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2018: A Gathering Storm for Classical Liberalism

“But Gorsuch,” the slogan used to criticize those on the right for supporting Trump, does not fairly capture the dilemma of classical liberals during his Presidency. In 2018, as before, Trump’s pursuit of classically liberal policies has emphatically not been confined to the judiciary. Certainly he has continued to appoint judges who are broadly-speaking originalists, likely to sustain our fundamentally classically liberal charter of government. But he also has mostly pursued classically liberal policies, such as those of lower taxes and deregulation. In some areas, he has in fact been the most effective implementer of classically liberal policies since Reagan.

His Department of Education, for instance, has rolled back dreadful Obama polices, like ones that effectively forced universities to deprive those accused of sexual misconduct of due process protections and encouraged a racial and ethnic quota system for discipline in K-12 education. And as importantly, that Department is putting end to the practice by which many such policies are imposed by so-called Dear Colleague letters, which avoid processes requiring public input into regulations. Classical liberalism includes adherence to structures that force government to slow down and deliberate before regulating its citizens, and the Trump Administration is reviving them.

And even in the areas in which the administration has failed to implement a classical liberal agenda, like foreign trade and entitlement reform, it is not as if Hilary Clinton or any other Democratic President would have  proved better. Indeed, most Democrats today would expand entitlements. Larger social security benefits, free college, and Medicare for all are recipe for an America that would put it on the dismal low growth and low innovation trajectory of Europe.

The most significant economic area in which Trump’s policies may be worse is the environment. While Clinton would have engaged in excessive regulation, the Trump administration has sometimes not forced companies to internalize all the costs of using fossil fuels and some other pollutants.  And the administration is too hostile to encouraging immigration of highly talented individuals who will add to economic growth and create no substantial risks to social cohesion. But on balance, there is a classical liberal case for giving one or possibly two cheers to the Trump Administration, particularly given the alternatives.

And yet at the end of 2018, I fear for the future of classical liberalism. To be sure, much of the reason for my concern has little to do with Trump. Many of our universities, mine very much included, are places of ever greater political correctness and ideological orthodoxy that nurture a coming generation of social justice warriors. The Democratic Party has lurched to the left and radical leftists, like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are given glowing mainstream media treatment. And the disruption of technology quickens, making many people feel insecure and more open to the “protections” of the state, even if the benefits of this technology, like internet search and social media, are often free and are more broadly shared than almost any innovations in human history.

And Trump adds to this disquiet because he has singularly failed to burnish the reputation of classical liberal ideas in this turbulent time. His mercurial persona, divisive tweets, and ill-informed and more than occasionally false comments discredit some good policies that should be popular. Rhetoric counts as much as policy in a democracy, because many if not most voters are rationally ignorant of complex policy arguments and even results. But many of the uninformed follow what Trump says, do not like it, and transfer that dislike to his policies. That is one of the explanations of midterm elections, the results of which portend ill for classical liberalism. Trump uses the bully pulpit but to undermine his policies and political standing. In this, he is the reverse of the greatest President and political expositor of classical liberalism in my lifetime, Ronald Reagan.

Moreover, his continual focus on himself is the opposite of a classically liberal tenor of governance, because it gives the public impression that that government and politicians should be the center of our social life. To the contrary, classical liberalism wants to minimize that presence. Presidential rhetoric should reflect that modesty.

In short, forces appear to be gathering to push America toward the greatest aggrandizement of the state since the New Deal. The President’s policies rightly resist these forces, but policies are woefully insufficient for political victory. To be equal to the moment a classically liberal statesman needs to enlarge the coalition of liberty by attracting the wavering and confused middle. Here the President is squandering the opportunity to turn back the powerful momentum for a collectivist revival.

Reader Discussion

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on December 31, 2018 at 09:56:12 am

Trump is not a classical liberal and never has been, so it is senseless to fault him on that basis. Classical liberals have failed to make their case time and again to the American people, mostly because the American people prefer the "authoritarian welfare state" (Ralf Dahrendorf) that progressives have constructed with the connivance of Republicans over the decades. Dahrendorf's 1965 book is a real eye-opener. Progressive America is busy establishing the exact same institutions and attitudes that Daherendorf complained were traditional to German society and preventing the emergence of a liberal democracy there. Dahrendorf hoped to see Germany transform itself from an authoritarian welfare state into a liberal democracy, and we are doing exactly the reverse!

