Editor’s Note: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 16 August, 2012
Mandeville, LA – Since the subject of Tradition vs Reason come sup nearly every day on the Mike Church Show, I thought it would be helpful to lay out what the differences are – or were – between Libertarians & their practice of Reason and Paleocon/Tradcons and their defense and study of Tradition. M.E. Bradfor’s opus magnus “A Better Guide Than Reason” takes the side of Tradition as does this essay by Russell Kirk “Chirping Sectaries”.
It is undeniable that the sinking of the good ship Tradition in the 1960’s gave rise to the mean talent we call “awesome” today that we are surrounded by in arts (there are no letters) and thought. This explains the lack of seriousness that is our disease, the tradition of classical education which reinforced the practice of critical thought no longer guides our popular shouting matches. Michelle Malkin & Ann Coulter are as highly thought of as conservative thinkers as say Donald Livingston and Richard Kimball. It is an insult to the humanities that the two feminine authors outsell the latter 60 to 1 but of course when republicanism is no longer practiced, who needs writers that teach and defend it?
When I first read this essay I was a DeceptiCON, taking time out from chanting USA, USA during the 2006 troop “surge” in Iraq. I did not think much of Kirk’s work then but as Mark Twain said of dismissive 17 year olds who re-consider what they dismissed at turning 25 “I was amazed by how much [Kirk] had learned.” I hope you find it useful and provocative as well. – Mike Church
Libertarians: the Chirping Sectaries
By: RUSSELL KIRK
1. The Progeny ofJ. S. Mill ANY DISCUSSION OF the relationships be- tween conservatives (who now, to judge by public-opinion polls, are a majority among American citizens) and libertarians (who, as tested by recent elections, remain a tiny though unproscribed minority) naturally commenceswith an inquiry into what these disparate groups hold in common. These two bodies of opinion share a detestation of collectivism. They set their faces against the totalist state and the heavy hand of bureaucracy. That much is obvious enough.
What else do conservatives and libertarians profess in common? The answer to that question is simple: nothing. Nor will they ever have. T o talk of forming a league or coalition between these two is like advocating a union of ice and fire.
The ruinous failing of the ideologues who call themselves libertarians is their fanatic attachment to a simple solitary principle- that is, to the notion .of per- sonal freedom as the whole end of the civil social order, and indeed of human ex- istence. The libertarians are oldfangled folk, in the sense that they live by certain abstractions of the nineteenth century. They carry to absurdity the doctrines of
John Stuart Mill (before Mill’s wife converted him to socialism, that is). To understand the mentality of the libertarians of 1981, it may be useful to remind ourselves of a little book published more than a hundred and twenty years ago: John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. Arguments that were flimsy in 1859 (and were soundly refuted by James Fitzjames Stephen) have become farcical in 1981. So permit me to digress concerning Mill’s famous essay. Some books tend to form the character of their age; others to reflect it; and Mill’s Liberty is of the latter order.
That tract is a product of the peaceful-
ness and optimism of Victorian England; written at the summit of what Bagehot calls the Age of Discussion, it is a voice from out the vanished past of nineteenth- century meliorism. The future, it turned out, was not to the school of Mill. As Mill himself was the last of the line of British empiricists, so his Liberty, with its foreboding remarks on the despotism of the masses, was more an epilogue to mid- dle-class liberalism than a rallying-cry.
Click here to read the rest of Kirk’s essay in a new window Libertarians_chirping_sectaries_Russell_Kirk