The new Catholic illiberals

A few of you have asked me what I think of this movement, surveyed here (possibly gated for you), or try this coverage.  If you would like the whole thing in one tweet, maybe try this one from Sohrab Ahmari:

What I’d say to liberal friends who are men and women of goodwill: “Persuade your comrades to ease up and back off while there’s yet time. You don’t want to pit your ideology against forces much older and more potent than liberalism, which is thin civilizational gruel, indeed.”

Other than disagreeing with this group, here is my general impression.  They have not managed to produce a deep, compelling illiberal book comparable say to the works by James Fitzjames Stephens, Carl Schmitt, Burke (not actually an illiberal in my view, but the comparison remains relevant), Jean Bodin, or others from that tradition.  I’m not sure they could beat the arguments of Thomas Mann’s liberal caricature Settembrini in The Magic Mountain.

They have not attached themselves to any great social movement or revolution, either as leaders or followers, unless you count the Church itself, but that is hardly new news.

They do not have a signature policy proposal (at the end of the article behind the first link, the big policy proposal unveiled at the end is “restrictions on share buybacks” — Cliff Asness, telephone!  Are they kidding?)

Do they have a T.S. Eliot or an Emil Nolde or for that matter a J.S. Bach, who probably was not a Millian liberal?

So I believe they are part of the same “thin civilizational gruel” as the rest of us.  They are too embedded in liberalism and its presuppositions to get very far with their own programme.  That said, I am fine with them coexisting within the froth of a liberal order, insisting correctly that the heritage of “the Church” is essential to western civilization, in the meantime allowing their intuitions to be muddled by a confusion of rates of changes and levels when it comes to liberalism in the West today.

A few comments to close, returning to the tweet presented above:

1. Is all gruel thin?

2. Would thick gruel be better or worse?

3. Is Karachi haleem a form of thick gruel?

4. Isn’t the key word here “civilizational”?  It is liberalism that produced, nourished, and sustained the world’s first truly admirable societies.  There is nothing in the arguments of these new illiberals which seriously contradicts that.

5. Many people have longed for gruel, which I take to be underrated.

Do they object to dividends as well?



Shrooms? Shrooms are underrated and highly recommended! ;)

Self-recommending, one might say.

most drugs: bad, not conducive to human flourishing
mushrooms: awesome, conducive to human flourishing

i endorse tyler's teetotalling but would pay substantial money to see what he thought after a moderate dose of mushrooms.

He's afraid of letting go. Something bad might happen, so he's complacent. ;)

They are naive, early-stage fascists. Take Ahmari. How seriously can you take someone who simultaneously 1) believes that the "greater good" of the Catholic church should be able to, and ought to, overwhelm the liberty of those in a pluralistic society who object to an infringement on their liberty, and 2) is a recent convert to Catholicism? "Integralism" is arising because these folks, like Wahhabis, are losing in a free and fair battle of ideas to those who disagree with them. Those who disagree also tend to not have the personality type of someone who both things a certain creed is so clearly correct that even non-believers must be bound by it, and who did not actually believe that creed themselves a few years ago.

Catholics who want to argue that others would be happier/better off/etc. if they adopted the moral code of Catholicism? Sure, why not (though hopefully they understand that the decline in Catholic belief is very much related to the fact that the Church was involved in the single biggest worldwide moral scandal of recent times!). They want to segregate themselves from aspects of society like drag queen events which they find immoral? As you like. That they think the federal government and the power of the state should be used to force me to eat fish on Fridays? I'll pass on that one.

The wahhabis are losing? The battle of ideas perhaps, but I’d that a battlefield that matters to THEM? So, how are they and their ilk doing on other battlefields?

You might want to consider whether a "free and fair battle of ideas" (which is in itself a liberal concept and therefore presupposes its natural acceptance) is in fact a good idea.

A free and fair battle of ideas in your house with four children might result in ice cream and Pop-Tarts for dinner every night, which is a not unreasonable approximation of where we are as a society right now, especially if the Pop-Tarts have frosting and there are sprinkles on the table.

Indeed, this is much of the reason religion exists in the first place.

+1 Underrated comment.

Religion has cosmic Pop-Tarts with eternal sprinkles from the sky that all must partake, and any discussion would be squashed by the priestly caste. In this sense, religion matches your worst case scenario for liberal democracy except that the latter usually has an opposition that can voice better options. But don't take my word for it, would you rather live in a theocracy today?

Well, let's see.

A small number of conformists control social and legacy media and silence speech that challenges their dogma. If it is heretical enough then people lose their jobs and are effectively excommunicated from society. We're expected to unquestionably believe in underpinning concepts such as freedom, equality, and diversity, as well as more specific subjects such as global warming and Russian collusion. And today a young Scandinavian autist gave an apocalyptic sermon at the mother church.

Are you sure we don't in fact live in a theocracy today?

Pretty sure. My gay friends haven't been thrown off buildings yet.

In other words, it's no big deal as long as it's the other side feeling the squeeze.

A free and fair battle of ideas in your house with four children might result in ice cream and Pop-Tarts for dinner every night, which is a not unreasonable approximation of where we are as a society right now, especially if the Pop-Tarts have frosting and there are sprinkles on the table.

And who in this society are the kids demanding ice cream and pop tarts and the grownups demanding veggies?

The people who talk like this implicitly assume they and their buddies will be deemed the grownups, but I wouldn't be so sure.

What you're missing is that it's not dependent on some third party to deem anything. Just like eating sugar and junk food for dinner inevitably produces obvious downsides, so do poor decisions by incapable participants in a liberal democracy.