Classical liberals tend to talk, not do. To do in the face of the progressive assault requires abandoning the modesty McGinnis exhorts the President to. It may be paradoxical but it is no less true that the only way to curtail government action is by government action--immodest, decisive action. Classical liberals cannot afford to be above the fray, cannot afford to be Henry VI ("frowns, threats and words shall be the war that Henry means to use"). Reagan was a natural preacher; Trump is a poor preacher but a natural doer. Doing is harsh, ugly, untidy. Doing hurts. And actions do not cohere in the same manner as scholarly thought. One might desire Trump's ugly actions to more visibly conform to a beautiful political philosophy (praxis in the world of the scholars), but in the past America's conservative intelligentsia has always preferred to conserve the philosophy rather than allow it to be jeopardized by effective action.

The time for fear has passed; now is the time to mourn the passing of even lip service to American's classical liberalism-based ideals. And McGinnis should maybe perform an ideological self-examination, because statements like this--the Trump administration has sometimes not forced companies to internalize all the costs of using fossil fuels and some other pollutants--indicate infection with LIV.

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QET
on December 31, 2018 at 12:32:15 pm

Here, here to QET.

Same tired old mantra from McGinnis and the rest of his L&L cronies.

L&L is a mere small-ball, faux-academic internet front for Rockefeller Republicans, aka today the remnants of the "Establishment Republican Party" (most of whose wealth is now used openly to support Democrats,) a kleptocracy of historically-unequalled wealth and power (since the Borgias) who control Wall Street, government, academia, public education and major media, run the international banking oligopoly and dominate American economic interests in and military obligations to myriad entities of international governance and trade and, in the interest of furthering their wealth and power, would cede American sovereignty to said entities of international governance and trade.

This kleptocratic oligarchy has, since the Nixon Presidency, used the shibboleth "classical liberalism" both as a means to lend itself intellectual respectability as a self-destructive illusion through which to undermine the political strength of and public support for religion, tradition, nationalism, constitutional conservatism and conservative democracy.

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octothorp
on December 31, 2018 at 13:14:57 pm

The over-riding structural problem we face is that the Constitution was drafted to meet the needs of a federation of democratic republics but this has been transformed into a pure democracy in a series of Supreme Court decisions since Baker v. Carr based on the idea of one man one vote.

A key difference between a democratic republic and a democracy is that the franchise to vote in a democratic republic is usually limited to either a certain class of citizens or to net tax payers or to persons with more than a trivial amount of taxable property.

We now have a democracy with near universal suffrage so, of course, the representatives of the near universal electorate are, as predicted, attempting to vote all of their constituents rich. After two generations of this we see that Congress has divested itself of all its powers and responsibilities except the power and responsibility to reduce taxes and expand government spending. The old republic has been transformed into a democratic oligarchy that is well on its way to being a run of the mill tyranny.

That this has managed to go on as long as it has may be attributed to the status of the dollar as the global reserve currency. In the EU, the problem is lessened by the VAT, which taxes all consumption.

This is not an argument for a VAT but rather an argument for limiting the franchise.

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EK
on December 31, 2018 at 13:23:16 pm

Very well said. Hear, hear on the author's need for an ideological self examination.

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Jan Garmany
on December 31, 2018 at 14:55:00 pm

I do not object to much of what Prof. McGinnis has to say, even if I not necessarily agree with him. However his conclusion that "forces appear to be gathering to push America toward the greatest aggrandizement of the state since the New Deal" is the sort of "the sky is falling" alarmism that is neither helpful nor justified by the rather weak evidence he cites in the rest of his essay.

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Geoffrey Harrison
on December 31, 2018 at 15:00:47 pm

Hurrah for QET!

Professor McGinnis' commentary is of a piece with most of what he writes on this site and comports fully with the failed ideology of 21st century ''classical liberalism," which is but the crypto-Leftism reflected in most of what "Law and Liberty" produces on its web page.

L&L is a mere small-ball, faux-academic internet front for Rockefeller Republicans, today aka the remnants of the "Establishment Republican Party" which is now ideologically and financially-allied with the Democrats to form an oligarchy of historically-unequalled wealth and power (not since the Borgias.) This oligarchy controls most of government, all of Wall Street and Silicon Valley and most of academia, public education and major media; it runs the international banking oligopoly and dominates the vested economic interests of corporate America in myriad entities of international governance and trade. This establishment Republican/Democrat oligarchy, in the interest of furthering their wealth and power, would cede American sovereignty to said entities of international governance and trade.

This Democrat/Republican oligarchy has, since the Nixon Presidency, used the shibboleth "classical liberalism" both as a means to conceal its true kleptocratic characteristics (by lending itself unwarranted intellectual and historical respectability) and as a destructive propaganda illusion through which to undermine the heretofore broad base of public support for religion, tradition, nationalism, constitutional conservatism and conservative democracy in the United States.

