Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What Happened to the Promise?

Please note: I will only cover the introduction and conclusion of this piece, before adding some closing thoughts.  FVD’s work is rather detailed and thorough, and try as I might I cannot find a reasonable way to summarize it and do it justice at the same time.


Classical liberalism arose at a time when Christian orthodoxy was still vibrant.

It will be good to understand specifically what FVD means when he uses these terms:

By “classical liberalism,” I mean the liberalism of those who postulate a necessary link between liberty and objective law and justice, i.e., respect for natural persons, their property, and contractual obligations. 

By “Christian orthodoxy,” I mean the interpretation of the Bible that became authoritative within the main churches as a result of the efforts of Saint Augustine and other early church fathers.  However, I shall consider only its moral ontology.  Moreover, I shall discount Augustine’s doctrine of hereditary sin.

So, returning to the opening line: FVD is making clear his view that classical liberalism and Christian orthodoxy were connected – the former was born while the latter still held sway.  You might say it is coincidence; you might say that classical liberalism could have sprung forth (or still could spring forth) anywhere – in the environment of any other religion or no religion or multiple religions. 

You might say this, but there is no evidence for this.  So…after several thousand years of recorded history, perhaps we might take the evidence of this as reasonably meaningful; perhaps we can consider the connection as mandatory and even the order as relevant.

How does FVD make the connection?

Liberalism and Christian orthodoxy, sharing a number of fundamental ideas about the nature of man and of interpersonal relations, presuppose the same moral ontology of natural law.  The high tide of Christian orthodoxy and classical liberalism belongs to the era when natural law was the fundamental concept of all serious thought about the human world.

Unless someone in the audience has evidence that such “fundamental ideas about the nature of man and of interpersonal relations” are also shared with other religious philosophies – and given the thousands of years of evidence from which you have to find such examples – perhaps we can dispense with the idea that classical liberalism (or its offspring, libertarianism) can be had by all, is equally valid for all, etc. 

As an aside (and as I recently commented at the blog), I explored once the Japanese medieval tradition, to see if something approaching the relatively libertarian law of medieval Europe could be found. On the surface, the two societies have much in common. Yet, there was nothing in Japan that one might describe as being the roots of the NAP or natural law. Guess what was missing?

There is no sense of the worth of the individual, no sense of decentralized law – just decentralized power ([and only] toward the latter part of the period in question). There is no concept of natural law, of man made in God’s image, of oath, of law following the oldest custom and tradition, of religion as a check on political power.

China?  India?  Haven’t checked, but I am willing to make a bet.

In any case, returning to FVD.  So much for the rise of classical liberalism; what about the fall?

Both classical liberalism and Christianity went into sharp decline  from  the  later  nineteenth  century  onward,  and,  by  the  beginning  of  the  twentieth  century,  the  concept  of  natural  law  was  rapidly  losing  its  hold  on  the  intellectual  imagination.  Today, it is no longer part of the standard intellectual framework.

It was lost so rapidly that the West committed suicide in 1914.  From the West, new political philosophies – not born of this marriage of classical liberalism and Christianity, although perhaps built on the offspring with recognition of both parents (i.e. the “Christianity” part) – were offered that resulted in the deaths of perhaps 200 million people.  All of this just a few short decades after classical liberal thinking reached its peak political expression.

So, what happened?


Toward the end of the nineteenth century, liberalism was on the defensive, and, indeed, on its way to defeat in the ideological arena. Complacency and intellectual laziness on the part of liberal thinkers certainly played a role in this process, as did an unfortunate conformist disposition to try to latch on to any intellectual fad that caught the public’s eye.

Liberals tended to identify with the status quo even as the status quo evolved into one that accepted “democratic sovereignty, republicanism, and ‘political rights’ of the citizen in the nation-state.”  While this conforms more toward the understanding of the term “liberal” today, it still doesn’t explain why. 

Closing Thoughts

What happened to the promise of classical liberalism?

While FVD might address this in other of his works, the answer is not clear from this piece.  One can be inferred, perhaps.  He begins the piece by connecting classical liberalism and Christian orthodoxy.  But the damage to this Christian orthodoxy did not begin with the Progressive Era or even the founders of the Enlightenment (and it seems to me that it is with the Progressive Era that FVD finds the roots of the destruction, although I could be wrong on this).