All the same, if you possess some level of future-time orientation these decisions become apparent before they are fully played out. So who are making the childish decisions? Is it the people who cheer on Silicon Valley for censoring any speech that hurts their feelings? Is it the people who demand that the government provide them with a host of free benefits paid for by a nebulous out-group of rich misers who can afford the burden, or via monetary base expansion? Perhaps it is those who believe that their nation can accept any amount or form of immigration without changes in their government, economy, or culture.

We can go broad or specific with these. Perhaps it's the people who insist that they ought to be the opposite gender or anything in between, going so far as to have surgery to rearrange their genitalia, or the people who uncritically support this. Maybe it's the people who clamor for impeaching a president because he doesn't align with their political views, in lieu of the criminal evidence they lack. Or, maybe it's just people who unquestionably believe that everyone has an equal capacity to make important and complicated decisions about how their government and society is run, regardless of environmental, cultural, or indeed genetic factors, or that they will make said decisions with the long-term stability and health of their government/society in mind, instead of just blatantly acting in their short-term self-interest.

No, I don't think that anyone has to deem anything at all. Of course, your comment implies exactly what you said of "people", that you and your buddies are the grown-ups; the fact that you think you attain (or retain) this position based on numbers and inertia reinforces my point. But as I said it all comes around one way or the other.


Basically, this is the NeoReactionary critique of democracy.

OTOH an illiberal approach tends to end up with half the kids murdered and the rest of them malnourished, AKA Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, the various Kim’s and not to mention the H guy. I would take some excess of sugary breakfasts over that.

You may want to wait for the collapse of the West before making pronouncements on which one produces less suffering. Shouldn't be too long.

eat fish on Fridays? I'll pass on that one.

And pretty much everyone else for what now...thirty years? You move slower than the RCC.

We are however assuming that we are taking about adults of sound mind , the definition of which is not "agrees with Roman Catholic doctrine." We aren't talking about children, mentally disabled people or for that matter household pets. Your analogy is therefore rather pointless

Interesting. I would have used the definition "doesn't disqualify an entire religion".

Your mistake is assuming that anyone of sound mind has the capacity to participate in liberal democracy, setting aside the fact that "of sound mind", a pitifully low bar in any scenario, in our age includes, for example, people who believe they are the opposite gender (or for that matter a pansexual rabbit-kin), or any of the millions of people around the country currently in their third year of a nervous breakdown because their candidate didn't win a presidential election.

The fact that a person can carry on their daily affairs without acting like a raving lunatic, again a pitifully low bar that many in our society still fail to clear, doesn't qualify them for making complicated decisions about governance. Our brains are still built for hunting-gathering and the tribal societies that effected and the notion that a person who in any other age would have been a peon, serf, or otherwise low-level sustenance-focused economic unit suddenly now has an equal capacity to make decisions as an otherwise king, chieftain, etc. regarding the affairs of a global superpower is ludicrous on its face.

An atheist (which I am not, by the way) might say that anyone who believes in invisible, mythical beings is not of sound mind and ought be barred from public affairs.
Don't throw stones where your own windows are glass.
That my, your or anyone else's ancestors may have been serfs, slaves or anything else is irrelevant to us today. It ain't 1200 any more. If you think otherwise maybe you'd also prefer bloodletting to antibiotics?

Again, the passage of time or a change in governmental system does not imply that any person is suddenly smarter or suddenly capable of navigating that system. In other words, it may be 819 years later, but that doesn't mean you're 819 years more intelligent. That you would resort to this obvious logical fallacy even after it's been explained to you once would suggest the opposite, in fact.

As far as the atheists go, I would suggest that anyone who discounts the existence of a being that by definition can hide any trace of their presence, or in fact cause you to disbelieve in them, is just as deluded as one who unquestionably believes in said being. Since you aren't an atheist I'm sure you won't take offense to that characterization.

Early Stage Fascists sounds exactly right, "illiberal" being too soft to describe the phenomenon. Jesus would have preached to the drag queens, not to change them but to show them God's love for them. Maybe we need to go back to the original and rediscover what this Christianity thing is all about. In this article we've met the patron saint of hatred and violence, e.g., an anti-Christ.

Aren't they more like theocrats or just plain reactionaries? Not every authoritarian movement is "fascism," as attractive as slapping that label on anything and everything seems to be.

They are not necessarily fascists... they are radical catholic reactionaries that think they know better than us peasants. They prefer an authoritarian structure like a monarchy... especially if all us dummies would see their clear superiority and make them the king (they all want to be the king).

But Susan, Jesus would have preached to them, to let them know he loves them but also to change them just like he did to the woman caught in adultery... let he who is without sin cast the first stone, yes; but also, go and sin no more.

The point is the initial love. These folks are filled with hatred. If you don't start with love, you are not following Christ. End of story. Repentance means nothing unless it is a reunion with the love of God.

What is the difference between a Catholic reactionary and an early stage fascist? I believe you are doing yourself a disservice by not asking and answering that question for yourself.

Here is my analysis: Reference my initial point; they are not coming from any kind of religious point of view. They are cloaking themselves in religion to spew hatred. Fascist - the label fits.

Catholic reactionaries want to convert the Jews and perhaps make common cause with them against secularists, whereas fascists wanted to, ya know...kill them. Seems like a difference worth pointing out. Fascism was militaristic in a way that Catholics haven't been since...I dunno, the Crusades, maybe? The Reconquista? Fascism was also a populist mass movement, whereas Catholic reactionaries are elitist almost by definition. I could go on, but you get the point.

You miss my point, which is: EARLY STAGE, and in fact you illustrate what I am talking about with your example. Make common cause with the Jews against the secularists? Not much of Jesus in that statement, but plenty of self-righteousness and war-mongering. Good nourishment for full-fledged fascists. Whereas if one actually reads the Bible or studies how Christianity spread from the days of Christ, it was by respecting and even merging with local traditions. If you don't like the word Fascist, we could tote out some others, such as training to be architechts of a new modern Inquisition. The difference in the authoritarian vocabulary is vanishingly small.

