Freedom Quote of the Week: 2006 Archives

Week of December 31, 2006

My young colleague Jessie Creel has an even younger sister, Mary, who sounds like a future libertarian debater. Jessie tells me that a speaker from Fannie Mae recently visited Mary's 7th-grade class at a Maryland Catholic school to discuss poverty. The speaker said, "I love my job because I make money helping people." And Mary raised her hand and said, "What job doesn't help people?"

Sounds like a natural economist.

— David Boaz, "Seventh (Grade) Sense," Cato @ Liberty, December 23, 2006.

Week of December 24, 2006

Ikon of the Nativity, "written" by Eileen McGuckin

Merry Christmas from the Freedom Quote of the Week!

Week of December 17, 2006

Consider the person who lets frivolities dominate him completely, until he becomes quite beside himself with all his pointless amusements and stupid crazes; such an individual may believe himself to be living happily, but the more he is convinced that this is so, the more desperately miserable his existence really is.

— Cicero.

Week of December 10, 2006

For any traveler who has any taste of his own, the only useful guide-book will be the one which he himself has written. [...]

It is only after having scrupulously done what Baedeker commands ... that the tourist can compile that personal guide which is the only guide for him. If he had but possessed it on his first tour! ... The personal guide-book must be the fruit of bitter personal experience.

— Aldous Huxley, "Guide-Books," Along the Road, 1925.

Week of December 3, 2006

One does not fight socialism by criticizing only some accidental features of its schemes. In attacking many socialists' stand on divorce and birth control, or their ideas about art and literature, one does not refute socialism. It is not enough to disapprove of the Marxian assertions that the theory of relativity or the philosophy of Bergson or psycho-analysis is "bourgeois" moonshine. Those who find fault with Bolshevism and Nazism only for their anti-Christian leanings implicitly endorse all the rest of these bloody schemes.

On the other hand, it is sheer stupidity to praise the totalitarian regimes for alleged achievements which have no reference whatever to their political and economic principles. It is questionable whether the observations that in Fascist Italy the railway trains ran on schedule and the bug population of second-rate hotel beds was decreasing, were correct or not; but it is in any case of no importance for the problem of Fascism. The fellow-travellers are enraptured by Russian films, Russian music and Russian caviar. But there lived greater musicians in other countries and under other social systems; good pictures were produced in other countries too; and it is certainly not a merit of Generalissimo Stalin that the taste of caviar is delicious. Neither does the prettiness of Russian ballet dancers or the construction of a great power station on the Dnieper expiate for the mass slaughter of the Kulaks. [...]

The problems of society's economic organization are not suitable for light talk at fashionable cocktail parties. Neither can they be dealt with adequately by demagogues haranguing mass assemblies. They are serious things. They require painstaking study. They must not be taken lightly.

— Ludwig von Mises, Planned Chaos, 1947.

Week of November 26, 2006

I'd like someone to tell me what could be more "rude and unfriendly" — short of outright shooting-war — than three hundred million peoples' advocacy of using the force of government to trample over other peoples' lives. I can be just as friendly as anyone, but there are limits in my ethics, and they are not arbitrary. As a matter of fact, I'm a lot more "friendly" than is actually called for in this circumstance.

— Billy Beck, "American Distemperist," Two—Four, November 17, 2006.

Week of November 19, 2006

If, as the public health activists suggest, the problem is that low-income people don't have access to cheap, fresh produce, the answer is to allow into urban areas businesses that have figured out how to deliver fresh produce to low income people. And no one has that business model down better than Wal-Mart. What's fun is watching the generally socialist public health crowd squirm when you point this out to them. I don't have philosophical objections to community farmer's markets. But it's delusional to think they're capable of putting good food in the homes of poor people on any significant scale. If access to fresh, unprocessed food is your concern, I hate to tell ya', but you're going to have to embrace a little capitalism.

— Radley Balko, "Quote of the Day," The Agitator, September 26, 2006.