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IREP
on December 31, 2018 at 15:20:20 pm

Like other commentators I generally don’t disagree with anything Prof McGinnis said. However it is clear to me (I’m just a bit younger than Prof M) from a lifetime of watching politics that America is never going to elect a self-identifies expositor of classical liberalism. Even Reagan only partially could be said to fit that description. I think you have to go back to Goldwater for a true expositor. So the only way to make progress is to set up structures that prevent govt aggrandizement or limit it and, rhetorically, to lead people in the classical liberal direction with “common sense” appeals. Trump is as good as anyone on both counts.

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Jeffrey K Shapiro
on December 31, 2018 at 16:00:19 pm

I seriously doubt President Trump has an idea in that empty head of his that what he is doing is conservatism. He doesn't read nor does he refer to himself as a Conservative even for convenience. His actions are impulsive and merely a reation of the Limbaugh / Coulter/ Fox News audience that props up his administration. He bases the success of his rudderless administration on three statements he directed to his followers. "I love the uneducated", I can shoot someone on Fifth Ave. and not lose any support" and I think my followers would revolt if I was impeached". Contrary to their codswallop basing blind loyalty on this premise isn't "NORMAL".

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Bob Manderville
on December 31, 2018 at 16:28:25 pm

Any argument to limit the franchise is doomed to irrelevance by the fact that to institute it again would require the assent of those who exercise the currently almost unlimited franchise. More likely the franchise will be extended even further, to all residents, legal or illegal, citizen or non-citizen and even temporary residents as well. The curve of our history will, I fear, continue down the path of Venezuela, free everything for all and when the rich leave or are taxed until they are poor like everyone else, the tyranny will be complete.

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Carl
on December 31, 2018 at 17:26:32 pm

Hey Bob Manderville - are you sending this post from a "safe space" with a "comfort pet" beside you? Do you see any Snowflakes outside?
Not an intellectual post, I know, but truth does not have to be intellectually based.

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IREP
on December 31, 2018 at 18:41:40 pm

"Reagan was a natural preacher; Trump is a poor preacher but a natural doer. Doing is harsh, ugly, untidy. Doing hurts. And actions do not cohere in the same manner as scholarly thought. One might desire Trump’s ugly actions to more visibly conform to a beautiful political philosophy (praxis in the world of the scholars), but in the past America’s conservative intelligentsia has always preferred to conserve the philosophy rather than allow it to be jeopardized by effective action."

You have nailed it better than I have seen articulated. Thank you!

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Lydia
on December 31, 2018 at 21:58:31 pm

You lost me on the corporate internalization of the costs of using fossil fuels. I'm with the yellow jackets on this one.

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Jeff Lebowski
on January 01, 2019 at 00:54:33 am

Those who object to President Trump's comments/tweets/etc as somehow substantially different from, more extreme than, and worse than, prior political dustups, reveal themselves to be ignorant of the fiery political history of our nation. Is he always right? He himself would snort in derision at such a thought.
Leftists/progressives are now and have been for decades bent on destroying our freedoms. We the People have sadly embraced our chains to an alarming degree. President Trump is at least willing to take a stand against some of the flagrant idiocy masquerading as political thought. "[We} can't spare this man; he fights!" He's been the best president in decades, for his judicial picks alone, if nothing else.

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Jeremy Klein
on January 01, 2019 at 10:23:37 am

Deplorables say they passionately want the truth exploited, but you can't improve society by setting it on fire. If our system is to endure tribal identity it must remain subordinate to the primary principles of self government. In the political wars winning the hearts and minds of "We the people....."is an endless struggle that can never be won because it ebb and flows with the times and circumstances. You speak of "masquerading as political thought". Well then it surely won't be won by adolescent echo chamber of smear tactics and character assassination masquerading as dialogue. Nor will it be won by misogyny and xenophobia which is only building a wall alienating entire swaths of potential constituents. Lastly the false assumption that imposing a "Procrustean Bed' ideology on individuals who don't abide is incompatible with life in a free society. The success of democratic institutions lies in the success of the process of reason as opposed to the tyranny of force. While maintaining the political structure that guarantees liberty we get to choose our own destiny and only when it is secured by discussion, persuasion and compromise is every citizen a ruler and every citizen ruled.

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Bob Manderville
on January 01, 2019 at 12:04:29 pm

Meanwhile, over at "First Things", Yoram Harzony think that the "liberal international order," which appears to be congruent with MacGinnis's "classical liberalism," will be the death of us all and needs to be extirpated, root and branch, from government.

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2019/01/conservative-democracy

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EK
on January 01, 2019 at 13:39:38 pm

Leave it to America's neo-Bolshevik "coastal oligarchs." What starts out as an excellent discussion about a point of political theory ends up being a mindless rant about President Trump.