Not being a good follower of Jesus does not a fascist make. Nor self-righteousness, neither. I think you're just trotting out boo words.

Jeff looks back in history and overlooks the Franco regime in Spain.


The Franco regime was military authoritarian. It was not fascist. He used the fascists in the war and then neutralized them. Like all such governments, he had a primary interest (the Church and the Monarchy) derived from the conflict that created him and was careless about many other issues. Huntington pointed out that this is the case in many developing states in "Political order in changing societies". Ultimately, his successor of choice made a smooth transition to decentralized democracy.

Nor do I consider the Crusades, a halfhearted, limited and localized response to Muslim aggression that had captured and converted the MENA region, previously a Roman-Christian world, an example of some sort of exaggerated militarism. More likely, the Dutch war of independence against Spain fits the bill better, being waged in the backdrop of Catholic reactionarism to the growth of Protestantism.

For the record, while outlawing drag queen story hour is an afront to free will/liberty... it is not fascist to question the sanity of parents sending their kids to story hour as presented by someone suffering from gender dysphoria and is dressed up as a hyper-sexualized caricature of femininity. What’s next, sending them the pornographers prom or the anorexic lunch hour?

Probably worse than that, which is precisely the point.

They’re much closer to Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor than Hitler.

Much closer.

The convert's zeal is understandable but we don't need to engage the clowns. The only reason the silliness got any notice at all was because they dragged David French into the fray, precisely to get notice.

That is exactly the dilemma. You can ignore the clowns, but they do seem to be gaining traction. I don't think we can turn our backs, but the response needs to be one that does not give them a free ride.

As we have banned animals from circuses, we have more clowns.

This back and forth has been interesting for many reasons. It is a dispute between those who think that culture and the way people behave is influenced by law and institutions, and those who think it all is resolved on the streets, and if you aren't on the streets fighting for your side you are lost.

It is all fine and each side has their points, but Catholicism? Are you kidding? Has any of these people actually lived somewhere that the Catholic church is dominant? You don't worry about some drag queen in the library because the priests are there and then you worry. I lived in Quebec and child sexual abuse was endemic, not only by priests but generally.

There is a point to be made that traditional families produce stable societies. That generally some measure of self control with regard to sex is healthier for everyone involved. The value of work and some regard for the idea of being self sufficient, along with family and community arrangements where people who for whatever reason need help can get it. These things don't just happen; there are cultural norms maintained in some way. Sometimes religious; jewish families are stereotypically focussed on their children's education and future, the chinese tiger moms, or the protestant work ethic. Mormons have something going for themselves as well, and the Amish are an extreme example where a way of life is culturally enforced by willing participants.

But we also can think of communities that are adrift.

Our modern society requires a large number of people to simply do what needs to be done for it to work. I heard an Ontario school principal describe her mornings as a scramble to get a teacher in every classroom in the face of high levels of absenteeism. At one point it stops working. I was talking to a friend who has trouble finding people willing to take responsibility as employees. He, as I do, find young men who were raised by their mothers to be missing something. Which means that someone else has to do the work of keeping the world running.

A liberal society, small l is where individuals can pursue their individual interests without undue restraint. A society like that requires individuals who can do that. So what systems, structures, institutions, informal arrangements produce those types of individuals?

Charles Murray says that the successful upper classes live in a very traditional way that follows the old moral precepts. They marry, have children, stick together as a family, save money, teach their children to work, are attached to a religious system in some way. But they don't tell anyone about it and the choices of the successful are not reflected in the culture, in fact the opposite. Meaning that the cultural assumptions that could keep less capable people within some bounds aren't there, with rather destructive results.

The result isn't a liberal society. Cities empty out when crime levels increase. Gated communities result, causing a whole other level of harm. High levels of drug addition and attendant pathologies don't create great places to raise your kids. Illiberal and harsh policies result.


Social capital is a very real thing in an economy. Perhaps the most real thing. And yet it escapes all the spreadsheets of Academia. (Points to Tyler; he actually worries about this stuff when his colleagues don't.)

Religious systems are clearly one way (not the only way) of generating high social capital. More respect needed.

I have a great deal of respect for religion: I go to church almost every Sunday. I have several icons in my bedroom and a small one in my car, I read the prescribed Scriptures and the lives of the day's saints most nights before bed. I participate in the life and events of my parish to the extent I am able.
But I do not want a fourth branch of government consisting of my church or any other church.

Do they though? The upper-middle class people I know (and I went to an Ivy League college and professional school) tend to move far away from their parents and family to pursue their career, not follow any religion, get married very late if at all, the woman in the couple usually continues working, and they rarely have more than two kids. I would not consider this lifestyle “traditional” at all.

If your own qualifications weren't enough to get the point across, "upper-middle class" ≠ "upper-class"

Upper middle class is 70-150k a year household income give or take. You are describing the upper class. The upper middle class behave exactly as Murray describes

I see you guys are defining your class by how much a corporation has decided your time is worth again.

The difference between the "upper-middle-class" as described and the actual upper class is that the former is aspirational and the latter is not. The upper-middle-class are the guys buying Brooks Brothers with the fleece on the chest, in other words.

Part of the cargo cult mentality is not making a distinction between activities that make money and activities that build wealth, by which I don't mean setting up a brokerage account. That's why it's called upper-middle-class, these guys are making upper-class money with middle-class mentalities. You move halfway across the country for a pay raise then pay for daycare because Mom and Dad can't keep the kids all the way from Topeka and your wife is out playing business lady. If you even have kids, since they cost money, or maybe you adopted some from New Guinea who, judging by your actions, will move away on their own leaving you seeing them only on Thanksgiving (Junior and his wife compromised, his in-laws get Christmas) and putting $1,000 at a time in your grandkids' 529 accounts, again assuming you have them, the grandkids I mean, of course you would have the 529s set up. This sort of behavior is what the kids nowadays call Boomer mentality although they went the wrong direction with it too.