One could say that the damage began with the Renaissance and Reformation, but it would seem fair to suggest that the damage began even before this – before Martin Luther found a hammer and nail.  After all, he wasn’t the first to raise legitimate concerns about the role and activities of the Church.

In any case, it seems to me that Robert Nisbet has captured the “why” of the fall as well as anyone I have read, in his examination of the gradual elimination of intermediating institutions – at the same time freeing the individual from the likes of family, church, guild, and freeing the State from competing governance institutions.  This process began at the latest with the Reformation and Renaissance, certainly with causes that pre-date this.

Which really points to it: while it sounds ideal to many, freedom cannot be had absent some governance institutions.  Our choices come down to two: various, decentralizing institutions to which we voluntarily conform (let’s call this acceptance of a common tradition and culture), or the State.  We don’t get to make up a third or choose “none-of-the-above.”

The traditional right would point to the former; the traditional left, the latter.  These same conditions and choices apply to libertarian thinking, try as many libertarians might to say that the NAP is freely available to all.  And it seems to me that the differences between this traditional view of the right and this traditional view of the left play a larger role in determining our “freedom” than does any difference born by the level of purity in applying the non-aggression principle.


  1. "There is no sense of the worth of the individual, no sense of decentralized law – just decentralized power..."

    One thing that I've been trying to understand is this rise of individualism.

    Up until the enlightenment in the modern west, the world was very socially collectivist. Most of the world still is today (this shouldn't be confused with political collectivism).

    It seems obvious that the shift towards individualism in the West cannot be entirely due to Christianity, as Christinaity has flourished in other areas of the world without this shift. So maybe its necessary but insufficient. Maybe the key lies in what you're working through in Russell and Nisbet.

    Then the other aspect of this that I'm wrestling with understanding: can you be socially collectivist and have a robust respect for the individual, property rights, etc? I tend to think you can, as I don't see how deriving your identity from a group vs. yourself necessarily precludes respect for those things.

    I think the main takeaway from reading your blog is that the best "system" respects aspects of both. Respect for the individual without becoming "atomistic," while working within cultural bounds.

    1. “It seems obvious that the shift towards individualism in the West cannot be entirely due to Christianity, as Christianity has flourished in other areas of the world without this shift.”

      It cannot even be Christianity (broadly speaking) as Christianity (influenced by Germanic tradition) flourished even in the West well before the Enlightenment. The individualism in the West came on as a consequence of the Reformation, at least that is where my reading has brought me thus far.

      Christianity elsewhere (e.g. Orthodox Christianity) was not affected and modified by Germanic tribal honor, therefore did not develop toward the same social and political methods; Christianity elsewhere may have been affected (most certainly was) by other factors, but I have not examined this at it is not germane to my focus.

      “Respect for the individual without becoming "atomistic," while working within cultural bounds.”

      I think the best traditions of Western Civilization are required. Thereafter, let culture evolve naturally, without the forceful hand of the State purposefully and willfully crushing it with its every action.

    2. BM,

      "The individualism in the West came on as a consequence of the Reformation, at least that is where my reading has brought me thus far."

      I came across this essay, or transcript of a lecture, by Lord Acton entitled, "The History of Freedom in Christianity." It is a must read, though it is a bit long.

      "In the height of their power the Romans became aware of a race of men that had not abdicated freedom in the hands of a monarch; and the ablest writer of the empire pointed to them with a vague and bitter feeling that, to the institutions of these barbarians, not yet crushed by despotism, the future of the world belonged. "

      "The only influence capable of resisting the feudal hierarchy was the ecclesiastical hierarchy; and they came into collision when the progress of feudalism threatened the independence of the Church, by subjecting the prelates severally to that form of personal dependence on the Kings which was peculiar to the Teutonic state... To that conflict of four hundred years we owe the rise of civil liberty. If the Church had continued to buttress the thrones of the Kings whom it anointed, or if the struggle had terminated speedily in an undivided victory, all Europe would have sunk down under a Byzantine or Muscovite despotism."

      "But the Irish and the Scots refused it; and the address in which the Scottish parliament informed the Pope of their resolution shows how firmly the popular doctrine had taken root. Speaking of Robert Bruce, they say: “Divine Providence, the laws and customs of the country, which we will defend till death, and the choice of the people, have made him our King. If he should ever betray his principles, and consent that we should be subjects of the English king, then we shall treat him as an enemy, as the subverter of our rights and his own, and shall elect another in his place. We care not for glory or for wealth, but for that liberty which no true man will give up but with his life.”"

    3. Just a few more:

      "Looking back over the space of 1,000 years, which we call the Middle Ages to get an estimate of the work they had done, if not towards perfection in their institutions, at least towards attaining the knowledge of political truth, this is what we find:—Representative government, which was unknown to the ancients, was almost universal. The methods of election were crude; but the principle that no tax was lawful that was not granted by the class that paid it; that is, that taxation was inseparable from representation, was recognized, not as the privilege of certain countries, but as the right of all. Not a prince in the world, said Philip de Commines, can levy a penny without the consent of the people. Slavery was almost everywhere extinct; and absolute power was deemed more intolerable and more criminal than slavery. The right of insurrection was not only admitted but defined, as a duty sanctified by religion."

      On Protestantism:

      "The tide was running fast when the Reformation began at Wittenberg, and it was to be expected that Luther’s influence would stem the flood of absolutism. For he was confronted everywhere by the compact alliance of the Church with the State; and great part of his country was governed by hostile potentates who were prelates of the court of Rome... but the substance of his political teaching was eminently conservative; the Lutheran states became the stronghold of rigid immobility; and Lutheran writers constantly condemned the democratic literature that arose in the second age of the Reformation."

      "Zwingli indeed did not shrink from the mediaeval doctrine that evil magistrates must be cashiered; but he was killed too early to act either deeply or permanently on the political character of Protestantism. Calvin, although a republican, judged that the people are unfit to govern themselves, and declared the popular assembly an abuse that ought to be abolished. He desired an aristocracy of the elect, armed with the means of punishing not only crime but vice and error. For he thought that the severity of the mediaeval laws was insufficient for the need of the times; and he favoured the most irresistible weapon which the inquisitorial procedure put into the hand of the government, the right of subjecting prisoners to intolerable torture, not because they were guilty, but because their guilt could not be proved."

      "The direct political influence of the Reformation effected less than has been supposed. Most states were strong enough to control it. Some, by intense exertion, shut out the pouring flood. Others, with consummate skill, diverted it to their own uses."

      "When the last of the Reformers died, religion, instead of emancipating the nations, had become an excuse for the criminal art of despots. Calvin preached, and Bellarmine lectured; but Machiavelli reigned. "

      "That great political idea, sanctifying freedom and consecrating it to God, teaching men to treasure the liberties of others as their own, and to defend them for the love of justice and charity, more than as a claim of right, has been the soul of what is great and good in the progress of the last two hundred years. The cause of religion, even under the unregenerate influence of worldly passion, had as much to do as any clear notions of policy in making this country the foremost of the free."

      I'm not quoting Acton here to defend all of his views, that would take a lifetime of education; I'm simply providing it as a resource.

    4. ATL

      Those Acton quotes are quite a relief after the [notorious Swiss occultist] scare you gave me the other day ;)

      And don't worry, I'll revisit your reading of the book you mentioned in due time, for when you asked if you should go on, you really should have in order to provide a clear understanding of its subversive gnostic content and purpose.
      So as not to derail this thread and after more important things have been said by other commenters, I'll be back in due time for one more attempt at Jung-excorcism, for that gnosticist spirit really needs to be exposed for what it is.

      Now for the important stuff (or better, more relevant to this topic), your Acton quotes are a real collection of nuggets.

      I'd like to add one of special interest. It's about the position of the German medieval kings and it comes right after the first quote you provided:

      "Their kings, when they had kings, did not preside [at] their councils; they were sometimes elective; they were sometimes deposed; and they were bound by oath to act in obedience to the general wish. They enjoyed real authority only in war. This primitive Republicanism, which admits monarchy as an occasional incident, but holds fast to the collective supremacy of all free men, of the constituent authority over all constituted authorities, is the remote germ of parliamentary government."