Week of October 8, 2006

Dictatorship feeds on the ideological chaos of bewildered, demoralized, cynically flexible, unresisting men. But capitalism requires an uncompromising stand. (Destruction can be done blindly, at random; but construction requires strict adherence to specific principles.) The welfare-statists hope to eliminate capitalism by smear and silence — and to "avoid" dictatorship by "voluntary" compliance, by a policy of bargaining and compromise with the government's growing power. ...

There can be no compromise on basic principles. There can be no compromise on moral issues. There can be no compromise on matters of knowledge, of truth, of rational conviction.

If an uncompromising stand is to be smeared as "extremism," then that smear is directed at any devotion to values, any loyalty to principles, any profound conviction, any consistency, any steadfastness, any passion, any dedication to an unbreached, inviolable truth — any man of integrity. ...

The best proof of an intellectual movement's collapse is the day when it has nothing to offer as an ultimate ideal but a plea for "moderation." Such is the final proof of collectivism's bankruptcy. The vision, the courage, the dedication, the moral fire are now on the barely awakening side of the crusaders for capitalism.

— Ayn Rand, "'Extremism,' or The Art of Smearing," 1964, reprinted in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 1967.

Week of September 17, 2006

We kid ourselves in these ways to avoid facing an unpalatable truth: Americans love education but hate learning. If you doubt it, parse our revealing catch phrase about the need to "make learning fun." The obvious retort — "Dammit, it already is fun!" — is fatal because it requires you to draw a distinction between education and learning, and once you do that, you threaten everybody, because hatred of learning is our only remaining source of national unity. We can't very well pearlharbor it with the old bromide, "It brought us together," but in fact it has: the egalitarian Left scorns learning as "irrelevant," while the philistine Right chortles, "It won't help you make a living." Actually, it makes life worth living, but if you dare say so, both sides will call you an elitist.

— Florence King, "The Misanthrope's Corner," National Review, October 1, 2001, reprinted in STET, Damnit!, 2003.

Week of September 10, 2006

Many people believe that the free market, despite some admitted advantages, is a picture of disorder and chaos. Nothing is "planned," everything is haphazard. Government dictation, on the other hand, seems simple and orderly; decrees are handed down and they are obeyed. In no area of the economy is this myth more prevalent than in the field of money. Seemingly, money, at least, must come under stringent government control. But money is the lifeblood of the economy; it is the medium for all transactions. If government dictates over money, it has already captured a vital command post for control over the economy, and has secured a stepping-stone for full socialism. We have seen that a free market in money, contrary to common assumption, would not be chaotic; that, in fact, it would be a model of order and efficiency.

— Murray N. Rothbard, What Has Government Done to Our Money?, 1963, 1990.

Week of September 3, 2006

The precious liberties which kings and emperors had largely denied[,] a Frenchman now had [in the years between 1870 and 1914], and he cherished them. He was free to say and do what he pleased. The centuries of almost unbroken political and civic oppression seemed but a memory. And in this land individualism was enthroned, cultivated, practiced, respected. Other countries might turn out more iron and steel, produce more horsepower and more goods per man-hour, show more national discipline in getting things done, encourage fiercer competition between businesses, provide more social services and more comforts for the people, but these evidences of "progress" by others did not unduly concern Frenchmen. They tended to look upon the newfangled machines, the belching blast furnaces, the dreary factories with their assembly lines and their adjoining slums, as a necessary evil inflicted upon the new times. A modern society had to have them, but they must not be allowed to become the center of civilization nor be permitted to dominate it. What did they all matter — and this went for most of the other gadgets of the twentieth century so dear to Americans: modern plumbing, clean toilets, full-size bathtubs, elevators and telephones that worked — compared with the pleasures of being an untrammeled individualist who preserved his own mind and the right to express it and who had no interest in or intention of becoming an organization man and submitting to the growing conformity of a business-minded, mechanized world?