You'll notice the actual upper class (that is, the actual old money) doesn't behave this way.

If you want to define class in money terms, then "upper class" means a high standard of living without a reliance on wage income. I would also add the ability to pass such a lifestyle on to their children.

Anyone reliant on wages to maintain their living standards is middle class at best. When the wages and standard of living is very high, they are "upper middle class". But they can't stop working until they "retire", and this retirement comes at the expense of wealth passed on to children.

Those terms have become muddled. They were originally in reference to those with titles and lands in Europe. However, a lot of those "upper class" would have had substantially less income than people that work for a living in the US today.

Is a doctor with $500K in annual income and $5 million in wealth Upper middle class? Was a minor land holder in 18th century England drawing the equivalent of $150K per year without working Upper class?

Granted, the lower classes were far poorer during that time, which meant there was a vast difference in income. Whereas, today a median household income would be $60K, the median income in 18th century England was probably less than a quarter of that figure.

Again, this isn't a question of how much you have or earn. It's a question of what you do with it, or in other words how you carry on your affairs.

Of course some wealth levels preclude this, those making minimum wage get a bit pigeonholed. But on the other hand lottery winners aren't suddenly upper-class. They're new money at best.

I believe the median income in England in the 18th century was $3 a day, in today's U.S. money. Although you have to multiply by the number of people in a household, that is much less than 1/4 the median income today. It is more like $3000 or $4000 a year.

The UK reached a median income of 1/4 of today's level, adjusted for inflation, early in the twentieth century and at that time it was the richest country in the world.

In the US moving away find "greener grass" is quite traditional. It's how the country was settled initially from Europe and it's how we expanded from one ocean to the other. Even in Ye Olde Europe it was often necessary for younger sons to seek their fortunes elsewhere as inheritances were not big enough for everyone. As for family size that was all over the map historically- it was not the case that everyone had 10 kids in the past. Especially now that it's thankfully rare for a child to die you just don't need as many kids to make sure you have at least of couple survivors.

Good comment.

In the first half of the 20th Century, it was not uncommon for outstanding writers to be converts to Catholicism, such as G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, and Graham Greene.

That seems less common since then, however.

How can you tell?

The literary culture that selects "great" writers doesn't go for that sort of man any more. They are too busy praising New Woke Man and his West African transgender lover in a heartening tale of climate resistance to the Drumpf.

'praising New Woke Man and his West African transgender lover in a heartening tale of climate resistance to the Drumpf'

Well, you certainly captured Michel Houellebecq to a T. And not a bad description of Haruki Murakami', really.

Or maybe you were thinking of another 'literary culture' than the one that considers both men 'great' writers?

I won't pretend to any great sensibility here.

It's been over a decade since any literary award went to any work that I might ever want to, or profit from, reading.

I think what these people are worried about is that this will become common again.

This seemed a great reply in the Twitter thresd:

"There's nothing "older and more potent" than the struggle to reach our full humanity free from tribal shibboleths that allow demonization of outsiders. Our common thread is self-awareness and its corollary, empathy - awareness of self in others."

All of this is very funny, because there is no political confession practicing more "demonization of outsiders" now than the American liberal crowd. A liberal crowd which is, ideologically, 100% the heir of the Christian Church it pretends to fight.

You might not like the characterization of "demonization of outsiders" but Ahmari and his ilk did not want Drag Queen Story Hour in the public libraries. French defended it as free speech so now we have a right vs right battle, Catholic vs Evangelical, religious conservative vs small government conservative.

One day you may have to choose between a Conservative authoritarian settlement and the Cannibalistic Virtue Frenzy of the Endlessy Woke. You will make this choice by the burnt-out shell of a once-proud liberalism.

I just don't think you won't die in a ditch to defend drag queen story hour.

Free speech is free speech and Americans will die to defend their rights and have done so for centuries. Authoritarian theocrats might consider free speech "thin civilizational gruel" but it is the linchpin of the world's most successful societies like Tyler says. Trump seems to have awoken everyone's inner authoritarian, which to me is the biggest disaster of this presidency.

Reactionary and authoritarian catholics have always existed, plus they are often anti-Trump, see Douthat (who for instance recently advocated in his NYT column banning porn from America). Authoritarian tendencies among self-called "liberals" have been growing for decades now, for example in academia, and obviously predate Trump.

So all of this is not caused by Trump. It goes the opposite direction: Trump is in part a feverish reaction to that rise of authoritarianism.

Let people who want it organize Drag Queen Story Hours in public libraries, and let people who want it (the same or others) invite
reactionary thinkers in their university.

I think the problem here is the assumption of neutral cultural space, where everybody gets to do whatever they want so long as they don't impinge on others. This has been proven to be false. Conflicts spill over into that area, and the side with the upper hand is not content to simply share the public space. Its values and assumptions must set the moral standard.

I love Free Speech. But I fear you are wrong. The young don't seem so appreciative of it on the Pew surveys. The possibility must be seriously considered that Liberalism is a transient technogenic phase.

Hence the choice may not always be Liberalism or Something Else, but between Something Else and Something Else.

David French and his merry band of #nevertrump cuckservatives are neither right-wing not conservative. What you saw in Ahmari vs. French is what would be considered mainstream conservatism is any other age vs. the rearguard for the progressive left.

I think you're in error to see French at this point as an advocate of a set of political preferences. That might have described him 10 years ago, but now his advocacy makes little sense unless you understand it as derived from a set of complaints derived from his personal self-understanding.