      Not sure about that last thing concerning the "germ of parliamentary government,". It is correct, but the flash forward makes it sound like a conflation, with an important part in the middle left out (the part where medieval tradition was shattered).

      In the context of this topic and as an addition to the quote about the Germanic kings, I'd also like to add that these kings had the responsibility to act as the defenders of tradition and in particular the traditional medieval faith of the people.

      This is where the Reformation signalled another dramatic break with tradition: many kings (nobles) pulled a 180 and decided that the faith they fancied was to be the faith of their subjects (and with that, the local king was no longer a leader among equals under one commonly held Natural Law).

      FVD explained this as partly due to the "slow poison" (my interpretation) of the rediscovery of Roman Law at the universities, roughly 11th/12th C [24:03 lecture at bottom].
      The poison was contained for some time within the confines of medieval academia and also by the Christian natural law "filter," put on it, but when that was removed, the game was on, so to speak.

      My take is (start speculative rant) that in part, the later non-medieval forms of "representational" government (like requested by e.g. Dutch nobles/princes, leading to parliament) were a reaction of ambitious local rulers to the Absolutist claims of monarchs. Acton envisions the germs here for parliamentary government, and he's correct in that, but we might keep in mind here, that "zhe people" are nowhere in sight (as they would have been in medieval conditions); it is nobles/local princes against Absolutist monarchs.

      These local princes didn't operate within and could no longer appeal to one commonly held Natural Moral Law framework because of the Roman Law poison that had really set in by now. That may be one reason why the Reformation spread so fast among the nobility and princes. It was a political force with some promise against Absolutism. Some of them tried to wield it to good use like William of Orange, who later came to regret it because of the Calvinist intolerance against Catholics in his envisioned Kingdom.

      Anyway, here's FVD about the "piece in the middle" that's missing in the Acton quote. I'm pretty sure Acton would have agreed with the points made here:

      Frank van Dun, "On the Philosophical Foundations of Libertarianism" PFS 2015


  2. "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." - H.L. Mencken

    Maybe classical liberalism was simply the most ingenious way of coalescing power and wealth in a centralized state and of convincing subject populations that liberty was a commodity only offered by the enlightened democratic state. Perhaps this is why many classical liberals and revolutionaries painted the traditional institutions in with the old monarchical regimes. Could this be why the revolutions often happened, as you pointed out, when the old monarchies began implementing liberal reforms? They didn't want their 'thunder' stolen?

    I'm not saying the above is the truth, but maybe its partly true. I think much of what happened was that the Christian community became less and less focused on God and salvation and more and more focused on the world and materialism just like the heresies of old. Rational criticism of church doctrines (from within) toward improving the Christian faith transitioned into critical attacks on the Church (from without) toward implementing faith in Reason. Souls became 'spirits' and religion transformed into spiritualism and finally to secularism.

    It is such a complex question. Nisbet's analysis adds such an important component. Carl Jung's analysis of the rise of totalitarianism arrived at a similar conclusion from the perspective of psychology.

    Chapter two of his book, "The Undiscovered Self," is entitled "Religion as the Counterbalance to Mass Mindedness." In the preceding chapter, I found this gem as to the cause of mass mindedness:

    "Apart from agglomerations of huge masses of people, in which the individual disappears anyway, one of the chief factors responsible for psychological mass-mindedness is scientific rationalism, which robs the plight of the individual in modern society of his foundations and his dignity. As a social unit he has lost his individuality and become a mere abstract number in the bureau of statistics. He can only play the role of an interchangeable unit of infinitesimal importance." - Jung

    Note: mass-mindedness can be defined, in Jung's words, as a state of mind which "grants the individual a right to exist only in so far as the individual is a function of the State."