— William L. Shirer, The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940, 1969

Week of August 28, 2006

There is no way I would consider flying across an ocean without a pen, a Moleskine journal, a thread-sewn notebook, an iPod, a ballpoint pen and a Nokia Communicator. And there's no way I'd toss those items into a trash bin en route to boarding an aircraft. Even those who were transported as part of the Final Solution were granted the liberty to carry significant personal effects.

I have safely operated trans-oceanic aircraft as a pilot-in-command for more than 1500 flying hours. I refuse to consider the things that provide me inspiration and reflection to be implements of terrorism. Since my opinion diverges from those who think they're protecting me from my own devices, I won't pay to fly under their terms.

— Bernie Goldbach, "Things I Could Not Fly Without," Irish Eyes blog, August 16, 2006.

Week of August 21, 2006

A friend of mine, the late George Leinwall, a Joycean and a remarkable bibliophile, used to say that there were two huge problems confronting us, one that nobody wanted to see, which was the declining birthrate in the developed world, and one that pretty soon nobody would be able to see — the catastrophic collapse of the biggest government boondoggle of all time: public education. They wouldn't see it, he said, because they'd be too stupid to know what they were looking at — and wouldn't be educated sufficiently to do anything about it anyway.

— Denis Boyles, "Failure of Intelligence," National Review Online, July 7, 2006.

Week of August 13, 2006

Puritanism is represented as a lofty sort of obedience to God's law. Democracy is depicted as brotherhood, even as altruism. All such notions are in error. There is only one honest impulse at the bottom of Puritanism, and that is the impulse to punish the man with the superior capacity for happiness — to bring him down to the miserable level of 'good' men, i.e., of stupid, cowardly, and chronically unhappy men. And there is only one sound argument for democracy, and that is the argument that it is a crime for any man to hold himself out as better than other men, and, above all, a most heinous offense for him to prove it.

— H.L. Mencken, quoted in Helmut Schoeck, Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour, 1966.

Week of August 6, 2006

The era of resisting big government is never over.

— Paul Gigot.

Week of July 30, 2006

Collectivism implies egalitarianism. An ideal mass is homogenous and consists therefore of equal atoms. Egalitarianism as well as collectivism are thus incompatible with liberty. Force must not only be used for the leveling process in the initial stage — it becomes necessarily a permanent factor in order to maintain the unorganic "symmetrical order." This brutal force is necessary for any and every egalitarian effort.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (born July 31, 1909), The Menace of the Herd, 1943.

Week of July 23, 2006

The State! Always and ever the government and its rulers and operators have been considered above the general moral law. The "Pentagon Papers" are only one recent instance among innumerable instances in history of men, most of whom are perfectly honorable in their private lives, who lie in their teeth before the public. Why? For "reasons of State." Service to the State is supposed to excuse all actions that would be considered immoral or criminal if committed by "private" citizens. The distinctive feature of libertarians is that they coolly and uncompromisingly apply the general moral law to people acting in their roles as members of the State apparatus. Libertarians make no exceptions. For centuries, the State (or more strictly, individuals acting in their roles as "members of the government") has cloaked its criminal activity in high-sounding rhetoric. For centuries the State has committed mass murder and called it "war"; then ennobled the mass slaughter that "war" involves. For centuries the State has enslaved people into its armed battalions and called it "conscription" in the "national service." For centuries the State has robbed people at bayonet point and called it "taxation." In fact, if you wish to know how libertarians regard the State and any of its acts, simply think of the State as a criminal band, and all of the libertarian attitudes will logically fall into place.

— Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, 1978.

Week of July 16, 2006

Civilization as we know it is inseparable from urban life. Almost all that distinguishes civilized from primitive society is intimately connected with the large agglomerations of population that we call "cities," and when we speak of "urbanity," "civility," or "politeness," we refer to the manner of life in cities. Even most of the differences between the life of the present rural population and that of primitive people are due to what the cities provide. It is also the possibility of enjoying the products of the city in the country that in advanced civilizations often makes a leisured life in the country appear the ideal of a cultured life.