I would have gone a little more Occam's razor and said that French et al. do what they do because it's the only way they can stay in the Beltway social/professional circles. You have to either be a leftard or subscribe to enough leftard talking points to not offend the bourgeoisie and the easiest virtue-signal to that point is #nevertrump.

In an alternative timeline French would be offering up half-hearted objections to President Hilldawg while getting taken behind the woodshed by his leftist counterparts in any pitched debate, not unwillingly mind you. It's his natural place. Instead he's getting lit up by the alt-right and his training as token conservative hasn't prepared him for that. Same for Shapiro, Kristol, and the other milquetoast pundits.

Is Trump a token conservative? Is Bush and/or Daddy Bush a token conservative? How about Reagan or Nixon? That's over 50 years of Republican Presidents. If you don't believe any of them are, then you need to revisit the idea of what conservatism means and what the Republican party stands for.

I'm not sure you understand the meaning of "token" when you're trying to apply it to Presidents.

More seriously, I don't care if my denomination demonizes outsiders. So long as it treats them equitably I have no moral qualms.

Do you seriously believe those two things are compatible?

Of course they are compatible. A liberal society has people of all ideologies, denominations, opinions, and what makes it liberal is that they are left alone. And when it comes to certain domains, particularly government then equitable treatment and reasonable accommodation are the liberal way of doing things.

Freedom of association, so people have their cultural safe harbors from which they can interact or not interact as they choose. But racism, so this fundamental freedom is not allowed.

Nonsense, Derek.

Alistair talks about "demonization," not simply refusing to socialize with outsiders. Once you start demonizing outsiders you are well on the road to treating them inequitably. Inevitably some members of your group will take the demonization as license to mistreat the outsiders. Of course you and Alistair wouldn't dream of doing that, or countenancing it, but if you seriously believe it won't happen you know very little about history or human nature.

It is liberalism that produced, nourished, and sustained the world’s first truly admirable societies.

This is pure bugman mindset: what's "truly admirable" are societies organized around satiating man's basest material desires and whims. This is why liberals will be crushed like the bugs that they are.

Bugmen really have no standing criticizing illiberals for their books when Schmitt and Heidegger are still fresh and resonate compared to the stale, warmed over 18th century liberalism and Marxism that are served over and over again by the total mediocrities that dominate academia and what passes for intellectual life today.

“Basest desires and whims” includes adequate food, physical security, and freedom to choose one’s career, friends, and hobbies.

One of these things is not like the other...

This sounds like a sideshow, hardly worth the effort to click on the links. Catholic illiberals, how many divisions?

The potent backlash against liberalism is happening in two separate areas. First of all, among the woke. The reddit group ShitLiberalsSay, for example, attacks liberals not from the right wing but from the far left.

And secondly in various countries around the world, who perceive the West to be in decline and are willing to throw out a lot of babies with the bathwater in order to switch their own paths to a different track.

TC argues about a lack of depth - it seems wrong to expect them to be substantially "deeper" than the arguments and policies that they oppose (anti-"Drag Queen Story Hour" is "demonization of outsiders", and so on and so forth).

So, another discussion for only the illuminati to be aware of, it seems.

Grueling indeed-

The Catholics in the US come from Germany, Italy, Ireland, France, Poland, Mexico and rest of Latin America.

It would be interesting to wait and see if the Catholics align with Mr. Ahmari or not. Ethnicity matters. Also, will Catholic bishops let Mr. Ahmari run away with leadership?

They also come from England - ' Because, while groups like the Huguenots came due to religious persecution from Catholics in their home country, Catholics also came to America due to religious persecution from Protestants in their home country…
Politics are complicated (said everyone, always) and so is religion. And even more so in Europe and during this time period. Protestants in predominantly Catholic countries were persona no grata and vice versa. So being a Huguenot in France was not fun, but neither was being Catholic in England. If you lived in a place like The Netherlands or one of the many German duchies – it depended on the province or duchy you were in – some were predominantly Protestant and others predominantly Catholic.
Given this pickle of a situation, many leaders of religious groups looked to the Americas to create havens for their particular religious group. The Plymouth Colony was originally for Puritans (though their original intent was to go to Virginia), various settlements in New York, Virginia and South Carolina were for Huguenot refugees, Pennsylvania was supposed to be a haven for Quakers, and Maryland – a haven for English Catholics.'

In the Netherlands it did not depend on the province. The Netherlands were officially protestant, but rather tolerant regarding other protestant groups (mennonites, remonstrants, lutherans, etc) and also Catholics (and Jews). So it became a kind of haven for the persecuted on the continent. But the Catholics etc did not get political power, at least not explicitly.

Poland (the Polush Lithuanian Commonwealth) was also an extremely tolerant place. Catholics, Calvinists and Lutherans were able to coexist and worship freely. Even the Jews were generally safe from persecution. It started to fall apart in the 17th century when the Polish kings tried to compel the Ukrainian Orthodox to accept the Union of Brest with Rome.

Kudos. This is a funny post.

And I now too wonder if gruel can be thick, and in being so, is less distasteful.

At some point it becomes oatmeal, yum.

Of course, it's Trumpism that has exposed the deep divide among conservatives. Trump and McConnell are opportunists, committed to the pursuit of power for its own sake. Neither is a conservative in the traditional sense, and neither is predictable in the conservative sense. Their voice at Fox is Tucker Carlson, who, seeing a rise of discontent with the conservative-libertarian coalition, abandons the principles he supposedly held in favor of opportunism, a transactional ideology fit for the transactional Trumpism. Order and stability? The opposite. But this divide among conservatives didn't simply occur overnight, it has been building for decades, going back to Nixon's Southern Strategy. Lest one forget, Republicans were the "liberals" in Congress in the 1950s and1960s. To hide the new face of the Republican Party, conservatives attempted to hide behind liberatarianism, but it was all for show, to mask the authoritarianism inherent in so-called movement conservatism. Now, the mask has come off. The question isn't what movement conservatives will do about it, but what libertarians will do about it: the former have no overriding principles other than opportunism, the issue is whether libertarians have overriding principles. I've often referred to the authoritarian-libertarian axis. I'm hoping libertarians prove me wrong.