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David Nelson
on January 01, 2019 at 15:44:11 pm

At the heart of Harzony's argument is the assertion that religious belief (more precisely Christian belief) is necessary to live the good life. And thus it is necessary to destroy "classical liberalism," which is anti-religious, if not atheistic. However, Locke and plenty of other classical liberals were not atheists or anti-Christian. Admittedly, Hume was and I am admittedly more of a Humean than a Lockean.

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Geoffrey Harrison
on January 01, 2019 at 17:00:53 pm

Does anyone recall the Late Roman Republic - Yep, enfranchise all subjects, give them bread, circuses BUT especially the franchise - and just watch what happens.

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Guttenburgs Press and Brewery
on January 01, 2019 at 17:04:16 pm

"Well then it surely won’t be won by adolescent echo chamber of smear tactics and character assassination masquerading as dialogue. Nor will it be won by misogyny and xenophobia which is only building a wall alienating entire swaths of potential constituents. "

Gee, one would think that the profession of such civil views WOULD NOT be accompanied by and opening sentence which characterizes entire segments of the citizenry as *deplorables*.
From what echo chamber of smears and slander did such a word choice emanate.

It DOES seem to vitiate the argument, n'est ce pas?

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gabe
on January 01, 2019 at 18:07:33 pm

As a trained classicist, I may inform you that the franchise was not universal in the Roman Republic, and that this had absolutely nothing to do with its "fall."

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Geoffrey Harrison
on January 01, 2019 at 19:36:51 pm

As Harzony says, the problem did not become acute in the US until the 1940s when the Supreme Court decided that something very much like French republican lacïtaé was implicit in the 14th Amendment and would be enforced on the states. There seem to be a growing sense that this whole line jurisprudence is flat wrong and must be corrected.

Also, the C of E remained the established church after 1688 and I don’t recall that Locke expressed an opinion on disestablishment.

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EK
on January 01, 2019 at 22:02:09 pm

Agreed that the franchise was not ever universal in Rome, but the underlying message was that when enough voters could skim the treasury for themselves the end is inevitable and is near, is very true.

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Carl
on January 01, 2019 at 23:02:19 pm

We disagree, amicably I hope. It seems to me that the most significant "skimmers of the treasury" are the rich, not the poor.

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Geoffrey Harrison
on January 01, 2019 at 23:48:33 pm

From your own echo chamber ! I'm merely using a phrase the "Deplorables' glommed on to with pride it seems.

c'est la vie

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Bob Manderville
on January 02, 2019 at 09:58:36 am

G Harrison:

Really?

It would appear that Harzony, a justifiably proud Israeli, asserts somewhat more than you allege. It is not Christianity, per se, that he credits but rather the ties, the bonds, the common traditions and associations consequent to a shared religious perspective and heritage. In equally important measure, Harzony also notes that a common history of shared experience, fighting a common foe, disaster, etc. induces a sense of "commonly recognized" *obligations* to the larger composite tribe, i.e. the nation.
Yes, religious attachment may be necessary but it would appear from Harzony that it is an insufficient component of the "good [national] life." And it is clearly not limited to Christianity as Harzony makes quite plain in the opening chapter of his recent book on nationalism.

And BTW:

While the franchise in the late Roman Republic was not universal, it was far more extensive, and thus open to all manner of corrupt influences, than it ought to have been were Rome to maintain some semblance of it's earlier *Republican* form of governance and not descend into mob rule.

Seem familiar as Mr Guttenburg above asks?

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gabe
on January 03, 2019 at 14:40:00 pm

I'm new to commenting on Law & Liberty, but for many recent months I have been the beneficiary both of numerous L&L articles and replies thereto, sent to me as links by my friend and former colleague, who is known to site readers by his nome de plume, "Pukka Luftmensch." I have enjoyed the many L&L articles and dozens of Pukka's replies.

Yet the site has impressed me (and Pukka) as biased against President Trump and as overtly, indeed, inexplicably sympathetic to "Establishment Republicanism," a liberal, Big Corporate, Big Bank, Big NGO political perspective which favors centralized governance, unbounded government spending, lax immigration laws and border security, trigger-happy military interventions for nation-building purposes, economic solutions and special legal privileges as response to domestic racial divisions, group identity as the foundation of constitutional right, debilitating multi-lateral agreements as the foundation of international trade, internationalism over nationalism, driving religion from the public square, allowing religious freedom to become the victim of group rights, climate change as an excuse for dirigisme, excessive environmental regulation at the cost of middle class jobs and cultural well-being and making national sovereignty subservient to international governance. Some of these policies L&L insists (oddly) on defending as the ideological offspring of "classical liberalism," which is arguably a dinosaur ideology in the 21st century.