    1. Sorry ATL,

      But the title & quote you gave are still without the necessary context to fully grasp Jung's actual purpose. And no, Jung does not arrive at a similar conclusion, quite the contrary. Already one page into the second chapter, he starts his long-winded turn:

      "The doctrine of the individual’s dependence on God makes just as high a claim upon him as the world does. It may even happen that the absoluteness of this claim estranges him from the world in the same way he is estranged from himself when he succumbs to the collective mentality. He can forfeit his judgment and power of decision in the former case (for the sake of religious doctrine) quite as much as in the latter. This is the goal the religions openly aspire to [..]"

      See where he's headed? Taken at face value, the title (of the 2nd Chapter, not the book) is promising and seems to resonate with Nisbet and Van Dun. Combined with the quote you gave, it might mislead others into believing that Jung argues the case for religion against the state, in about the same positive way as libertarians have done with regard to the medieval Church.

      Knowing where Jung is coming from, one would already suspect he'd do nothing of the kind. And sure enough, the actual direction he takes in the pages that follow is quite a departure.


    2. ATL

      “Maybe classical liberalism was simply the most ingenious way of coalescing power and wealth in a centralized state…”

      I think many of the kings, nobles, etc., under Christendom found Protestantism a convenient way to secure monopoly power. I think the concepts of political individualism grew out of the concept of individual salvation, seems to me much more an emphasis in Protestantism than Catholicism. I think bright thinkers took over from there.

      I think that once these kings found a way to boot the Church out of a position of competing governance, they then found out how to take advantage of every new idea. In other words, once they had control, they could co-opt every new movement. It seems that breaking down society into nothing more than a mass of individuals was an easy philosophy for power to co-opt.

      “Rational criticism of church doctrines (from within) toward improving the Christian faith transitioned into critical attacks on the Church (from without) toward implementing faith in Reason.”

      I suspect (given the human nature of people in power), but cannot say authoritatively: the criticism from within was brushed aside (regardless of the validity) because it was a threat to the powerful in the Church. Were these Church leaders more concerned with the proper shepherding of the faith and the flock, perhaps Christendom would not have suffered the same fate. I know this is a broad generalization, but I suspect not far off.

    3. Sag,

      Although his analysis is certainly not identical to Nisbet's, Jung's basic thesis of religion as a bulwark against the forces of mass tyranny holds in a undeniably similar fashion.

      The main difference is that Nisbet focused on the social aspect of religion as a collective intermediary between the individual and the state, and Jung focused on the psychological aspect of religion which provides meaning and direction to the individual in light of his insignificance to the collective and against its directives. Nisbet points toward a collectivistic solution toward the evils of mass individualism and Jung points to an individualistic solution toward the evils of mass collectivism. Both are describing the same thing from different angles: one from psychology and one from sociology. They're speaking past each other, confused by their definitions and equivocations of 'individualism' and 'collectivism.'

      Not convinced? Here are some quotes from the book I mentioned that make my case bullet proof.

      "In order to free the fiction of the sovereign State – in other words, the whims of those who manipulate it – from every wholesome restriction, all sociopolitical movements tending in this direction invariably try to cut the ground from under the religions. For, in order to turn the individual into a function of the State, his dependence on anything beside the State must be taken from him." - p 13

      "It is not ethical principles, however lofty, or creeds, however orthodox, that lay the foundations for the freedom and autonomy of the individual, but simply and solely the empirical awareness, the incontrovertible experience of an intensely personal, reciprocal relationship between man and an extramundane [transcendent] authority which acts as a counterpoise to the “world” and its “reason.”" - p 15-16

      "The believer, on the other hand, while admitting that the State has a moral and factual claim, confesses to the belief that not only man but the State that rules him is subject to the overlordship of “God” and that, in case of doubt, the supreme decision will be made by God and not by the State." - p 16

      "Just as man, as a social being, cannot in the long run exist without a tie to the community, so the individual will never find the real justification for his existence, and his own spiritual and moral autonomy, anywhere except in an extramundane principle capable of relativizing the overpowering influence of external factors. The individual who is not anchored in God can offer no resistance on his own resources to the physical and moral blandishments of the world. For this he needs the evidence of inner, transcendent experience which alone can protect him from the otherwise inevitable submersion in the mass." p 16

      Shall I go on? =)

      I'm not saying Jung was a defender of Christianity; he wasn't, but he did recognize the vital psychological role it played in the fight against mass minded tyrannies which sprang forth in its absence.