The problem with libertarians is precisely that their principles override everything. It's why it's a self-defeating ideology.

In the current age most people seem to want an authoritarian with an ideology very like their own to impose that ideology on all others. It is extremely difficult for an anti-authoritarian group to compete in this environment, since they eschew the authoritarianism everyone else wants.

Is it "most"? I would argue it's not very many at all. But then that's the problem with libertarianism, you leave your society quite vulnerable to co-option.

How about this: people who can't agree on the existential/ontological basis for their country need separate countries.

Your other option is to have a government so small it doesn't matter who's in charge of it. But that's kind of hard to get when there's a tax base of 240 million working-age people.

Sundowning early today.

Not even one sentence is remotely related to the post.

rayward is all about the transition, the segue.

And to be fair some sort of segue could be made. I'd start earlier though. The conservative philosophy of government hit certain walls in the GWB administration, leaving no path forward. What we now look back and call "the conservative elite" held to policies which produced the forgotten men. You couldn't help those men with those policies. You couldn't go "left." And so you needed a deep fake, the Wall, and xenophobia as a pretended solution. That was the rise of illiberal conservatism. At the moment there doesn't seem a way back. It seems Trumpism has to go full cycle.

Maybe that's what's really going on with Sohrab Ahmari and this new Catholicism as well. It's another head fake, because there isn't anything else within the conservative orthodoxy which fits these times.

The steady Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, "more business lunch than catholic retreat" conservatism isn't sexy enough. I mean, that style of conservatism works, but nobody wants to try it anymore.

Can we not turn this into a Trump post. Much more heat than light.

Thanks in advance

Fine, don't think of the T word. But consider that Ahmari might be responding to a change in moral foundations beginning much earlier.

Obviously it's not "big tent" Republicanism to argue about what should be the party's true religion. That implies the big tent is down, and argument ensues.

I think there is some validity to that. This illiberal Catholicism has no party, and neither does French. They get thrown a few bones now and then, Hobby Lobby et al, but in general they’ve lost the culture war and know it.

But in general everyone rolls their eyes. Drag queen book reading?
Weird flex, but ok.

Not even worth debating either way.

It might be important to note that Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, while not sharing a religion, do share common moral values. And those common values did hold up the "big tent" as long as they did.

LOL. The Left admires them is because they're emasculated and do nothing but spout empty rhetoric.

And this my friends, is why the old center-right can't have nice things.

No such thing. "The center" is a pure will o' the wisp, answerable only to the status quo. It's like arguing to nationalize aerospace and oil versus nationalizing agriculture as well. It gives the Left the power to set the frame of debate and the rhetoric used, i.e., it's not "the Right" or conservative at all.

The establishment-conservatives have failed to conserve precisely because they make silly, grandiose speeches and don't exercise power, which is the whole point of practical politics. The Left, by contrast, has won the Long March because they exercise power to advance their ideals and benefit their people. The notion that the Right ends up doing the same fills the Left with dread, so they attempt to squelch the Right's exercise of practical politics by labelling it "fascism" or "racism." Such labels are properly ignored--low taxes are deemed "racist" at this point. The Left's invective does not matter.

Trump upsets people because he's actually interested in enacting his policy preferences rather than the gentlemanly, establishment-Right exercise of making stupid, shrill speeches and bowing and scraping to their enemies. He pisses off all the right people.

^This. The same undercurrent that propelled the Tea Party back when is what propels the Trump movement - a rejection of the John McCain approach of "always compromise, never advance"

I only swim left buddy.

I'm really astonished that anyone would buy into that. After all, it requires a complete belief in "The Left" as bogeyman. A bogeyman that justifies literally any behavior in (supposed) opposition.

The only requirement is to believe politics is downstream from culture. No boogeyman required.

And I swim one direction.

How many cultures do you believe there are in the good ol' USA?

I'd say hundreds.

Anonymous doesn't understand that systems can support teleological agencies without self-consciousness. He has to think of the Left as a "conspiracy".

The Left aren't bogeymen; they are exercising practical politics. They use whatever tool is available to advance their agenda, which is incompatible with my agenda.

What is the Left's limiting principle for taxation? Human rights? Social justice? Immigration? They don't have any, meaning they never stop, they are only stopped before they burn the whole place down or end up in Soviet-style collapse.

There is no monolithic Left. But there are "lefts" at least as varied as the Democratic presidential candidates. If you can't see any difference between them(*) .. that just shows your extreme partisan polarization.

You need a monolithic Left to balance your probably equally false narrative of a united Right.

* - or between them and freshman Democrat rabble-rousers

Someone once said the reason conservatives have been upset is that they often win on economics, but lose on the culture war. And the culture war is what they actually care about.

And that the left has been upset because they lose on economics, but win on the culture war. And the economics is what holds the left together. Usually referred to anachronistically as kitchen table issues.

Side note: Sure, we lose nuance when we aggregate, whether it’s Labor or GDP or The Left or what have you. It’s still a useful approximation.

We can’t throw out aggregation just because there are different shades of blue. Blue is still a useful concept. Culture is still a useful concept, even if subcultures exist.

Can I be assured the election of a Democrat won't mean Hate Speech (as the bureaucracy may define it) does not qualify as Free Speech? That "assault weapons" (as the bureaucracy may define them) won't be confiscated? That the ICE won't be scaled back to a dry foot/dry foot immigration policy (i.e., if you get here, you can stay here)? Apparently not, and those are several of my lines in the sand.