As readers of Pukka's always conservative, often colorful, sometimes penetratingly sharp replies will note, he is an unapologetic supporter of President Trump, suffers fools politely if reluctantly but tolerates downright political foolhardiness not at all. Accordingly, he is a strong, analytical critic both of Democrats who seek to obstruct the nation and of those Republicans a) who are unwilling to defend President Trump when he's right on the hard issues, especially when the media (or the Special counsel) attacks Trump and the Trump Administration unfairly and with impunity and b) who routinely sleep with the enemy by mindlessly hyperventilating over what the enemies of Trump's great achievements falsely propagandize as his lack of "civility."

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IREP
on January 03, 2019 at 14:43:40 pm

I share the opinion that true Republicans among Trump's critics fall unwittingly into a political trap set by the Democrats and harm the country by undermining the Trump presidential administration and mission. For me the question for American conservatives in particular is, "Will they cease and desist from participating in circular firing squads, stop obsessing over the media's deliberately false, historically-naïve misperception of Trump's civility and come to the aid of their President and their country?"

And a circular firing squad brings me to my essential point for this reply: Pukka telephoned me this morning to report that, since late-morning, December 27, L&L has, without explanation, blocked his frequent and oft-repeated attempts to post comments on its current articles. One comment that he posted on December 27 was actually printed but then taken down shortly thereafter. Numerous attempts to post have been made since then, including this morning and this afternoon, but all "Pukka" replies have been blocked. It appears to him also that L&L intends to bar Pukka from posting replies to any and all future commentaries. Pukka also told me that he has emailed L&L staff to inquire about the reason for this unwarranted, unexplained censorship and to question the legal propriety of a 501(c) entity discriminating against subscribers based on political viewpoint and other invidious factors. Yet he has received no reply from L&L.

Pukka was born, raised and educated in Appalachia until he left the mountains on a scholarship at an elite law school in Chicago. He has written often about the Appalachian as the only "discrete and insular" minority in America which was historically discriminated against, legally and economically badly abused and whose people, natural resources and beauteous environment were ravaged by external forces of greed and corruption, yet remain today a "discrete and insular" victimized minority which receives no legal preference, no special protection and none of the extraordinary political and economic advantages given all other such minorities. Indeed, besides bearing the brunt of the opioid crisis, they also suffer reverse racial discrimination in school admissions and job applications because they are predominantly Caucasian, and Appalachians face utter economic destruction because disfavored (by the elites) fossil fuels are their principal means of livelihood.

Pukka supports Trump because, among many other reasons, Trump's the only politician who ever campaigned on promises to help Appalachians (and other "deplorables") and who also kept his promises.

I cannot imagine L&L muting the voice and censoring the comments of an anti-Trump African-American reader whose verbal ire was ostensibly directed at racial injustice.

This all smells like a very small internet platform, Law and Liberty, engaging in the kind of insidious viewpoint censorship and invidious political discrimination that the giant media platforms of Facebook, Google and Twitter are now accused of doing.

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IREP
on January 03, 2019 at 17:15:50 pm

It would be easy to mention examples where Trump has showed his anti (classical) liberalism true colors, from the anti-immigration policies, strident nationalism, anti free trade agenda, doubling-down on the drug war, continuos attacks to the equilibrium between the three powers, ”dirigisme” and corporatism, militarism, reference to physical violence against other nations and people thinking differently from him, and so many others.

However, the most corroding influence is the continuos anti-rationalism of his rethorics. Classical liberalism is the political ideology of Enlightment, based on reason versus faith, on facts, on the scientific method. Trump’s cavalier attitude toward facts and reality will haunt America for many years after this despicable individual will have finally left.

By the way, the continuos reference that under Clinton the policies would have been even worse is just a straw-man. The question is how classical liberalism was treated in 2018, and the answer is, it was raped.

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Massimo Mazzone
on January 03, 2019 at 18:36:00 pm

"Trump is not a classical liberal and never has been, so it is senseless to fault him on that basis."

Indeed! Can anyone even imagine Ronald Reagan saying of Kim Jong Un (or anyone like him), ".,.and then we fell in love"?

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Mark Bahner
on January 04, 2019 at 10:33:41 am

It seems that here, with L&L's censorship of Pukka's speech, as with so much else that is morally awry in our politics, Sir Roger Scruton's comment is apt:

"...after all that is what leftists do—namely, close all questions in their own favor by allowing no opposing voice."