— Friedrich A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, 1960.

Week of July 9, 2006

When you advocate any government action, you must first believe that violence is the best answer to the question at hand.

— Allen Thornton, Laws of the Jungle

Week of July 2, 2006

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.

— John Adams, "Notes for an Oration in Braintree, Massachusetts," 1772, quoted in James Bovard's Attention Deficit Democracy, 2005.

Week of June 25, 2006


I believe:

  • That politicians are more honest than they seem;
  • The government is more competent than it appears;
  • That government is benevolent, regardless of how much it wastes or how many people it harms;
  • That citizens must trust the government, regardless of how often it lies;
  • That democracy is a panacea, regardless of how often it fails;
  • That freedom is whatever the president says it is, pending revision.

James Bovard, Attention Deficit Democracy

Week of June 18, 2006

However, people do not ask for socialism because they know that socialism will improve their conditions, and they do not reject capitalism because they know that it is a system prejudicial to their interests. They are socialists because they believe that socialism will improve their conditions, and they hate capitalism because they believe that it harms them. They are socialists because they are blinded by envy and ignorance. They stubbornly refuse to study economics and spurn the economists' devastating critique of the socialist plans because, in their eyes, economics, being an abstract theory, is simply nonsense. They pretend to trust only in experience. But they no less stubbornly refuse to take cognizance of the undeniable facts of experience, viz., that the common man's standard of living is incomparably higher in capitalistic America than in the socialist paradise of the Soviets.

— Ludwig von Mises, The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, 1956.

Week of June 11, 2006

In honor of our pug Tessa, who died Tuesday, June 6, 2006.

The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself, too.

— Samuel Butler.

Week of June 4, 2006

The other day I was ticketed, and my car briefly impounded, when a policeman noticed that I was driving with a cracked windshield. My car had passed the required safety inspection and had the required sticker before some vandal had thrown rocks at it, so I thought I was legal. I wasn't hurting or threatening anyone; I posed no danger I could see. The cop was as polite as a man with a pistol can be, but as he ordered the car towed away I asked him quietly, "Just who are you protecting from me?" The answer was a vague mumble about "the public."

Later I joked to friends that I'd been "carjacked." An armed man had seized my car, I explained. Of course he had a badge, a uniform, and some sort of "law" on his side, so I, not he, was the criminal. Heaven help me if I'd tried to defend my property. Self-defense would have been an even more serious offense. By submitting to force, I confined the evil to a mere nuisance. This time.

Carjacking or impoundment? We now have two vocabularies for wrongs, depending on whether private persons or government agents commit them. This is the difference between mass murder and national defense. Between extortion and taxation. Between counterfeiting and inflation. And so on. Other examples will occur to the astute reader.

Do you smell a fault? No wonder Frédéric Bastiat described government as "organized plunder."

— Joseph Sobran, "Why Do We Need Government?," May 2, 2006.

May 2006

What he remembered best of those first days in London was an extraordinary sense of freedom; freedom not merely from external control but also from the uneasy caperings of self. To be in so great a city, unknown and unregarded, was to have the privileged detachment of a god. It was a cleansing and perspective experience, one which few of our gregarious race properly relish. He had no business to transact, no errand to accomplish, no duty to perform. Only to enjoy, to observe, to live in the devotion of the eye. So, in his quiet way, he entered unsuspected into circulation, passing like a well-counterfeited coin. Comedy herself, goddess of that manly island, seemed unaware of him. Occasionally, in the movement of the day, he saw near him others who were evident compatriots, but he felt no impulse to hail and fraternize. The reticence of that vastly incurious city was an excellent sedative. Once he got out his My Trip Abroad album to record some impressions, but desisted after a few lines. "I felt too modest to keep a diary," was his explanation.

Christopher Morley, "A Perspective Experience," 1926, quoted in In a Fog: The Humorists' Guide to England, 1989.

