Devon, PA. When given the opportunity, I have made no secret of my great admiration for James Kalb’s The Tyranny of Liberalism. Readers of FPR may, from time to time, have encountered my deferring the answer to some argument or question until my long promised essay on Kalb’s book could appear in that great web journal First Principles. Well, I intend to write a full, further, essay on Kalb next week; but for those of you chomping at the bit to hear what old JMW has to say about JK, here’s your chance. Two other contributions to a Kalb symposium are also online at First Principles, the first by the estimable Paul Gottfried, and the second — a negative, provocative, and to my mind brilliant review — by William English. At the risk of spoiling it for some, and of merely confusing others, here’s a paragraph from late in the essay of which I am darkly fond:
In the age of substantive liberalism, however, most persons cannot imagine life being otherwise. Although modern freedom and equality offer us very little and ask of us a dehumanizing docility, we are ever reminded that the past was haunted by kings and aristocrats, patriarchies and priests. Liberals are, of course, practically correct to fear such beings-for they could only emerge in a society that values human connections, that embraces the soft chains of interdependence, obligation, and privilege, in the pursuit of the good of this world and the Good who is God. When a society is stable and when its members can see each other as they are, persons of authority naturally arise at the head of the always existent hierarchy of persons. Why this should be so terrifying, I do not know. Such authoritative figures speak well of past ages, just as the roles of our present day-the legalistic bureaucrat, the body-spray besotted letch with the assurance of a “Bradford millionaire,” the materialistic hippie, the beer-bellied fake-n’-baked bar trollop, the cardboard, short-haired feminist with a lip-service-love for poetry, the audience of The View, the sexless shoulder-pad-wearing junior executive, the over-sexed, single and gray-haired managing director, the suburban narcissist who poses as an Evangelical mega-church “worshipper,” the asocial techno-geek with dandruff and dreams of world domination (and sex), and the hapless underling whose only social recognition is found at home with his two dogs-speak terribly of ours.