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octothorp
on January 04, 2019 at 12:18:50 pm

The late Roman Republic also had two devices lacking in our constitution. First, a tribune of the plebs who could veto legislation (in our republic the Speaker of the House does not have a veto). Second, the office of dictator was a constitutional officer who exercised absolute authority in situations where, after years of abuse and self dealing in the usual course of business in the Roman Senate, things needed to be set aright and the "mos maiorum" (the way of the ancestors or the right way of doing things) restored.

I hope Trump will be an effective tribune of the plebs (he does remind me James Purefoy's Mark Antony in "Rome"). Then we won't need a Sulla.

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EK
on January 04, 2019 at 12:24:16 pm

Don't assume the worse. L&L seems to have been shut down between Christmas and New Year. I noticed that several comments were lost on J V Schall's topic "What Reason Alone Cannot Comprehend" posted on Dec. 24.

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EK
on January 04, 2019 at 12:36:51 pm

As you may have noticed, these days many of us are having trouble distinguishing "classically liberal democracies" from run of the mill aristocracies and their associated kleptocracies and kakistocracies so we're quite ready to junk the idea that the Enlightenment was really the ne plus ultra of Western thought and are taking another look at democratic republicanism.

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EK
on January 04, 2019 at 12:58:07 pm

EK:

Thanks for that. I had forgotten re: the "constitutional" office of dictator.

Oops, we better watch out or the Proggies and the Never Trumpers (I repeat myself) will now decry our desire for a dictator in the form of The Trumpster.

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gabe
on January 04, 2019 at 13:11:02 pm

Enlightenment - Yippee, bully,Bravo!

Bear in mind that from the wellhead of Enlightenment, the fact - values distinction sprung forth such intellectual masterpieces as the American School of Ethnologists which via the use of phrenology sought to establish the racial inferiority of Blacks, Slavs and southern Europeans which further produced the Progressive School of eugenics, Social Darwinism, etc.

Yes, let us all SUPPOSE that facts and values are not inextricably intertwined and that the *rational* scientist is insulated from any other perceptual biases.

All Praise to the Enlightenment. Now that the anti-clerical basis of the movement has succeeded beyond expectations, can we not dispense with the absurdity that "rationalism" will propel us to that ever receding golden Future.

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gabe
on January 04, 2019 at 13:16:37 pm

I must add that I also very much enjoy Pukka's comments. A quick wit, an insightful and probing mind.

BUT:

The comment he posted a while back MAY have been perceived by LLB's Masters as a tad bit too personal of an attack. In fact, as Pukka's comment was a add-on to one i had made, it resulted in my comment also being deleted. I wrote to the LLB Masters and had mine restored as mine was not directed at LLB.

should they have done this? I think not but who the heck am I to judge.
Having done it should they now rescind the blockage? I think so.

What Pukka brings to the audience is well worth the occasional "excess energy" (as perceived by some).

Gotta go - maybe more later.

Let Pukka Back!

Pukka Lives says Gandolph

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gabe
on January 04, 2019 at 13:51:35 pm

One of the under rated charms of TULIP calvinism is that it forces us to confront and contest the idea that human reasoning is some how an infallible guide to what is right and wrong. Our default position is that until proven otherwise, human reasoning is utterly corrupt and debased.

As Shakespeare wrote: "And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray us In deepest consequence."
(Macbeth, Act I, scene iii)

Amongst calvinists, human reasoning is prima facia wrong until all of the axioms and definitions relied upon have been identified and carefully examined. Even then, we are compelled to add that we may well be very wrong.

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EK
on January 04, 2019 at 14:36:46 pm

This comment boils down to the following: we have reason and we have revelation (more specifically, revelation properly interpreted). Which trumps the other? The Calvinist author gives his answer.

The problem is how to determine what is true revelation (or revelation correctly interpreted). Revelation does not provide proof of its truth nor its correct interpretation. These are matters of faith. The ultimate problem for me is how to discriminate between the truth claims of competing revelations or interpretations thereof. How may we discriminate between the truth claims of Christianity and Islam? How may we discriminate between the truth claims of (any) Totalitarianism and Liberal Democracy? How, if not by reason?

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Geoffrey Harrison
on January 04, 2019 at 14:56:16 pm

Furthermore, if "human reasoning is prima facie (sic) always wrong until all of the axioms and definitions relied upon have been identified and carefully examined..." And how do we do that without reason? "Even then, we are compelled to add that we may well be very wrong." So we are trapped in an inescapable vicious circle of unending recursive looping.

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Geoffrey Harrison
on January 04, 2019 at 15:25:55 pm

My answer is that the proof of reason is simply experience.

The abiding tension between faith and reason is, I think, to be resolved by experience over a long period of time. In the 1970s Zhou Enlai captured this idea when he was understood to say something like it was still too soon to judge the significance of the French Revolution of 1789.