Week of April 30, 2006

I do not believe that it is a selfish goal for us to insist that the overriding purpose of all American foreign policy should be the maintenance of the liberty and the peace of the people of the United States, so that they may achieve that intellectual and material improvement which is their genius and in which they can set an example for all peoples. By that example we can do an even greater service to mankind than we can do by billions of material assistance — and more than we can ever do by war.

— Sen. Robert A. Taft, A Foreign Policy for Americans, 1952.

Week of April 23, 2006

One doesn't have to be a resident of any particular country to have a moral entitlement to be secure from governmental coercion against one's life, liberty, and property. In the words of the Declaration of Independence, government is instituted "to secure these rights" — to protect them against their violation by force or fraud.

A foreigner has rights just as much as an American. To be a foreigner is not to be a criminal. Yet our government treats as criminals those foreigners not lucky enough to win the green-card lottery.

Seeking employment in this country is not a criminal act. It coerces no one and violates no one's rights (there is no "right" to be exempt from competition in the labor market, or in any other market).

It is not a criminal act to buy or rent a home here in which to reside. Paying for housing is not a coercive act — whether the buyer is an American or a foreigner. No one's rights are violated when a Mexican, or Canadian, or Senegalese rents an apartment from an American owner and moves into the housing he is paying for. And what about the rights of those American citizens who want to sell or rent their property to the highest bidders? Or the American businesses that want to hire the lowest cost workers? It is morally indefensible for our government to violate their right to do so, just because the person is a foreigner.

— Harry Binswanger, "Open Immigration," March 29, 2006.

Week of April 16, 2006

This negative attitude toward reformism, shared by Rothbard and the antiauthoritarian left, has often been criticized as utopian, a purist all-or-nothing perfectionism that rejects any partial or intermediate steps toward liberty. This is a serious misunderstanding. From a Rothbardian perspective, any move, large or small, in the direction of liberty is to be welcomed. Of course the large moves will be welcomed more enthusiastically than the small ones, but all are improvements; no Rothbardian will ever say, "If you can't cut government by 100 percent, I don't want it cut at all."

One root of this misreading is a failure to distinguish between endorsement of a direction of change and endorsement of the stops along the way. Suppose there's a serial killer who murders a hundred people a year. And suppose I manage to convince him to cut it down to fifty. (Fifty's his lucky number, say.) By all means, that's an improvement to be welcomed, and I would even deserve some praise and gratitude for helping to make the world a little better.

But that doesn't mean that I should start celebrating this guy's new fifty-murders-a-year rule as a great libertarian policy, or that I should stop looking for an opportunity to cut it down to zero by bringing the killer to justice. Above all, it doesn't mean that I should help the killer implement his fifty-murders-a-year policy. By the same principle, if taxation is theft, for example, then although we should welcome any diminution in the government's rate of theft, we cannot actually participate in the government's new kinder, gentler, less intense thievery without becoming thieves ourselves.

Nor should we praise these moderate improvements in such a way as to commit ourselves to criticizing more radical improvements; it's been said that we should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good (a phrase people seem to use only when they are about to recommend something dishonorable), but letting the somewhat-good become the enemy of the even-better hardly seems preferable. Rothbard was fond of quoting the maxim of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison: "gradualism in theory is perpetuity in practice."

— Roderick T. Long, "Rothbard's 'Left and Right,' Forty Years Later," Mises Institute Austrian Scholars' Conference, 2006.

Week of April 9, 2006

I is from God. We is from the devil.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
(Or not: see my report on this "quotation" here)

Week of April 2, 2006

Many popular fallacies concerning socialism are due to the mistaken belief that all friends of socialism advocate the same system. On the contrary, every socialist wants his own socialism, not the other fellow's. He disputes the other socialists' right to call themselves socialists. In the eyes of Stalin the Mensheviks and the Trotskyists are not socialists but traitors, and vice versa. The Marxians call the Nazis supporters of capitalism; the Nazis call the Marxians supporters of Jewish capital. If a man says socialism, or planning, he always has in view his own brand of socialism, his own plan. Thus planning does not in fact mean preparedness to cooperate peacefully. It means conflict.

— Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government, 1944.

Week of March 26, 2006

Many men are collectivists without being aware of it because collectivism seems to be taken into one's pores from the ideological fog of our times. Most men argue only about the degree of collectivism they are willing to embrace, few are willing to eject every trace of it from their own thinking. Opposition to collectivism starts only when it dawns on an individual that he has enough trouble running his own life and being a steward of his own energy, and that he has no mandate from society or from God to run another's life against that person's will. Men are creatures of God, not creatures of other men. It is not easy to see how an inclusion of the opposite philosophy in the ecumenical movement can add strength to the ties that bind men in Christian love.

The Rev. Edmund A. Opitz (1914-2006), The Libertarian Theology of Freedom, 1999.

Week of March 19, 2006

Irrefutable equation: obscenity = irrelevance.

Anton Kuh, Physiognomics, 1931.

Week of March 12, 2006

America's most pervasive age-related disease is not senility but juvenility: the obsessive desire to look twenty-three, dress fourteen, and act nine, avoiding responsibility and, as Dr. Johnson put it, hanging loose upon the world.

— Tom Wolfe.

Week of March 5, 2006

For twenty-five years in Scotland Unionism and Nationalism had contended amid notions of seeing the other side in flight, or with luck dropping stone dead on the spot: justified triumph with his foot upon the expiring, scaly monster. But history is not a courtroom or a newspaper Opinion Page. Things happen, and a die is cast — but always for partly accidental reasons, and never in a way or a time corresponding to previous forecasts. Then the instant it occurs everything is too much altered, once and for all. Most of the old software of both sides is outdated on the spot. Although victorious, the dreamers then need upgrading almost as badly as would Scotland's nay-sayers and "hairmless Harrys."

— Tom Nairn, After Britain: New Labour and the Return of Scotland, 2000.

Week of February 26, 2006

Liberalism [i.e., "classical liberalism" or libertarianism], however, must be intolerant of every kind of intolerance. If one considers the peaceful cooperation of all men as the goal of social evolution, one cannot permit the peace to be disturbed by priests and fanatics. Liberalism proclaims tolerance for every religious faith and every metaphysical belief, not out of indifference for these "higher" things, but from the conviction that the assurance of peace within society must take preference over everything and everyone. And because it demands toleration of all opinions and all churches and sects, it must recall them to their proper bounds whenever they venture intolerantly beyond them. ... Everything that their supporters accord them of their own free will may and must be granted to the churches; nothing may be permitted to them in respect to persons who want to have nothing to do with them.

— Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition, 1929.

Week of February 19, 2006

Nothing, however, can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade, upon which, not only these restraints, but almost all the other regulations of commerce are founded. When two places trade with one another, this doctrine supposes that, if the balance be even, neither of them either loses or gains; but if it leans in any degree to one side, that one of them loses and the other gains in proportion to its declension from the exact equilibrium. Both suppositions are false. A trade which is forced by means of bounties and monopolies may be and commonly is disadvantageous to the country in whose favour it is meant to be established, as I shall endeavour to show hereafter. But that trade which, without force or constraint, is naturally and regularly carried on between any two places is always advantageous, though not always equally so, to both.

— Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776
(and thanks, once again, to Sheldon Richman for the pointer).

Week of January 29, 2006

The Tories have had more than a decade to put in the intellectual groundwork for cutting the scope of the state and to argue their positions on the basis of several rights, and yet have done nothing of the sort because that is not what most of them believe. That is hardly surprising given the pathologies of the sort of people who are drawn to politics: they do not get involved because they want to wield less power than the previous guys who ran things. Understanding politicians and what they are likely to do is much easier once you realise that almost everyone in politics (even the "nice guys" who wear sensible cardigans and remind you of Wallace and Gromit) have more in common psychologically and morally with your typical member of a street gang than with most of the people who actually vote for them.

