Category Archives: Freedom

Today’s Quote: Mises on cosmopolitan nationalism

“…nationalism does not clash with cosmopolitanism, for the unified nation does not want discord with neighboring peoples, but peace and friendship.”

Ludwig von Mises

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How To Get Free, Together

How free societies think about the common good is the great question of our time. In the wake of Brexit and Trump, while most thinkers on the left and right have descended into simplistic cheerleading or paranoid denial, a few brave souls are seriously reassessing the role of politics in an age where nations are back on centre stage. It’s vital that at least some on the classical liberal/libertarian side of the argument take up that challenge as well.

In an effort to sharpen my own thinking, I’ve been reading Michael Novak’s excellent Free Persons and the Common Good this week. Published in 1989, it’s out of print but extremely worthwhile. There can be few books that move so smoothly from quoting Ludwig von Mises to adjudicating disputes between Catholic theologians. At one point, Novak laments the want of a book studying Friedrich von Hayek’s work “in the light of the political and social thought of Aristotle and Aquinas”.

This is not a perfect book. It repeats itself and descends too deeply into minor doctrinal controversies of the time. But it is a thoughtful, provocative reminder of the liberal project’s longstanding, deep interest not just in individual freedom but in creating self-sustaining political communities built on liberty.

Today, elite power is in full and open flight from politics, resisting democratic results for higher reasons of its own. At least some libertarians are running in the same direction. And yet even as they do so, it seems that suspicion of both the common mind and the legitimacy of politics is an idea whose time has gone. 

 So it’s refreshing to read Novak’s analysis of de Tocqueville, who looked at the early American republic and saw a commitment to maximise political participation at the local level as one of its great strengths, a source of durability.

In local affairs, citizens quickly see the connection between their private interests and the general interest… the federal principle at the root of the American experiment draws as many citizens as possible into the exercise of local responsibilities.… Thus, local freedom “perpetually brings men together and forces them to help one another in spite of the propensities that sever them.”

There is much to think on in our new times. But among it all, remembering that liberty is hard-won and hard-kept may be the most important of all.

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Today’s Quote: 18 March 2017

Today’s quote is from from Michael Novak’s fantastic Free Persons and the Common Good, which I’m reading on a long weekend in Oslo in between watching the world biathlon championships. Someone really needs to issue a new edition of this book, and hopefully Novak’s recent passing into eternity will focus minds. This quote isn’t from him but de Tocqueville.

“If men are to remain civilised or to become civilised, the art of association must develop and improve among them at the same speed as equality of conditions spread.”

Books like this are hard work but worth it. If you’re in the mood for something funny, wise and short instead, why not try my latest book.

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The Case For Revolution

Douglas Carswell’s new book isn’t pulling any punches. The sole Ukip MP is apparently calling for a revolution to remake and sustain the liberal order.

“When I first stood for Parliament, I believed that all we needed were the right kind of ministers, pursuing the right kind of plans. Now I believe we need a revolution.”

Interesting… Pre-order here.

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Today’s Quote, 25 December 2016

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

– Luke, 19.10

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Trump, Tyranny and True Evil

… when we were brought face to face with tyranny—with a kind of tyranny that surpassed the boldest imagination of the most powerful thinkers of the past—our political science failed to recognize it.

—Leo Strauss, On Tyranny

The fearful cries against President Donald J. Trump on the grounds that he is a tyrant in the making would have more credibility if a yuuge swath of Western media and political elites had not spent much of the last century missing, ignoring or excusing the worst tyranny in human history.

This Christmas Eve, celebrate the 25th anniversary of its defeat.

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Who’s back: The Doctor is the unexpected freedom fighter our civilisation still needs

Look who’s back. Tomorrow night Peter Capaldi, formerly swear-master Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It, takes his place at the Tardis console.

What makes Doctor Who so enduring? It’s thirty years since it made me cower behind my childhood sofa, but after its bold regeneration in 2005, this bizarre TV series seems like its irrepressible hero, as full of life as ever. Continue reading

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