June 19, 2018


Against Anti-Liberalism: A long-standing fashion on the left is now a fashion on the right. (Nicholas Frankovich, Jun. 16th, 2018, National Review.)

Anti-liberalism is sold in assorted flavors under various labels: "post-liberalism," "illiberalism," "integralism" (popular among right-wing Catholics), "the end of liberalism" (see Patrick Deneen), "the Fourth Way" (see Aleksandr Dugin). No two self-identified anti-liberals have exactly the same definition of what they oppose. Some start from an economic idea of liberalism -- capitalism, essentially -- and then assume that it's a necessary correlative of a host of legal, political, cultural, and psychological tendencies. They say it's a package deal. But it isn't, or doesn't have to be.

On the right, what half of those who advocate some form of anti-liberalism say they want boils down to -- to translate it into plain, boring terms -- economic progressivism married to social conservatism. They may think that their case is sexier if they present it as an argument that "liberalism" suffers from a congenital disorder that makes it advisable for us to kill it off or hasten its death, but if they go that route they should point to an existing alternative that most closely approximates what they would like, because otherwise we're left to wonder whether they mean that America should follow Viktor Orban and take for its model Putin's Russia, Erdogan's Turkey, or even Xi's China.

Approval ratings of Putin in particular are high among Americans and Europeans on the right. From that perspective, Russia is an advanced version of what Hungary and Poland are still in the process of becoming: a state in which the ruling party tinkers with media and the courts to consolidate power and then pulls up the drawbridge to shut out political opponents, though letting them furnish the appearance of a democracy as they grumble on the other side of an impassable moat.

The difference between the American and the European use of the term "liberal" is often remarked. The former refers, on the whole, to the Left; the latter, to classical liberalism, which until yesterday was the political philosophy -- free markets, limited government, individual liberty -- of the mainstream American Right. The current populist revolt on the right has flushed to the surface a fact I had underestimated: that when Americans who call themselves conservative say "Down with liberalism," classical liberalism is a large part of what many of them have in their sights.

You lost the Right at "All Men" and the Left at "are Created"....

Posted by at June 19, 2018 6:37 AM