This raises the question of how, since 1945, has our collective experience with the application of classic liberal doctrines to our day to day political problems proved the worth of these doctrines?

All over the West, the popular answer is that many of these doctrines are nothing but snake oil aimed at creating and comforting a new class of aristocrats who are every bit as greedy and self-serving as were all of the other aristocracies that preceded our current crop philosopher apparatchiks and nomenklatura.

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EK
on January 04, 2019 at 15:34:22 pm

OMG, a Calvinist amongst us!

Perhaps EK may encourage L&L to appreciate a few of Calvinism's social precepts, like, for example, toleration of disagreement, humility and an appreciation of the limits of reason, particularly its own reasoning.

"We know the truth not only by reason but by the heart."

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octothorp
on January 04, 2019 at 16:16:12 pm

One would normally not equate Edmund Burke and Zhou Enlai BUT that rather resilient and resourceful ChiComm understood, as did Burke, that "experience" is the tempered measure of both reason and faith in practice.

To Mr Harrison:

"Recursive looping" may in fact serve as a synonym for *experience* (properly understood AND *experienced*).

I would add that this does not necessarily entail a descent into relativism, which is all too common and rather pronounced among certain Classical Liberals who have a distinctive predilection to 'pronounce" but fail to observe.

"To acquire knowledge, one must study;
but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”
Some sage said that!

However, I prefer the thinking of that great american Statesman / philosopher, Lawrence "Yogi" Berra who opined: "You can observe a lot just by watching."

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gabe
on January 04, 2019 at 20:43:56 pm

I would add that reason and experience are not different things. Reason comes out of experience.

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Geoffrey Harrison
on January 05, 2019 at 11:36:30 am

Then we are agreed!

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gabe
on January 05, 2019 at 16:33:05 pm

This is terrible. Is this for real? Is L&L deliberately suppressing Pukka? This is not just some technical glitch? His comments are always sharp and often severe, but the ones I've read have always remained squarely within the lines of vigorous civil dialogue. Even if I don't entirely agree with all he says (and who of us agrees even with himself all of the time?), I always come away from his comments more enlightened than when I went in.

If L&L is suppressing him, it ought to at least have the intellectual integrity (not to mention plain decency) to publicly say so. And if there have been instances of line-crossing behavior by Pukka, it ought to say so as well.

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QET
on January 06, 2019 at 13:53:43 pm

Several days ago I posted on this site (under the December 31 commentary entitled "2018: A Gathering Storm For Classical Liberalism") a comment which conservatives (and even soi-disant classical liberals) might well consider like Jefferson's "fire bell in the night" as to Law and Liberty's arbitrary, unexplained use of the censor's power to silence, perhaps, its most conservative critic, Pukka Luftmensch. In the days since my sounding the fire bell only two other readers, Octothorp and QET, criticized the arbitrary injustice and unexplained rationale of L&L's censorship. Only two other commenters even stepped forward to speak of the Pukka suppression.

Octothorp emphasized the hypocrisy of L&L, which purports to be a conservative web blog, behaving like a typical Leftist organization. With irony he quoted Sir Roger Scruton who said, "After all that is what leftists do—namely, close all questions in their own favor by allowing no opposing voice.”

QET expressed appreciation for Pukka's contribution to L&L's commentaries, recognition of the civility of his comments and condemnation of L&L's tactics, saying, "If L&L is suppressing him, it ought to at least have the intellectual integrity (not to mention plain decency) to publicly say so."

EK commented that perhaps the culprit was not a censorious L&L but rather the holiday rush of web blog business (to which I would note that even the US Post Office performs efficiently during the Christmas season.)

Finally, Gabe, like Job's comforters, expressed regret at Pukka's plight but, again like Job's comforters, opined that perhaps the fault lay in the fact that Pukka had on one occasion criticized L&L. Yet Gabe thought, on balance, that the value to L&L of Pukka's insight, intelligence and entertainment outweighed the cost (rightly or wrongly perceived) of L&L tolerating Pukka's continued presence. Gabe asked and answered: "(S)hould they have done this? I think not but who the heck am I to judge." before modestly suggesting that L&L recall Pukka from exile: "Having done it should they now rescind the blockage? I think so." (No "absotively" from Gabe there, Pukka points out.)

