See! See! I Told You!
What's Wrong With...? (Fun With Google)

James Kalb: The Tyranny of Liberalism

This is not a review, because I'm only on page 68 of this book. But I can't resist quoting from it. So far it seems to be the most incisive and thorough critique of liberalism I've seen. It's plain that liberalism, the doctrine of maximum freedom for all, is in fact exhibiting a paradoxical drift toward tyranny. And this book explains a great deal about what's happening, and how and why it's happening. I find myself wanting to quote great sections of it. But here's a taste. I'm sure I will be posting more excerpts.

So dominant is liberalism that it becomes invisible. Judges feel free to read it into the law without historical or textual warrant because it seems so obviously right. To oppose it in any basic way is to act incomprehensibly, in a way explicable, it is thought, only by reference to irrationality, ignorance, or evil. The whole of the nonliberal past is comprehensively blackened. Traditional ways are treated as the simple negation of unquestionable goods liberalism favors. Obvious declines in civility, morality, and cultural achievement are ignored, denied, or redefined as advances. Violence is said to be the fault of the persistence of sex roles, war of religion, theft of social inequality, suicide of stereotyping. Destruction of sex and historical community as ordering principles--and thus of settled family arrangements and cultural forms--is presented as a supremely desirable goal. The clear connection among the decline of traditional habits, standards, and social ties; the disintegration of institutions like the family; and other forms of personal and social disorder is ignored or treated as beside the point.

(Thanks to Rob G for having recommended the book to me some time ago.)


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

As Shigalov says in Demons, "I begin by proposing absolute freedom, but end in absolute despotism." He seems despairing of this result, but sees no way around it.

This (the quote) is why I wonder if we are past the point of being heard in the public square until something dreadful happens.


We still have the right to speak, but not to be heard. It's not clear whether we'll continue to have the right to speak. The paragraph immediately after the one I quoted talks about the widespread sense of dismay about these developments, and the way this sense of dismay simply does not count for the rulers. It's only evidence that much work remains for them in ridding the rest of us of our prejudices and superstitions.

James Kalb writes for Crisis Magazine. In his latest column, How Long Will Secular Liberalism Endure?, he strikes a long-term hopeful note:

Secular liberalism makes maximum equal satisfaction its highest good. That principle is what gives it popular appeal, but it means ever-greater demands on public resources, since people require more and more to be satisfied, and it also means ever-less discipline, loyalty, and public spirit to support the system, since it undermines ideals of love and sacrifice.

Secular liberalism lacks a grounded principle of authority, and its aspiration to universal satisfaction makes it adverse to widespread use of threats and force. As a result, its basic method for maintaining control is a system of payoffs, propaganda, and ever-more comprehensive regulation. That method has mostly been rather successful. Material benefits have been funded through the extraordinary productivity of capitalist economies in a technological age, propaganda facilitated by alliance with the mass media and the expertise and training industry (otherwise known as the educational system), and regulation made effective by a comparatively high degree of bureaucratic discipline and efficiency.

None of those resources are infinite or everlasting. ...

So it seems that during the coming decades it will be increasingly difficult for secular liberalism to maintain itself among the people as a minimally satisfying system of practice and belief. Still, historical change is generally slow, and liberalism has been very effective at weakening its competitors, so it is likely to be with us in an ever-less appealing and successful form for some time to come. The best analogy to the period we may have before us is therefore the Brezhnev era in the Soviet Union.

Yes, I saw that a couple of days ago and thought I might post it, along with another piece that's sort of a companion to it, something about dark it is, "The Darkness Gathers".

It is particularly infuriating to have our opponents insist that the increasing evils which are clearly the result of their policy are really due to the other things they cite. So infuriating.

The reasons their programs haven't worked are always that they haven't yet been given enough money, and reactionaries keep obstructing their efforts. More money and fewer reactionaries are needed.

If only people wouldn't keep sabotaging the efforts to build a better future ...

Perhaps they can be educated. And if that doesn't work, re-educated.

So, the question is, what are we to do? Do we keep trying to be heard, or do we expend our energy on something else? The answer for me is something else, but I'm not sure it's the answer for everyone--you specifically, Maclin, probably ought to be still writing about it.

This morning's reading from the office of readings by John Chrysostom really gets to me every year. I'm pretty sure that what I am supposed to be doing has to do with this.


What?! You mean we need to do something besides complain?! I hadn't thought of that...

There's never any doubt that the greatest contribution to social renewal we can make is to be the best Christians we can. More specifically than that, well, as you say it's not the same thing for everybody.

That's funny. but for me that's exactly it. If I were to write about this stuff, it would be purely complaining. I don't think I could make any contribution that would make a difference. That is probably not the case for you. Of course sometimes you have to do what you're given to do whether it makes a difference or not. But what I wrote wouldn't have any value in itself.

That's funny. but for me that's exactly it. If I were to write about this stuff, it would be purely complaining. I don't think I could make any contribution that would make a difference. That is probably not the case for you. Of course sometimes you have to do what you're given to do whether it makes a difference or not. But what I wrote wouldn't have any value in itself.

I don't know that I have anything of much value to add. There aren't many people who read what I write and 90% of you probably agree with me already. And really, this book seems to be the last word, as far as analyzing the phenomenon is concerned. I'm about halfway through it now. Toward the end he apparently has some suggestions for counter-efforts, which will be interesting.

I think it's quite right to "complain" against tyranny. At least, I think it's right for me. For me, it's part of being a good Christian. Not to say that everyone must do it. And it's not all I do!

Let us know what he think the counter-efforts should be, Maclin. That would be of some help I'm sure.

You'll definitely be hearing more about this book from me.

oh good!

well, that's one less blog I will be reading in the next month!

Sorry! Is the quote that bad? It won't be the *only* thing I write about.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)