May 19, 2023


The Post-Liberal Authoritarians Want You To Forget That Private Companies Have Rights (STEPHANIE SLADE | 5.18.2023, reason)

Vance here is channeling the neoreactionary blogger Curtis Yarvin, a.k.a. Mencius Moldbug, who has popularized the idea that "all the modern world's legitimate and prestigious intellectual institutions, even though they have no central organizational connection, behave in many ways as if they were a single organizational structure" with "one clear doctrine or perspective." He calls this decentralized entity "the Cathedral" and argues that the only way to combat it is by replacing America's liberal democratic regime with an absolute monarchy or (benevolent, one hopes) dictatorship.

But Vance goes further even than Yarvin, who defines the Cathedral as consisting of the mainstream media and the universities; Vance insists that government officials are also implicated. This step is critical, because the New Right, rejecting the classical liberal commitment to limited government and rule of law, openly calls on conservatives to wield state power against their domestic political "enemies," among whom it counts lefty corporations, universities, and nonprofits. 

I've made this point almost ad nauseam by now, but if you need a refresher, look no further than this illustrative quote from Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts: "This is our moment," he recently told The American Conservative, "to demand that our politicians use the power they have. This is the moment for us to demand of companies, whether they're Google, or Facebook, or Disney, that you listen to us, rather than ram down our throats and into our own families all of the garbage that you've been pushing on us. This is our time to demand that you do what we say. And it's glorious." 

For an even more concrete example, consider the time Vance went on live TV and proposed targeting left-wing institutions such as the Ford Foundation and Harvard for their political views. "Why don't we seize the assets," he asked, "tax their assets, and give it to the people who've had their lives destroyed by their radical open borders agenda?" 

This is obviously contrary to the laws of our land. The American constitutional system "protects private actors," says Notre Dame law professor Richard W. Garnett, while constraining how government officials can exercise their power. "Private actors have free speech rights. The government doesn't. Private actors have freedom of religion. Government doesn't. Private schools can train kids for their sacraments. Government schools can't. The whole landscape of our constitutionally protected freedoms depends on this conceptual distinction between state power and the nonstate sphere."

But that distinction is an obstacle preventing post-liberals such as Vance from using the government to punish private entities who express views or implement policies that they, the post-liberals, dislike. And so, to give themselves permission to do what they want, they have to get people to believe that the distinction is already obsolete. 

It's not. In fact, the "collusion" that Vance would use as justification to strip private actors of their rights consists of some of the very activities named in the First Amendment: voicing political opinions and advocating for changes to public policy. 

Posted by at May 19, 2023 12:00 AM