    4. ATL

      "Shall I go on?"

      Like I said in my other comment here, you really should have, because the real and corrosive message of the book only starts to emerge from the second chapter onwards (not quoted by you). The Jung cult is useful though, as an example of precisely the kind of gnostic superstition, undermining the foundations of Western Civilization as outlined here at BM's.


    5. Sag,

      I've read the whole thing. I'm not saying I agree with everything, but I think there are insights in the book that are worthwhile. Whether or not the man was an occultist (or a leader of a cult) I cannot say, but I can say the question is immaterial in analyzing the man's arguments. Look don't worry about me Sag. I'm not a Jungian; I'm a Texan, a Southerner, a Christian and a Rothbardian.

      Rothbard was the intellectual par excellence, and one of the things I've come to admire so much about him is that he was always willing to look for insights even among the works of his enemies. His reading and popularizing of the socialist Gabriel Kolko's work of the Progressive Era is a prime example of this. I aspire to be like him in this regard.

      "Confronting this development in the twentieth century of our Christian Era, the Western world stands with its heritage of Roman law, the treasures of Judaeo-Christian ethics grounded on metaphysics, and its ideal of the inalienable rights of man. Anxiously it asks itself the question: How can this development [20th century totalitarianism] be brought to a standstill or put into reverse? It is useless to pillory the socialist dictatorship as utopian and to condemn its economic principles as unreasonable, because, in the first place, the criticizing West has only itself to talk to, its arguments being heard only on this side of the Iron Curtain, and, in the second place, any economic principles you like can be put into practice so long as you are prepared to accept the sacrifices they entail." -23

      Can you find anything to disagree with above? Seems he recognizes the old and good traditions of the West.

      "So far as one can see, only one possibility remains, and that is a breakdown of power from within, which must, however, be left to follow its own inner development. Any support from outside at present would have little effect, in view of the existing security measures and the danger of nationalistic reactions." -24

      He was in favor of a non-interventionist foreign policy apparently.

      "Naturally, society has an indisputable right to protect itself against arrant subjectivisms, but, in so far as society itself is composed of de-individualized persons, it is completely at the mercy of ruthless individualists. Let it band together into groups and organizations as much as it likes – it is just this banding together and the resultant extinction of the individual personality that makes it succumb so readily to a dictator. A million zeros joined together do not, unfortunately, add up to one. Ultimately everything depends on the quality of the individual, but the fatally shortsighted habit of our age is to think only in terms of large numbers and mass organizations, though one would think that the world had seen more than enough of what a well-disciplined mob can do in the hands of a single madman." - 39

      Here is a balanced view of a society's right to preserve its traditions and culture with a caution against unthinking mass organization.

      "It is, unfortunately, only too clear that if the individual is not truly regenerated in spirit, society cannot be either, for society is the sum total of individuals in need of redemption." -40

      I can't disagree here either.

    6. Sag,

      Here is where I can disagree:

      "But if, for instance, the statement that Christ rose from the dead is to be understood not literally but symbolically, then it is capable of various interpretations that do not collide with knowledge and do not impair the meaning of the statement. The objection that understanding it symbolically puts an end to the Christian’s hope of immortality is invalid, because long before the coming of Christianity mankind believed in a life after death and therefore had no need of the Easter event as a guarantee of immortality. The danger that a mythology understood too literally, and as taught by the Church, will suddenly be repudiated lock, stock and barrel is today greater than ever. Is it not time that the Christian mythology, instead of being wiped out, was understood symbolically for once?" - 27

      In the words of Fannery O'Conner, "if it's just a symbol, to hell with it."

    7. ATL, if Sag finds a single thing on which to disagree with someone, he throws the entire intellectual contribution of that individual out... see Jordan Peterson!


    8. BM,

      Yeah I hear you. We just can't expect everyone to be Catholic libertarian medievalist decentralizationists. I understand where he's coming from, but whether or not Jung was an occultist, it's not like he was handing out suicide cocktails. So what if he had a following and they enjoyed getting together to discuss their shared intellectual and spiritual pursuits?

      Jung encapsulates a lot of knowledge from his extensive lifelong study of ancient mythology and the occult, and I find his positions on some important things to be insightful. Heck, there are even things to like about Nietzsche, let alone Jung.

      All these fathers of psychoanalysis perceived the cultural neurosis of society's abandonment of God and religion. They recognized it was a problem when society 'lost it's faith.' When Nietzsche said "God is dead" he wasn't celebrating it; he was just making a metaphorical diagnosis based on the mass apostasy around him. Both suggested remedies to make the human psyche whole again, but neither had it right, because they weren't Christian. They thought they could come up with some sort of intellectual morality or spirituality. Their failure, in my estimation, was ensured because most people don't find meaning in intellectual pursuits.

      I believe Christianity is the only thing that can save the West; the NAP is just one arrow in its massive quiver. I would look to the Catholic church first, but it's trending in the wrong direction in a vain attempt to stay relevant under the direction of a democratic socialist.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm in favor of the Catholic way of life. I'm what I call Diet-Catholic, or Episcopal. My wife is Catholic, and we just had a baby girl who we're going to raise Catholic, and I've thought seriously about converting too.

    9. ATL

      Tying up loose ends (part I):

      In Jung's postwar book (did you forget about his flirt with Nazism? Not really non-interventionist I'd say) notice the labelling of "religions" as a doctrine of the individual's dependence on God. There's Jung projecting his strict Protestant family mileu upon "religions" in general. Thus Jung reduces religion to institutions seeking to turn people into worldforsaking weirdo's, divorced from self-actualization and agency. With the two parties, state and "religions", thus firmly framed as rivals trying to save "the individual" from himself, Jung has set the stage for his "third"-way solution, which is his gnostic occultism. But not before he has dispatched of the Church as sheperding people who aren't even "religious" -in Jung's distorted sense- for they only have a "creed" instead of religion, you see? A creed which, dixit Jung, "does nothing to give the individual any foundation".

      In sum:

      When it mattered most, Jung was far removed from advocating anything resembling non-interventionism, since he courted nazism. Of course, it's very convenient to write with hindsight in 1953 and change position.

      Jung claimed to have founded the true "religion", which turned out to be neo-gnostic occultism behind a veil of "analytical psychology". He thought of himself as a prophet and the cult that he created was sponsored by rich US ladies, most notably the daughter of John D. Rockefeller.

      So in conclusion: the title you gave appeared to echo the article's wider point about the Church and religion. Put into its actual context, the very opposite is true.

      To other readers I say, save yourself from this guru, perhaps read about the Jung cult someday:

      The mysterious Jung: his cult, the lies he told, and the occult

  3. > So…after several thousand years of recorded history, perhaps we might take the evidence of this as reasonably meaningful;

    Though I very much like to agree with this, there is a logical error: Someone must be the first. And this is very much a winner-takes-all thing, i.e. the society to develop this the first, gets to have the world.

    It may very well be that there will be no repeat. I _feel_ a certain kind of uniqueness about this in the resulting technological developments: we are consuming resources that now will not be available to another society that may come after us. This is true especially for the energy sector, the exhaustion of easy coal and easy oil -which were needed as a kickstarter- will prevent a do over of our historic achievements.

    1. Rein,

      I used the qualifier "reasonably"; my context was a political philosophy found only in the West and given certain foundations - not the exhausting of coal.

      Do you find it reasonable to conclude that Classical Liberalism might some day come forward in some other soil? Maybe, but I would like some evidence more than a well-sounding theory. Have any?

    2. CL in other cultures?

      I think it would. It is present as a (sort of) platonic ideal out there. Somebody, some culture would find it one day. It may have taken another 100.000 years or so, but one day the stars would align and it would happen.

      Evolution is always looking for a better mousetrap, and CL is probably the best mousetrap when it comes to expanding a species. So it would have existed someday, somewhere.

    3. Maybe in 100,000 years? I feel much better now.

    4. Only after the discovery of CL would you be able to say that ;-)

      Path dependency runs high for anything that we do or say.

