Austerlitz: The Story Of How Napoleon Crushed The Austro-Russian Army (Ian Castle, December 2023, History Today)

The problem facing Napoleon was his urgent need to bring this Austro-Russian army to battle. His greatest fear was that the allies would withdraw to the east, forcing him to extend his already precarious line of communications even further as the biting cold of an eastern European winter took hold.

And it was a move such as this that Kutuzov, commander of this new combined army, advocated. Yet the final decision was no longer his to make. Tsar Alexander rode into Olmütz along with the reinforcements, determined to join his army at the front and lead it to victory. It was the Tsar who would decide the future direction of the army.

A council of war took place in Olmütz on 24 November, during which Kutuzov outlined his plan for a retreat towards the Carpathian mountains, leaving a wasteland in his wake to deter pursuit. By gaining time in this way he hoped to draw in General Bennigsen’s distant army to further boost his strength. Other officers put forward ideas for a withdrawal into Hungary or Bohemia to join forces with approaching allied formations. However, all supported a common theme: that of retreat.

But the presence of the Tsar diluted the authority of these generals. Surrounded by his own circle of sycophantic advisors and would-be military experts, Tsar Alexander, without any military experience, willingly accepted their analysis that the French were over-extended and vulnerable. This, they advised him, was his best chance to cross swords with the man recognised as the greatest soldier of his age, and win. Flattered and entranced by what he heard, Alexander overruled Kutuzov and took the decision to fight. Such was the standing of the Tsar in Russian society that no one felt inclined to oppose his wishes. It was just the decision Napoleon desired.


The End of History and The Last Man and Liberalism and Its Discontents (Pierre Lemieux, Fall 2022, Regulation)

[F]ukuyama realized that liberal democracy could meet obstacles on the path to the end of history. One danger would be a drift into extreme equality at the cost of freedom. The more equal society becomes, the more remaining small inequalities seem to stand out. As a result, society could splinter into closed identity groups. Trying to create an equal society could also result in building a new class of privileged rulers, as happened under communism. The equalizers tend to not be the equals of the equalized.

Fukuyama noted that the perils of liberal democracy are accentuated by a current philosophical crisis over the “nature of man.” For many environmentalists, man is just another organism, due no special respect. This view has not changed over the past three decades.

Another peril is the return of thymos from those affected by megalothymia, who want to be more recognized than others—as opposed to isothymia, the equal recognition of all in a democracy.

We know this as Identity politics.


Shock therapy, please: A frustrated Argentina has chosen radical economic reform (David Smith, 11/22/23, The Critic)

In the eyes of the voters here, the folks in power had for so long buried decency in a mafia-style political operation, designed to keep themselves in power forever — robbing one of the richest countries on the planet for themselves. They have been making almost half the population certifiably poor and dependent on government handouts, despite a rhetoric of inclusion and social justice that had the old Left in Europe celebrating the ruling Peronist party.

In this scenario, libertarian maverick Milei, an economics professor barely known three years ago, stormed the country with a chainsaw, promising to slash the state and get rid of the entrenched caste of politicians. Anarcho-capitalist, he calls himself. He’s never knowingly undersold.

Milei’s voters were overwhelmingly young, across the entire country, showing how much this means to them. The next generation of Argentines saw this election as do or die — or do or leave — and voted in overwhelming numbers for the former goalkeeper with a boyhood aspiration to be Argentina’s Mick Jagger. To them, the economics professor offered hope: a future that might keep them in a country they love. His message was direct and TikTok savvy: completely blunt on the need for radical change, with private property and capitalism as the guarantees of freedom.

It worked. On the 40th anniversary of its return to democracy, Argentines stood up to be counted and positively chose shock therapy. To protect the integrity of their polling stations, tens of thousands of volunteers watched over every vote cast. Amazingly, all sides ended up acknowledging that the democratic process on voting day was exemplary; the result was accepted as the will of the majority. Again, a positive.

The Second Way failed everywhere.


Declarations, Compacts, & the American Constitutional Tradition (Bruce Frohnen, November 20th, 2023, Imaginative Conservative)

The American constitutional tradition stretches back beyond our shores to England (and, thence, through Rome, to Greece, and to Mt. Sinai). It is a tradition shaped on this continent by experience and the character of the people. Clearly, the rhetoric of one paragraph in one document of distinctly limited purpose cannot define such a tradition. Rather, the broad, thin claims of the Declaration, like the theologically and politically demanding purposes of the Compact, form parts of a federal vision of political society. In this vision, local communities play the primary role in government, protecting the fundamental institutions in which good character is formed. But beyond these communities there must be a wider, less organic and communitarian organization with the more limited purpose of defending the common good of the states and localities, securing them against foreign aggression and keeping the peace among them. What we have, then, in the transition between Compact and Declaration, is not “progress” toward ideological abstractions, but rather movement from the more local, organic, and primary, toward the more general and conventional. Both are necessary for a functioning society and can, as they did in America, work together to form a more perfect union.

