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Liberalism’s Civilization Problem

Two of the most influential essays written towards the end of the twentieth century were Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History” (1989) and Samuel Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations” (1993). Later expanded into books, the authors outlined very different prospects for global politics.

For Fukuyama, the crumbing of communist systems heralded a coming “end-point” in “mankind’s ideological evolution,” this being the eventual “universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” There might be temporary lapses on this Hegelian high road to liberal domestic and international order and the journey might take centuries, but the destination was settled.

Huntington took a different view. While some ideological conflicts may have subsided, he argued that societies were likely to find themselves caught up in civilizational conflicts. Far from a coming hegemony of Western values and institutions, Western nations would be confronted by resurgent Sinic and Islamic civilizations.

Throughout the 1990s, the end of history thesis seemed ascendant. Numerous countries in very different cultural settings appeared to be embracing liberal democracy and markets. But that type of argument looks rather less convincing these days. In fact, as confidence in the desirability of liberal order dwindles throughout much of the world, Huntington’s thesis appears to have come into its own.

Nothing is Inevitable

Whether it is Russia’s embrace of neo-Tsarism mixed with state gangsterism, Hindu nationalism’s ever-tightening grip on India, the Muslim world’s ongoing dominance by decidedly illiberal regimes, or China’s ramped-up Communist-nationalist authoritarianism, they underscore the fading credibility of the “liberalism is inevitable” standpoint. Many of these regimes are consciously framing themselves, as Adrian Pabst and Aris Roussino have illustrated, as civilizational actors over and against Western states.

One can be cynical about Vladimir Putin’s efforts to cloak his authority in ballasts of Russian identity like Eastern Orthodoxy. Likewise, it is easy to dismiss Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempts to re-root Turkey in an Islamized version of its Ottoman imperial past as to be expected from a politician with Erdogan’s background. As for China, more than one person regards Xi Jinping’s insistence that China is entitled to project its own values abroad as primarily about his desire to reinforce the Communist party’s internal control.

But whatever the motives—and I think it would be unwise to view these developments as simply driven by internal power consolidation—these regimes are behaving as more than just nation-states. Since 2012, for instance, Putin has repeatedly portrayed Russia as a “state-civilization bonded by the Russian people, Russian language and Russian culture native for all of us, uniting us and preventing us from dissolving in this diverse world.” For him and many other Russians, the steady political expansion of that civilization-state since Peter the Great’s time is the natural state of affairs.

Similar trends are noticeable in China. As David Goldman recently observed, “there’s a continuity between what was always a very heterogeneous set of men who had a very cruel empire and what the Chinese are doing today.” That pattern of governance goes hand-in-hand with a 5000 year-old civilizational tradition that survived Mao’s Cultural Revolution. It is easy to see why contemporary Chinese leaders invoke this past to underscore that China is no ordinary nation-state. They have a point, and it resonates with much of China’s population.

Liberal Deer in the Headlights

These developments have created several challenges for Western nations. For one thing, they indirectly highlight the extent to which institutions of freedom in the West such as constitutionalism, market economies, and rule of law have become detached from their distinctly Western roots: i.e., the mixture of classical, Jewish, Christian, and Enlightenment sources that gave concrete definition to the idea of Western civilization.

We witness this in the reluctance of some contemporary Western advocates of free societies to even mention this history in anything but the vaguest terms. In the case of European Union leaders, some plainly question the worth of some of these roots, particularly those of a religious nature. Other EU politicians mirror the wider absence of civilizational confidence that pervades so many European countries. That’s understandable, given twentieth-century Europe’s penchant for self-destruction and its capacity to generate ideologies of evil like Marxism or National Socialism.

Yet other Western leaders maintain that universalizing these habits and institutions requires them to be detached from their Western origins. How, the argument goes, can we expect Saudis or Mongolians to embrace rule of law or constitutionalism if we don’t deemphasize their Western associations? One alternative would be to note that some of these institutions derive their deepest legitimacy from claims of natural law and natural rights: i.e., concepts which, while undergoing their most sophisticated development in the West, are not by definition specifically Western phenomena. Unfortunately it’s unclear that many Western politicians and culture shapers themselves have anything but the flimsiest grasp of such ideas, which means they are unlikely to be convinced—or convincing—articulators of this line of thought.