      Btw: have you ever read "Earth Abides"?
      I have never read a book that put things in their (human) perspective so well. It starts off as an after-the-apocalipse adventure, but.. man.. does it put all our efforts in the proper perspective.. hurtfully so..

    5. No. Too many books, too little time.

      Well, that plus my day job.

  4. BM

    Funny how a sobering truth can be uplifting nonetheless. So cheers to this:

    "And it seems to me that the differences between this traditional view of the right and this traditional view of the left play a larger role in determining our “freedom” than does any difference born by the level of purity in applying the non-aggression principle."

    At this point there are those who wish to highlight the beautiful simplicity of the NAP and trust to the conceptualization of property rights in legal(ist) rules for societal management.

    They'll concede that sure, culture, tradition, intermediating institutions and all.. are important as well, but those are to be viewed as "tools" for filling up the holes and gaps around and beyond the non-agression theorem. So all is not easy, but no worries, let's stick to legal conceptualizations of the NAP for now and should it ever come to any real-world implementation, we'll trust to culture (you know "norms" and "values") as a filler and everything will be fine.

    (as in "Senatu deliberante Saguntum periit")

    1. I find the NAP beautifully simple. My beef, with those who believe contract can solve all, is that they ruin this simplicity by placing burdens on it which it was never designed to carry.

      They destroy the beauty by crushing it with the weight of bringing salvation to man, of solving all mans' problems.

      And, after my journey this far, I have come to conclude that it is the culture and tradition that comes first, not the NAP.

    2. Hi BM,

      Fully agreed.

      Here's some telling visuals to go with your article.
      Arguing the minutiae of imagined libertarian cases, while in the real world.. a fine example from HHH's PFS meeting in 2015:

      Daniels, van Dun, Dürr, Kinsella, Hoppe - Discussion, Q & A

      Notice the dissonating, real world example given by Frank van Dun (in his best English) about the attempted destruction of tradition in the Netherlands, an attempt that applies to all of the European nations.

      So that's the hard reality on the ground: actual Western traditions, intermediate institutions sometimes dating back to the Middle Ages and indeed whole Western nations have been targeted for controlled demolition, their destruction in full swing.
      But that's old Europe and therefore.. we really must get back to arguing the finer details of NAP conceptualization in a yet-to-be constructed private property society.

      This i.m.o. is one of many ways to forget about the promise.


    3. Bionic,

      You stated "And, after my journey this far, I have come to conclude that it is the culture and tradition that comes first, not the NAP. "

      First, thank you for sharing your summary! I would ask please, IF your culture and tradition were sacrosanct on your own property and were shared by others in a community via private contract, would not the NAP protect your property, your culture, traditions and community from others of a different culture, IF the supreme law of both were the Non Aggression Principle?

      Sincerely desiring to understand,


    4. No.

      "Sincerely desiring to understand..."

      I have my doubts.

  5. Have you read Peterson's "Maps of Meaning?"

    1. No. Too many books, too little time.

    2. It's a very difficult read but the book goes to the heart of your consideration of culture.

  6. BM

    Speaking of Promise Lost and the damage done: the Reformation, French Revolution and Bolshevik Revolution were probably not the massive popular uprisings they've been made out to be.

    Same thing applies to both world wars. The West (i.e. Europe in this case) committed suicide from 1914 onwards, yes. I've found that the complementary view that it was also suicided, adds to my understanding of the whole period.

    Like asking: did the Twin Towers collapse as we've been told over and over, or were they collapsed? Makes quite a difference.


  7. It seems to me that collectivism destroyed the promise of classical liberalism. I haven't read as much as you BM but what I have read leads me to believe that Marxist history or many of his assumptions were adopted by the intellectuals of the 19th century. It was assumed by most that capitalism would evolve into socialism even without class struggle or revolution. They assumed that efficiency would lead to monopoly and that the "only" way to manage industrial monopoly would be through the State.

    Therefore the leaders of the West in late 19th/early 20th century were either operating in a way to hasten collectivism or if not that to passively manage the transition to it in a way that minimized tyranny (like Orwell).

    Your articles have opened up a whole other part of that discussion to me. Thanks.