Our texts vindicate–then universalize–our rights as Englishmen.


Much as it galls the French, English has become Europe’s cultural lingua franca (Tomiwa Owolade, 18 Nov 2023, The Guardian)

In 1871, the German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, crushed France and annexed the territory of Alsace-Lorraine after the Franco-Prussian war. More than a decade later, Bismarck hosted the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, which carved up Africa into European colonies, and spoke to the other European delegates in French.

The role French played in the past as the lingua franca of Europe has been replaced today by English. If two Europeans meet each other in any part of the continent, and they don’t speak the same native language, they will probably speak to each other in English.


To Kill the King: a review of The Blazing World: A New History of Revolutionary England by Jonathan Healey (Paul Krause, 11/12/23, Voegelin View)

How did Puritanism become such a potent force in seventeenth century England? As Healey notes, the changing economic dynamics of England were part of it. The rise of the yeoman middleclass naturally disposed this new social class of Englishmen and Englishwomen to embrace a new religion and theology that accepted their difference from the lower class peasants and the upperclass aristocracy while affirming their newfound wealth as a sign of God’s grace. The theological cosmos of Puritanism equally allowed Puritans to make sense of a changing world that was rapidly distinct from the medieval cosmos of scholastic Catholicism, the same medieval cosmos still preached by the Church of England even though it now had a Protestant monarch.
Furthermore, the social changes wrought by the explosive population growth of the previous century led to the rise of schools, many of whom were now staffed and serving the “middling sort” that many Puritans were themselves members of. “There were more schools now than ever before, and more children of the gentry and yeomanry attended Oxford and Cambridge or the Inns of Court…As they experienced the world of education, culture, print, and the bright lights of London, members of the middling sort were able to dream, quite literally, about future prosperity for themselves and their children.” Among these new schoolmasters was the Puritan Thomas Beard and his student-pupil Oliver Cromwell.

Additionally, political changes helped lead to the rise of Puritan power. The growth of England’s economy and its population boom meant that a new political system needed to be created to accommodate these changes since the existing political order was insufficient to meet such rapid changes. “Because the English state had no standing army, no professional police force, and precious few bureaucrats, it depended for its functioning on households willing to serve office. The gentry would supply the magistrates and grand jurymen, the middling sort the constables, petty jurymen, overseers of the poor, churchwardens and various urban offices.” As England’s population grew and the demands for a larger social-political order arose with it, lo and behold it was Puritans—the generally educated and well-to-do in the towns now needing legal offices to be filled, churches to be administered, and law officers to keep the peace—who stepped up and served to fill these new demands.

Thus, by the death of James I, though the king held moderate Calvinist sympathies despite embracing anti-Puritan policies, the Puritans were now well-represented in England’s semi-democratic political structure and system that had been built by the needs of a world transforming away from the static and rigid medieval economy. As the new Stuart kings pushed an ever more aggressive anti-Puritan program, which had the effect of destabilizing the relatively new socio-political and economic order that many Puritans found themselves serving and benefitting from, the stage was set to kill the king and overthrow the Stuarts. The social, political, economic, and religious changes that were all occurring in seventeenth century England were now racing toward an ideological battle.
How did Charles I become an enemy of the Puritans? His father, James, left the Crown nearly bankrupt, saddled with debt, with even more debts accruing. Additionally, as Charles began his reign, theological disputes within the Church of England were expanding and couldn’t be contained. Arminianism and ceremonialism began to make headway at the highest levels of the English clergy even if a majority of the parish clergy remained Calvinistic. This widening gap between episcopal leaders embracing what seemed to be Catholic views (emphasis on free will in salvation and the rituals of the Liturgy) and the small church Calvinist clergy (many of whom were Puritans or sympathetic to Puritanism) caused some leading Puritans to believe the king was a secret Catholic in promoting episcopal leaders who held beliefs similar to Catholicism. Further, the Thiry Years’ War in Europe was turning Protestant hearts against the pacifist policies of the king; while King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden would eventually rescue the Protestant cause in Germany, many English Calvinists had been putting pressure on the king (James and Charles) to intervene on behalf of beleaguered Protestants on the continent.

Although England had avoided formal entry into the Thirty Years’ War, English and Scottish volunteers were permitted to serve in the Protestant armies. Eventually, England got into war with France and Spain on side issues, which included the French use of loaned English ships to oppress their own Protestant subjects and the English hope to successfully raid Spanish treasure ships and use the plundered gold and silver to pay off its rising debts. Needless to say, the conflicts with France and Spain did not go well. Mounting debts which required new taxes, religious disputes which saw Charles advocate on behalf of Arminian and ceremonialist clergy, and his eventual dissolution of Parliament as its newly elected members were opposed to his many policies led to the burning flame that eventually consumed England.

No representation without taxation.