Whatever the reasons, these doubts, forgetfulness and reticence leaves Western defenders of free societies enunciating the thinnest of normative foundations for, say, human rights, or unable to get beyond efficiency arguments when defending markets. They are reduced to making nebulous allusions to, for example, dignity, but they can’t explain dignity in terms beyond feelings, utility, or “because the United Nations says so.” None of these have ever proved strong foundations for anything.

This absence of civilizational self-assurance manifests itself at the very top of European politics. Consider, for instance, France’s Emmanuel Macron. In a 2019 article, he called for a revival of “European humanism” and a “European civilization that unites, frees and protects us.” Yet his reflections about European culture said almost nothing about the nature or source of European values. While Macron referenced freedom and progress, his focus was overwhelmingly on practical issues like climate change and tax policy: all important no doubt, but hardly central to the content of European civilization. “Europe is not a second-tier power,” Macron insisted almost pleadingly. It was hard not to read Macron’s appeal as confirming precisely what he was denying. His words left the impression that Europe’s second-tierness owed something to an incapacity to give concrete expression to the deeper commitments which defined the West itself.

By contrast, figures like Putin, Xi, and Erdogan have no qualms about robustly defending their political arrangements via references to Russian history, Confucian ethics, or Islam. Their accounts of how Russian culture, Confucianism, or Sunni theology legitimates authoritarianism may be disputable. For the moment, however, that doesn’t matter. Theirs is a powerful, confident message against which most of their contemporary Western European peers look and sound ineffectual. Some American conservatives have taken note, and added this observation to their repertoire of reasons for why we need to dispense with liberalism.

Alas, few Western leaders possess the imagination to link the values and institutions of freedom to these cultural reference-points inside the civilization-states presently confronting the West.

For all its problems, America is better positioned to re-ground its case for free societies upon a particular civilizational heritage. The American Founding is a distinct political and cultural achievement, but also draws upon the classical, religious, and Enlightenment sources which have shaped Western identity. Moreover, it continues to inspire not just Americans but also many others precisely because of the American Founding’s universalistic claims. It’s not a coincidence that American progressives want to “change the narrative” about the Founding via endeavors like the 1619 Project. They know that dismantling the Founding will delegitimize the institutions of ordered liberty which the progressive left want to unravel.

Paths to Choose

If the preceding analysis is accurate, it suggests two possibilities that may help address the internal and external civilizational dilemmas facing Western free societies.

One involves insisting that the Western values and institutions which have defined freedom and whose foundations stretch as far back as the Hebrew Scriptures and classical Greece do have specific origins, did achieve maturity in Western societies, but are also good for all peoples. That’s not an argument for wars in the Middle East. But it would allow Western leaders to project a civilizational self-assurance that is presently lacking, and to respond to those who argue that such propositions amount to neo-colonialism or aggressive Occidentalism.

The main obstacle to this approach lies less, I suspect, with the negative reaction it would surely generate from the likes of Xi, Erdogan, and Putin, and more with the hostile response it would evoke from within Western countries. The progressive left’s obsessive focus on Western history’s darker aspects and its insistence that most of the West’s achievements are primarily masks for endless oppression largely flows from the left’s generally negative view of Western civilization. On the other side of the spectrum, some conservatives view post-Enlightenment liberalism as a decisive break with the West’s deeper philosophical and religious roots. Far from wanting to associate principles of ordered liberty with Western civilization, they want to jettison the liberal project altogether.

A second possibility concerns Western thinkers investing considerable energy and time in illustrating how the norms and institutions of free societies might be embodied within the cultural settings of those states presently challenging the West. This possibility arises when we recognize that the cultural histories of these nations are less monolithically authoritarian than often realized.

Longstanding traditions of liberal constitutionalism exist, for instance, in Russia. They go back to the eighteenth century and run counter to the “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality” doctrine promoted by the Tsarist regime in the nineteenth century as well as the seven decades of Bolshevik rule. These traditions are associated with figures like Tsar Alexander I’s close advisor Count Mikhail Speransky, the Decembrist army officers who tried to install a constitutionalist regime in Russia in 1825, and the Octobrist and Constitutional Democratic parties who exerted considerable political influence between 1905 and 1917. There was even a significant Russian liberal conservative movement which combined criticism of autocracy with firm opposition to the radicals, nihilists and anarchists who proliferated in nineteenth-century Russia.

At different points, these Russian movements for greater liberty were severely repressed by Czars, socialists, Marxists, and Greater Russian nationalists. They never achieved anything like a critical mass. Yet they are undeniably part of Russian history and, as such, constitute a Russian source of legitimacy for moves towards a freer Russia.