— Perry de Havilland, "David Cameron as Peter Sellers,", January 24, 2006 (also, in excerpted form, as the "Samizdata Quote of the Day").

January 22, 2006

To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be place[d] under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.

— Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, translated by John Beverly Robinson [London: Freedom Press, 1923].
(thanks to Sheldon Richman for the reminder; Proudhon's birthday was January 14.)

Week of January 15, 2006

The greatest impediment to performance behind the failure of the Reagan regime to change the government delivered into its keeping for a root-and-branch reformation is that its constituent members have come to think of the status which they enjoy as theirs by nature and not by dint of political labor and popular delegation. Washington, as I have observed, causes them to forget why they acquired their offices, and under what conditions. Moreover, while they might wish to pacify their enemies, they have failed to support one another, coveting a respectability offered to them in the environment of the Capital by pretending to be "different from most Republicans" or "most Conservatives." ... According to these worthies, there can be no fundamental assault from the Right on the network of controls by which the state overgoverns almost every detail of our lives. The trouble with this teaching is that it is incongruous as a doctrine for counter-revolution. And the people expected nothing less from the elections of 1980 and 1984.

— M.E. Bradford, "Undone by Victory: Political Success and the Subversion of Conservative Politics," November, 1985; reprinted in The Reactionary Imperative: Essays Literary and Political, 1990.

Week of January 8, 2006

If most of Europe's intractable geopolitical problems can be blamed on the idealism of Woodrow Wilson, most of America's social problems can be blamed on our glorification of high school. Interestingly, both started around the same time. Before World War I high school as we have come to know and hate it did not exist. The vast majority of Americans stopped school after the eighth grade, leaving high school to the middle class — the real middle class, not today's deluded alpine bell curve. High schools, as the name implied, were essentially public prep schools, and excellent ones at that. The tears I can't shed for Littleton I can easily shed for myself when I read descriptions of third-year Classical Greek in old high-school curricula. ...

And then there's me. If I had had private tutors this column might be called "Melanie's Corner," but instead I went to high school where I forged my credo: Whatever the majority is doing has got to be wrong. High school, where I became an anarcho-elitist from overexposure to friendly "student leaders." High school, where girls who recited Mickey Rooney's wives in the cafeteria made fun of me for reciting Henry VIII's wives in history class, prompting my development as a misogynist feminist.

— Florence King, "The Misanthrope's Corner," National Review, May 31, 1999; reprinted in STET, Damnit!: The Misanthrope's Corner, 1991 to 2002, 2003.

Week of January 1, 2006

When then is liberalism correctly understood? Liberalism is not an exclusively political term. It can be applied to a prison reform, to an economic order, to a theology. Within the political framework, the question is not (as in a democracy) "Who should rule?" but "How should rule be exercised?" The reply is "Regardless of who rules—a monarch, an elite, a majority, or a benevolent dictator—governments should be exercised in such a way that each citizen enjoys the greatest amount of personal liberty."

The limit of liberty is obviously the common good. But, admittedly, the common good (material as well as immaterial) is not easily defined, for it rests on value judgments. Its definition is therefore always somewhat arbitrary. Speed limits curtail freedom in the interests of the common good. Is there a watertight case for forty, forty-five, or fifty miles an hour? Certainly not. ...Freedom is thus the only postulate of liberalism—of genuine liberalism.

If, therefore, democracy is liberal, the life, the whims, the interests of the minority will be just as respected as those of the majority. Yet surely not only a democracy, but a monarchy (absolute or otherwise) or an aristocratic (elitist) regime can be liberal. In fact, the affinity between democracy and liberalism is not at all greater than that between, say, monarchy and liberalism or a mixed government and liberalism. (People under the Austrian monarchy, which was not only symbolic but an effective mixed government, were not less free than those in Canada, to name only one example.)

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism Revisited.
(I added the paragraph breaks to improve readability.)