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IREP
on January 06, 2019 at 13:55:55 pm

Here are the thoughts that my friend Pukka shared with me today about the matter of L&L's censorship:

"Sir Roger Scruton, whom Octothorp quoted about the censorship tactics of the new Left, inadvertently also got it right about the hollow ethics of L&L's favored anti-Trump classical liberals who, nowadays, expound their differing principles as vociferously as neo-liberals and posses no less than neo-liberals an intolerance of disagreement. And, as we see from the cowardly behavior of L&L's silent management and of its mostly indifferent readers regarding the Pukka affair, anti-Trump classical liberals exude, similarly to their neo-liberal counterparts, the faux-courage of their dubious convictions. The faux-courage of the L&L anti-Trump classical liberal is to posture as principled, then to abandon principle under pressure. It is neither the genuine courage which Plato describes, that virtue which allows reason to rule, nor the authentic courage which Aristotle held to be virtuous because it allows one to act wisely and for a worthy cause in the face of danger and personal sacrifice."

"The purging of Pukka Luftmensch causes me to think of participation in the Law & Liberty blog as a Carrollian exercise in literary nonsense the pursuit of which is a 'down the rabbit hole' experience wherein one first shrinks and then enlarges, pondering initially, like Alice, the intellectual risk of becoming too small, of 'going out altogether, like a candle' and then, like Alice, growing so large as to realize that one is shut in a fantastical place where one seriously challenges L&L's orthodoxy of anti-Trump classical liberalism only at the risk of receiving its Queen of Hearts edict, 'Off with his head.' "

"As for my personal feelings about being censored out of print on L&L by L&L, I will quote A. Lincoln who said:

'You have heard the story haven't you, about the man as he was ridden out of town on a rail, tarred and feathered, somebody asked him how he liked it, and his reply was if it was not for the honor of the thing, he would much rather walk.' "

"But for the high honor of being kicked out as a critic of that most unworthy, unprincipled club I'd much rather have resigned from L&L's ranks."

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IREP
on January 07, 2019 at 14:05:43 pm

Herewith a correction:

ABSOTIVELY!

BTW: It was not so much that Pukka criticized the site / masters, nut rather, as I suggested, that it may have been "excessively energetic" that the site master thought the "full Coventry" treatment was in order.

Let us assume for the moment that it WAS too energetic. This site purports to be simultaneously supportive of the free expression of ideas AND controversial opinions (after all, is, or was not "Originalism" a controversial idea prior to becoming just "originalism (small "o') reflecting its more general acceptance and thus no need for a capital "O".
It purports also to be a forum for debate and rigorous intellectual "combat" (excepting my inanities, of course). Debate and combat may entail "energetic" discussion. At times, will this cross (an ill OR UN-defined line) How is one to tell.
I once posted something (a link to the Fat Girl at Amherst) which I later regretted. I had it removed with the assistance of the webmaster. Yep, I had inadvertently crossed the line (it was the wrong link, BTW, even if the intended one was just a tad bit less offensive.)

Can we not, even allowing that the LLB Masters may perceive the comments in question as "excessively energetic" provide for an opportunity for Pukka to do as did I? "Put the right link (wink, wink).
I think this site DOES benefit from Pukka comments. They are both witty, if ascerbic at times, probing, insightful and, I think, engendered from a deep and abiding understanding of both what is right AND wrong with both our current political [un]reality and modes of discourse which appears to place a "false" civility above depth and probative value.

Witness the ongoing critique of that dastardly low life Trumpster and his malapropisms, ill humor, and grating Queensborough vernacular and the accompanying postulate (false, of course) that one with such traits, such speech is "outside the norms" of Presidential behavior.
QUESTION:
Have you ever truly studied the "character" of our Presidents or any "esteemed" political leader? Upon stage they present as the model of civility, refinement - well educated to boot.
REALLY?????
Truman - under the grips of Boss Pendregast (?).
Dewey - worse than Mueller, who in order to convict Lucky Luciano rounded up 300 drug addled prostitutes, and during withdrawal cuased them to LIE regarding Luciano's involvment in prostitution.
JFK - serial philanderer and drug addict
LBJ - "Landslide Lyndon" says it all! Dirt poor West Texas kid who managed to acquire a huge communications empire, etc.
Slick Willy and The Fat Lady in a Pantsuit: Dirt poor hillbilly and ambitious harridan - now worth hundreds of millions of dollars after a life time spent in public service.
The Great and Wise Obama: Behind the curtain he enabled his friends to commit "crash and buy" on For Profit Colleges and other industries - only later to be rewarded by those same friends (see netflix)

In common - all of these PRESENTED (other than Give 'en Hell Harry) as refined, well educated members of the elite.
What else did they have in common.
IT WAS ALL A BIG LIE.

Why should not Pukka (and I) be Bloody Well PISSED OFF at the hypocritical slanders directed at a man simply because he is not prone to PRETENSE.

So, ABSOTIVELY and POSILUTELY bring back Pukka.
I ain't offended - but then again, I am just a reformed street urchin from Queens, NYC and I too should *properly* be dissed for deploying my native tongue.

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gabe

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