China is not without its own traditions that lean in the direction of greater freedom and which provide a contrast to the Chinese Communist party’s authoritarian corporatism. In the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, Chinese intellectuals such as the historian Liang Qichao and the philosopher and diplomat Hu Shih espoused liberal ideas and sought to link them to ancient Chinese philosophies ranging from various expressions of Confucianism to their primary rival, Mohism. During the same period, reform movements like the Progressive Party which consciously promoted constitutionalism and liberty under rule of law achieved significant representation in the new Chinese Republic’s National Assembly in 1913.

Even further back, there are schools of Confucianism which upheld similar ideas. The series of debates known as the Discourses on Salt and Iron which occurred at the imperial court in 81 BC pitted “Modernists” (supporters of price controls, extensive state monopolies, and high taxation to fund military expeditions and state-led colonization of China’s border-areas) against “Reformists.” This second group consisted of Confucian scholars who advocated ending government monopolies, reducing taxes on merchants and capital, and generally market-friendly views. The Reformists’ overall understanding of life was very much one of “self-ordering” within an ethical and legal framework that emphasized virtue and a type of natural law reasoning. The parallels with freedom-friendly Western discourse are clear.

No Confidence, No Future

To be sure, these legacies of freedom in China and Russia remain overshadowed by highly resilient authoritarian trends. They also proved unable to resist Communism in China and Russia, or even, in China’s case, some assimilation into fascist-inclined nationalist movements in the 1920s and 30s. From this perspective, they are at best shaky foundations for other futures for China and Russia. Nonetheless, these traditions cannot be dismissed outright as foreign impositions and thus provide some indigenous precedents for rule of law, greater economic liberty, a vibrant civil society, and a limited state in countries which have experienced precious little of such phenomena.

Alas, few Western leaders possess the imagination to link the values and institutions of freedom to these cultural reference-points inside the civilization-states presently confronting the West. Nor do many have the courage to ground liberal order explicitly upon a clear and unapologetic understanding of what Western civilization means. They seem wedded to the promotion of bloodless protocols routinely ignored by Beijing, Moscow and Ankara, confuse freedom with license, increasingly collapse justice into wokery and political correctness, or are trapped within the deterministic mindset of “if markets grow, liberty’s victory will inevitably follow.”

Not one of these approaches will instill in Western societies the civilizational confidence that is indispensable if they want to push back against the authoritarian regimes of assertive civilization-states. Putin, Erdogan, and Xi understand the importance of that type of self-belief. It is high-time that more Western leaders did so as well. Without it, the West and its tradition of liberty under law have a limited future.

Reader Discussion

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on September 07, 2020 at 10:53:26 am

Simply as an educational FYI, I encourage those who haven't to visit the virtual tour of the Goodrich Seminar Room available here at L&L. Visually it's arresting, remarkably well done, and educationally it presents a general yet highly informative civilizational overview of the figures, history and, prominently, the ideas that have led to and served ordered liberty, classical liberal conceptions thereof and the like. Chronologically ordered, going back to pre-Homeric episodes (Gilgamesh, Hammurabi) and rightly culminating in the Declaration.

To get there click on 'Part of the Liberty Fund Network' link at the top of the page, then click on 'About Us' and finally on 'Goodrich Seminar Room'.

In the end and as this article suggests, it comes down to knowing and having confidence in elemental and formative ideas worthy of being advanced and defended. A sound appreciation of human nature, natural law and natural rights reinstituted, ordered liberty "sold" on these and related bases by statesmen and stateswomen and others who are up to the task. Basic cultural/educational changes needed as well, obviously.

(And as to the disparagement of natural law and natural rights over the last three centuries or so, that was done more on the basis of popularized fad and fashion and sentiment than on any truly solid philosophical and well reasoned basis.)

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Michael Bond
on September 07, 2020 at 18:40:02 pm

Well, the second L&L essay today that is also well written and understandable. Thank you, Mr. Gregg, for the descriptive phrase "Russia’s embrace of neo-Tsarism mixed with state gangsterism" and for the links to Aris Roussinos and UnHerd.com. I will probably not spend as much time there as they deserve, but a new awareness is the first step.

Raising the focus of discussion from the nation-state to the civilization-state is an interesting take that pulls in a longer and wider view of history, ideas, and personalities that may give us a better understanding of our opponents if/when they are adopting a similarly wide viewpoint. It will take more of a Renaissance Man (or an autodidact) than I am to integrate all of that history into a coherent response, but I continue my small attempt at a partial understanding. As to your suggestion that there are two forms of response to our dilemma, I would suggest the power of "AND" over "or".

"Alas, few Western leaders possess the imagination to link the values and institutions of freedom to these cultural reference-points inside the civilization-states presently confronting the West. Nor do many have the courage to ground liberal order explicitly upon a clear and unapologetic understanding of what Western civilization means. ... Not one of these approaches will instill in Western societies the civilizational confidence that is indispensable if they want to push back against the authoritarian regimes of assertive civilization-states."
I suggest that part of the problem with retaining and expanding our "confidence" in Western values is that we have not transitioned to an understanding of morality as a combination of our scientific understanding of evolution, psychology, and genetics and our cultural history. Rather, we still claim to rely on religious revelation and self-evident human feelings, while the reality is this supernatural foundation is now found insufficient for many people in the West. I will not belabor this view here, as I have already commented (possibly over-long) at https://lawliberty.org/keys-to-the-progressive-kingdom/ ON JUNE 16, 2020 AT 12:53:32 PM and ON JUNE 17, 2020 AT 19:07:20 PM and at https://lawliberty.org/book-review/the-biological-sociology-of-the-good-society/ ON AUGUST 20, 2020 AT 22:29:59 PM.

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R2L
on September 08, 2020 at 11:20:29 am

R2L:
Fair enough!
Agreed: "... while the reality is this supernatural foundation is now found insufficient for many people in the West"
1) This "insufficiency" does not in itself establish the falsity of the earlier belief systems, nor
2) conclusively demonstrate the "rightness" of the newer belief systems.

"...we have not transitioned to an understanding of morality as a combination of our scientific understanding of evolution, psychology, and genetics and our cultural history."
1) Let us say that we have not "fully" transitioned" to such an understanding of morality while recognizing that vast swathes of the citizenry lay claim to such a scientific understanding.
2) Science is best when it is "amoral", when it is not preoccupied with a some moral telos / goal. consider the *science* of eugenics as just one example supporting my assertion.
3) Science is incapable of defining and establishing (although it is not for want of trying) moral codes. And for the same reason that Hayek claimed "central planners" were incapable of planning - i.e., the knowledge problem. Witness, the science of the CDC and / or the ChiComm Flu models emanating out of the Imperial College, Oxford College, etc etc.
As for pyschology, far too much of it is "pyschobabble" and springs from some underlying *moral* (or amoral) predisposition resident in the practitioner. Witness the change in the treatment of homosexuality by the APA over the years - from a "disorder" to the current understanding of something to be celebrated.
Evolution: far from being settle, the actual science currently being undertaken by biochemists, geneticists and others indicates a far more complex and, as yet, undefined role for design in evolution or at least some mechanism far more complex and possessing far more explanatory power than the rather simple Darwinian explanation of random mutation. Who knows?
Culture - Yes AND No!
Clearly, culture plays a role in the codification of morals; that is to say that different cultures may reflect either different moral sentiments in their positive law OR different cultures may reflect the SAME moral sentiments DIFFERENTLY in their positive law.
In either case, we ought not to conclude from either the former or the latter that a) morals are relative and await only some scientific explanation for apparent differences or b) that with the same type of "scientific engagement" we may arrive at a moral formulation that will satisfy all cultures. Although, I would add that The Ten Commandments should be view as an archetype.
Lastly, I would suggest that Hadley Arkes does a rather fine job of "grounding" morals in humanity's innate capacity for reason without recourse to a divine being. I am rather fond of Professor Arkes thinking and would suggest that for all those who find "insufficiency" as their lot, they read Professor Arkes.

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gabe
on September 09, 2020 at 00:25:53 am

Hello, Gabe.
I agree with your initial 1) and 2) regarding “falsity” and “rightness” about belief systems. Definitive proof is not available either way. We can believe anything we want, even if sometimes it is unwise to discuss it. And I gather the “insufficient” group may be only 6 to 20% of the US population, although maybe 50% or more in some European and other countries. However, based on the way many people actually behave, even 20% may be too low.

Our mutual aim here is to advance John Adam’s assertion that our Constitution and associated mode of governance requires a “moral and religious” people, or at a minimum a moral and virtuous one. It will not work for any other, and we are now at risk of failing in the morality/ virtue department as a society/ populace. How do we reinvigorate moral beliefs and positions with sufficient confidence in our respective foundations to foster human rights/ natural rights positions and resist the siren songs of leftists/ socialists et al. Many, most people choose door #1 and some of us require door #2. We may disagree as to the baseline source(s) of morality, but as members of a common culture, once we walk through our respective doors, we confidently join arms (and bear arms if needed) to fight for the constitutional democratic republic we both (all) understand to be the best available vehicle for freedom and human flourishing ever invented/ designed/ implemented by humankind. Yet of course still far from perfected.

I also agree with your second set of 1), 2), and 3), except in 3) Paul Bloom has studied infants and very young children and claims to have seen innate behaviors in sync with moral positions later adopted and promoted by adult “thinkers”. Psychology has a lot of uncertainty because our genome, brain, mind, and culture are all so complex and intermingled as to source causes vs. effects. Most assertions in this area deserve a large grain of salt and a wait and see attitude (and better design of experiments).

As for evolution, it appears we are not yet on the same page in our understanding of this theory. I still resist implications of teleology (eye complexity arguments, etc.) and continue to assert the net passive (not directed) nature of the process. As for example when you say “… a far more complex and, as yet, undefined role for design in evolution or at least some mechanism far more complex and possessing far more explanatory power than the rather simple Darwinian explanation of random mutation.” But if the process of evolution (survival by adaptability in a changing environment) was itself designed (maybe yes, maybe no), it is a powerful, elegant (because it is simple), and beautiful “design” solution, even with the lack of specific design direction in what results from this process. Matt Ridley in The Evolution of Everything suggests this beauty can be applied well beyond biology, and I tend to agree with him. [No the genetic and bio-molecular activity is not simple, but would also have evolved in that submicroscopic realm.]

On your remarks about culture and morality, I guess I have not been as clear as I intended. I perceive “morality” as having an “absolute” genetic/inherent element that is refined in practice by nurture and/or culture that provides a “relativistic” element. Claims of moral absolutes or counter assertions of moral flexibility and relativity may be partial descriptions of this combined outlook. Science may eventually explain the inherent element, while it will probably at best merely describe the cultural contribution (in most cases). But the Golden Rule and the Noahide Commandments would be a good archetype.

Based on your earlier recommendation, I did buy and read Arkes book First Things. I found his reliance on “humanity's innate capacity for reason” to be fine as far as it goes, but unless I missed something, he failed to go deeper into the source of this reasoning (genetics, psychology, culture). Thus I found him to be “insufficient” in that regard and still prefer the position of Larry Arnhart and companion thinkers: man has evolved to have a particular set of innate desires and characteristics and that our culture is the one best able to help us realize those desires and associated happiness and flourishing.
Apologies if these longish comments and replies have taken us away from the core topic of the essay.

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R2L
on September 09, 2020 at 16:44:38 pm

R2L:

Good comments as well.
Will only add that Arkes "alludes" to the genetic nature of human reason early on in the book cited. Recall his comment that there is something in the human brain that "naturally" accepts, indeed expects causation. This is hardwired into our genetic makeup.
Then again, neither Arkes nor I claim any expertise in genetics, psychology (which I find *amusing*) and it would be unlikely that Arkes would attempt an explanation along those lines.

As for evolution, in Darwinian sense, yes to "micro" evolution; BIG Ginormous question mark on macro and this is borne out by innumerable new studies conducted at the biochemical level where we find that the chance of a certain 40 element protein chain being perfectly suited and complementary to its associated system is something on the order of 1 in 10 to the 40,000 power. Gives one cause for wonder, does it not?

Anyway, enjoyed the discussion.

And yep on Adams (and Jefferson's) assertion that THIS constitution was intended for, and required, a moral (religious) people.
Apparently, that ain't us any longer.

seeya
gabe

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gabe
on September 07, 2020 at 20:39:17 pm

By western liberalism, we mean

-equality under the law and meritocracy in business
-private land ownership, especially farms
-private home ownership
-private business ownership
-private telecommunications ownership (no fairness doctrine)
-private schools
-private churches
-private firearms
-freedom of speech

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The Once and Future Civilization
on September 08, 2020 at 09:17:27 am

Gregg frames his piece with raising Fukuyama and Huntington (and then goes on from that to address the issue inherit in liberalism in re: identity and culture), yet his use of them here needs some qualification. Both Fukuyama's and Huntington's claims in their papers went too far. Fukuyama was expanding on the Third Wave argument that Huntington raised starting in the late 80s, but made a much broader claim by connecting in Kojeve's Hegel end of history hypothesis on to what could be see as the democraticization wave Huntington was pointing to and trying to understand. Whereas Huntington's "clash of civilization" claim was tied to responding to Fukuyama's argument of the end of ideological baised geopolitical conflict, suggesting that such a claim is nieve in that it fails to see other sources for such conflict that will remain with us (such as culture and national idenity). Yet the problem with Huntington was his tendency to see national idenity and culture as permanent and constant phenonoma and not something that evolves and alters over time for various factors. In many ways both Huntington and Fukuyama are more similar to each other than they are in stark opposition to each other. We see this more clearly when we look at Fukuyama's turn to the State and its development, which is very much following in the path of Huntington and his 1968 classic Political Order and Changing Societies. And one could argue that much of the End of History argument owes much to the issues about democratization that Huntington addresses in his Third Wave and essays leading up to those lectures.

Also regarding China and the issues it has in framing a proper civil society, I would suggest looking again at Fukuyama's later two volume on policial order where he very much looks at the question of China and why it is doing what it is doing regarding political development.

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Clifford Angell Bates, Jr
on September 08, 2020 at 11:15:19 am

In other words, we lack principles that are clearly defined and commonly accepted. In my field, engineering, that is asking for problems. There should be, but isn't, a high level project scope that states who the stakeholders are, who the users are, and what the scope of the project is. Under that there should be a defining set of principles and the general approach of the executing the project. Under that should be the detailed design. Then the project can be created. The project will also need a means to go back to the stakeholders to change the project when needed. The US Constitution provides some the detailed design, and a weak means to the go back to the stakeholders for changes. The scope and principles are missing, and so we drift. How do you promote the superiority of something like that?

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Scott Amorian
on September 08, 2020 at 17:19:53 pm

I must say that I am simply astonished at the comment, "The scope and principles are missing, and so we drift. How do you promote the superiority of something like that?" It reflects a lack of awareness of the United States constitution, American political history and the causes of our contemporary divide.
As far as the commenter's analogizing what he sees as flaws in the constitution to its failure to adhere to the design and modification principles of an engineering project, I note that Woodrow Wilson, a failed president who failed to understand the constitution and his country, also had a mechanistic misunderstanding of the constitution. Solzhenitsyn says that because the early Bolsheviks greatly admired engineers for their building skills they elevated the political power of engineers until they realized that engineering and political skill are unrelated and in one of Stalin's great waves of mass arrest threw most of the engineers into gulags. Hence, both republicans and totalitarians have seen the myopia of governance that resembles engineering.

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paladin
on September 08, 2020 at 20:45:32 pm

Excellent piece. It should be circulated far and wide!

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David B Frisk
on September 09, 2020 at 09:33:36 am

This seems crucial: ” One alternative would be to note that some of these institutions derive their deepest legitimacy from claims of natural law and natural rights: i.e., concepts which, while undergoing their most sophisticated development in the West, are not by definition specifically Western phenomena. Unfortunately it’s unclear that many Western politicians and culture shapers themselves have anything but the flimsiest grasp of such ideas, which means they are unlikely to be convinced—or convincing—articulators of this line of thought.“

I would add that the problem is even deeper, because liberal culture has for some time ignored, avoided, or even denied the idea that truth rests ultimately on a reality that is not of our own making—it is has failed to see the vital importance of what is often called “metaphysical realism.”

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Douglas B. Rasmussen
on September 09, 2020 at 21:58:36 pm

We need to add Douglass North and the New Institutional school. Russia, China, Turkey are all versions of traditional societies ruled by a ruthless dictator, like a pharaoh and kept in power by a nobility that pounders the people. It's the most robust form of government throughout history. Only the Christian West broke from tradition

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Roger McKinney
on September 14, 2020 at 18:06:14 pm

Philosophical links between the individual and society in liberal democracies is distinctly British, and it derives from the writings of utilitarian philosophers such as Bentham and Mill, notwithstanding differences between the two. Jeremy Bentham declared that society is simply a collection of individuals. These ideas were the product of changes in society and economy occasioned by the industrial revolution. Industrial revolution came to Continental Europe later, and the state was more involved in the economy, certainly what became Germany. Utilitarian philosophers lived in a society where the dominant faith was Christianity but at a time not far from the time when the core values of Christianity were violently contestable. They did not embrace religion. Bentham and Mill were free thinkers. The link between capitalism and freedom in, what we call Western, liberal democracy was not informed by religious belief.

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Curious
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on September 24, 2020 at 07:20:05 am

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