The consensus has broken down on several key existential/ontological issues. The biggest one at present is who gets to be an American.

It is what it is. Probably, there are several countries in the continental US waiting to be born.

As Will Wilkinson correctly notes, "the new right" has decided that it can reject things arrived at by due course of constitutional law, just because they don't like them.

But presumably you would not give "The Left" the same veto?

Why should I, if it relates to one of my lines in the sand? We can debate whether the top marginal tax rate should be somewhere at or below 35%, but above that and I start weighing all sorts of options.

That’s an extremely uncharitable Op-Ed piece. And the conclusions you’re inferring aren’t even supportable by the essay.

Be better.

That article behind the (Straussian?) Settembrini link is a little facile and sophomoric.

Popa misses the main result of the Settembrini/Naphtha debates, which is that protagonist Castorp suddenly realizes that they are both spouting nonsense, and that their personas dwindle to nothing in the Nietzschean presence of Peeperkorn.

Popa also misses the point of the duel, which is that Naphtha is miserable and wants to die.

Pipsqueaks. They can't hold a candle to Phil Robertson - maybe TC should read "The Theft of America's Soul" .

I am reminded of how Oren Cass writes long essay about the dignity of work, filled with sneering comments about how "neoliberalism has failed" and doesn't understand the problem, only to end with only the suggestion that the EITC be enlarged and paid out regularly in paychecks rather than confusingly wrapped annually in taxes. A great idea, but one firmly within the bounds of neoliberalism and indeed highly supported by neoliberals.

This is a trend. People criticize neoliberalism but for the most part their alternatives have either been tried and failed in the past (which is why we went to neoliberalism) or scare people. So they end up proposing these minor changes that are firmly within the neoliberal framework. Neoliberalism is like what Churchill said about democracy, the worst system except all the others.

This is amusing, I was going to mock your post above with "Worst Except All The Others!™" and here you are unironically posting it downthread.

The problem of course is that making this claim about liberal democracy presupposes a peaceful and sustainable endgame that is increasingly looking unlikely in our society.

I think that could be some confusion here beween "neoliberalism" as word used by almost everybody outside of the USA and "neoliberalism" as word used by some people in the USA.

Most people say "neoliberalism" almost as a synonimous of "free market economics" (Reaganism, Thatcherism, supply-side, derregulation, low taxes, etc, etc.); but some people in the USA say "neoliberalism" in the sense of Bill Clinton/Tony Blair politics (pragmativally combination of free market and state intervention).

Probably the root is the difference between "liberal" in USA (where it means social-democrat) and "liberal" in the rest of the world (where it means what Americans call "classical liberalism", "fiscal conservatism" or "libertarianism").

I've been trying to drop the "neo" and just call it liberalism, but that gets confused with the Antifa/Greta Thunberg crowd.

Are they for burning heretics or not?

Religion is old but not a very potent force today. In the past, people needed religion to cope with the fact that life on Earth was an unrelenting misery. Now, thanks to liberalism, life on Earth at least in some places is not such an unrelenting misery so people are not as religious as before. The US is way more secular than even a generation ago, and it is amazing in much of Europe, once home to the greatest religious strife, now has non-theist majorities. Most people in developed East Asian countries are very secular too now that they have a decent standard of living. Meanwhile, religion continues to grow in the third-world, which will soon contain the majority of Christians. Of course, there are exceptions like Israel and some Petro-states that have retained a developing-nation culture, but the overall trend is clear.

And a young girl shows up to lead them all to the promised land.

It is simply a time of changing denominations.

Children's Crusade. Compete with Holy Fool.

Seriously, can even full-on climate warriors look at this affair and not feel just a teensy but nervous that their behaviour looks a little...well, like religious fervour?

If participants in mass hysteria had the capacity for that then there wouldn't be any mass hysteria at all.

Life in the past was not "unrelenting misery". People even partied at whiles, although they may have called it "feasting" or "revelry".

Liberal Catholicism leads right were liberal Protestantism has gone - oblivion.

Not Oblivion, but a Church with a Higher Superstition.

From the New Yorker article:

“If you went to a suburban Southern Baptist congregation, many of the congregants would be surprised at what their pastor says about Donald Trump in private,” French said. He was speaking as a person to whom pastors said frank things about Donald Trump in private. “Like, genuinely surprised.”

I wonder if it occurs to French that this pretty clearly means those pastors are cowards.

French sees his own behavior in those pastors, if you're looking for an explanation as to why your observation went unnoticed.

So what is French's point? Trump is transparent in a way that I haven't seen a politician in decades. My view is that everything anyone says about him is probably true.

So? What mediocrity will French blather on about in 2020? Biden? Harris?

French and a number of other starboard opinion journalists took implacable stands in 2015 and 2016 and don't wish to concede they were wrong in any notable particular. His commentary is devoted to scrounging around for things about which to be dissatisfied. If it requires he adopt uncritically the most idiotic memes abroad in the Democratic Party, he'll do it. Since he has the soul of an elementary school hall monitor, that takes a particularly grating form.

Other starboard opinion journalists in the last four years have exposed themselves as shills. They're paid by liberal outlets to display a simulacrum of starboard opinion; the Trump era has clarified the actual terms of their employment. (See, for example, David Brooks).

Still another set revealed that certain cultural affiliations and aversions are what get them out of bed in the morning. (Kevin Williamson is the most flagrant example of that).

They have chosen a weird host on which to be a parasite. The fit is poor. The Church may be avaricious, but it can't afford to actively repel the flock. What these men need to do is set up their own Protestant First Church of Trump.

