I am sorry to have to report the death of another old friend, Gary North, who passed away a few days after his eightieth birthday.
I joined Gary North’s community many years ago, a few years before the birth of bionic mosquito (which now is itself approaching twelve years). He was one of the most important influences in my education and, therefore, to this blog.
I recall his having recommended three books to his general audience, books that he said had greatly influenced him. I have written extensively on each of these three books, and for those interested, the posts can be found here; I only touch on each of these here:
Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life
Barzun offered a sweeping history of Western history since the Reformation and Renaissance. His work helped to shape my understanding of both the good and the bad of the Enlightenment. He also touches on the liberty that was developed in the earlier, so-called, Middle Ages. His book can be considered an encyclopedic reference for the time in question.
Martin Van Creveld, The Rise and Decline of the State
“Government” and “the state” are two entirely different things. He made clear that there was no such thing as a “state” before 1300, with the institution taking full form only in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia.
Thereafter, until the time of the French Revolution, the state instrumentalized – bureaucracy, armed forces, statistics, police, prisons. Until 1945, the state was seen as some kind of ideal. Thereafter, the entire concept has been in decline. He offered a prescient insight, as one of the possibilities that would follow this decline:
At worst, the tables may be turned, and people may find themselves living under, or governed by, organizations that are less accountable and more authoritarian.
This possibility has become the reality. We see this clearly today.
Nisbet greatly advanced my understanding of the value of community and a common culture if one is actually pursuing liberty. While the non-aggression principle offers what not to do (don’t hit first, don’t take my stuff), what is it that is necessary to do in order to move toward liberty? Nisbet helped move me in this direction by offering an answer to this question.
Regular readers of this blog can quickly see how each of these three books has greatly influenced my thinking.
North also influenced my understanding on Antonio Gramsci (here and here), which further contributed to my view that it is, in fact, the Christian culture (and Christianity more fundamentally) that can be the only foundation for liberty. There are many libertarians who, like Gramsci, see Christianity as an impediment toward their respective ends. For these libertarians, as an impediment toward liberty; for Gramsci, as an impediment toward communism. Only one of these can be right, and as Christian culture has been in decline, it is obvious which one of the two is right.
North was far along in understanding this cultural reality long before I ever paid any attention to it. From the official eulogy, written by Craig Bulkeley: