powerhouse) and the violent transition into modernity becomes clear.

      Cheers from Amsterdam,

    4. Not sure about BM, but I was certainly refering to the Middle Ages, not to the period there after.

    5. Certainly in the French Revolution it was the nobility's pressure on the king for more equitably power sharing which tempered the kings power. But by weakening the monarchy, the nobility created a window of opportunity for the bourgeois. The French Revolution, like the American Revolution which preceded it, was a bourgeois revolution.
      The bourgeois seized political power from both the church and the monarchy re-purposing the state to facilitate the industrialization of society. In Britain the Inclosure Acts were devised specifically to drive the peasantry out of the countryside and into the factories. In my opinion this is what set up the adversarial relationship between 'workers' and 'capitalists'. By violating the NAP right off the bat, crony capitalists permanently soured the relationship between employees and business giving rise to unions and Marxism and the inclination toward socialism so common amongst todays millinnials.

    6. Hi Youp,

      Thank you for your confirmation. I'm almost certain that BM was talking about the period when the Latin Church's authority slipped (the "Without the authority of the Church" quote above), so after the Middle Ages. Problem (if there ever was one) Solved ;)


  9. BM: "Instead, perhaps it is worth finding what is missing from liberalism that caused it so quickly to fail."

    May I suggest: The mismatch between advanced political theory and human propensity?
    I.e. liberalism offers (imo) the best economical framework. When implemented, it which will give rise to economic prosperity. However humans are ill-equipped to handle prosperity. Humans function best in a constraint environment. Remove the constraints, and the 'freedom of choice' careens them off course and drives them into a wall (sooner or later).