"This is why our founders distrusted Catholics" -- Ann Coulter

Reading Sohrab Ahmari's more developed articulation of his views at First Things: leads one to the conclusion that there may be very little difference between his views and Cowen's. How Cowen can plausibly claim the mantle of liberalism is puzzling at best given his zealous advocacy "Cowenism" the creation of a higher reality and utopian society through upon his core principles of (1) higher education is the solution to everything; (2) the abolition of local zoning authority and single family residential housing (3) ending mail service for rural Americans, and (4) placing big tech companies outside the purview of any regulatory authority. Cowenism is not liberalism. For a liberal response to Ahmari, Randy Barnett's twitter interaction is far closer to something resembling traditional liberalism:

As a policy for them Lyman Stone proposed blue laws.

5. There's gruel and there's gruel.

Solzhenitsyn describes the gruel, on the morning of that "good" day, as so thick as to be congealed. A breakfast bar? But then ... it wasn't really a grain like millet or oats, it seems - made of a "yellowish grass."

My childhood gruel was cream of wheat doused with about a quarter cup of sugar - delicious, and chimed with all the porridge my storybook characters ate - but I've not had that in decades. My preferred current gruel is steel-cut oats - it took me a long time to acknowledge how much better they are than whole oats, perhaps because the first time I tried them I cooked them too fast - I enjoy them with either cinnamon-sugar or a bit of maple syrup; just a little splash of cream or half-and-half; and raisins or cranberries or dried cherries. Practically dessert!

I can eat that every day if I want to! But then my life seems so unlike the lives of anyone ever before, in many ways besides just the ample breakfast that I can take or leave, all by myself, not needing to work all that hard the rest of the day, that unlike David French I would hesitate to make any final judgments from it, about the social and political arrangements that produced it ...

But if the polity is threatened by Catholic converts whose principle intrusions into the public sphere are advocating for an expanded EITC, and modestly protesting the air of civilizational triumph around drag queens teaching tots, preferably boys, to twerk (in a bizarro world in which a library that hosted actual women teaching girls to do the same, would probably be dragged across the internet) - then there was no need for French to even show up for the debate. Or for T.C. to riff on the use of the word gruel. Kicking people who are so far down that all that's needed for the kick is a string of glib words - is not exactly the liberal ideal in action - is it?

Or is there some little nagging doubt at the back of the immoderate response to these few "illiberal Catholics" clinging to their most radical of religions?

Further: really, if pluralism was the *only* point of interest, it would have made more sense for the debate to have paired Ahmari with another member of a religious faith, rather than an exponent of a self-help movement.

I think all those Catholics cited are confusing 'liberalism' with 'epicureanism', or to use the pejorative term, 'decadence', which is perfectly understandable since people who call self identify as 'liberals', or 'progressives' as a synonym, do the same thing.

Deep Thoughts:
What is the difference between gruel and porridge?

Don't you need bears?

Might "we" (ref. j mct above, etc.) be assuming that "liberal" in their usage means something other than they mean?

(Or that their usage might be fuzzy around a useful core?)

The one-tweet distillation, of course, can't explicate that.

(And equally while liberalism in many senses can be rich and productive [the classical liberalism Tyler seems to mean by it, for one?], some of the modern things claiming its mantle do seem thin, faded, and wanting - "like butter spread over too much bread", to quote another famous Catholic of erudition.

But that verges into left-liberalism and its shibboleths, not liberalism as such.)

In "The Alarming Cost of Model Changes: A Case Study," Stigler wrote, "Each year we publish about 11,000 books in the United States. not one is in the list of 100 greatest books. Why must we have "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," when "The Rise and Fall of the Dutch Republic is a better book, and in the public domain? Is "The Tropic of Cancer" better (worse) than the works of the Marquis de Sade? What, precisely, are the respects in which Tennessee Williams surpasses Shakespeare? Samuelson (5 editions), Bach (3 editions), Harriss (4 editions) and others write our textbooks; is it abundantly clear that they are better books than "The Wealth of Nations."

His great sarcastic wit was used to defend the freedom of auto makers to introduce what three economists believed were costly and unnecessary changes in automobiles. Ironically, Dr. Cowen uses a similar wit to condemn this band of Catholic scholars. I find his wit entertaining, but a bit to harsh. Traditional liberals like Rajan have found the rise of Trump to be disconcerting. I certainly do.

>Is all gruel thin?

No, hence people's desire to point it out when it is.

If all gruel was thin, nobody would say "Wow, this is some thin gruel!"

That would be like saying "This is some wet water" or "This is some striped zebra" or "This is some laughably vile exploitation of vulnerable, naive children by Democrats."

They are naive, early-stage fascists.

This place is a great collecting pool for Dunning-Kruger exemplars of the faculty blowhard variety.

So I believe they are part of the same “thin civilizational gruel” as the rest of us. They are too embedded in liberalism and its presuppositions to get very far with their own programme.

It might occur to you to examine their understanding of political forms manifest prior to 1714.

These papists hate america. Nasty people.

"It is liberalism that produced, nourished, and sustained the world’s first truly admirable societies."

What's your threshold for admiration? I see many admirable and shameful aspects of past and present societies, both liberal and illiberal. What's your control group? It seems not implausible that everything admirable about liberal societies is really a consequence of technological development. Have you fully accounted for externalities, like Iraq and Libya?

Cowen started by bashing Sohrab Ahmari's political viewpoint as "thin gruel" and then followed his own tangent into discussion of food...

On the food bit, gruel means any bowl of food with a mushy consistency. Lots of great food fits that, but the label "gruel" is supposed to be negative, and you wouldn't generally call any food you liked or wanted to promote with that label.

Why is this different to homeopathy, moon-landing fakery, global-warming denialism, or any other form of anti-science? Historical creator mythologies just don't cut it anymore. Better to start with something else. There's a reasonable case for forms of liberalism based on human preferences without the need to argue outwards from counterfactual entities.

Settembrini is a caricature? I thought he was a stand-in for Mann.

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