There is No New Thing Under The Sun
The philosophical core of conservatism is pessimism about the improvement of mankind. That is not to say that conservatives necessarily regard humans as entirely deplorable. It is rather to say that they agree with Marcus Aurelius that he who has seen the present has seen everything. The accidents may change, but the fundamentals of human nature and the texture of human experience do not.
Neoconservatism shares many of the policy and even intellectual positions of conservatism, but it does not share that pessimism, and it is therefore at bottom radically incompatible with conservatism. Neoconservatism has taken the methodological insights of conservatism and wedded them to an Enlightenment philosophy that stresses the capabilities and not the limitations of human beings, and that prides itself on the capacity of human reason instead of cherishing the wisdom of human experience. Its very name proclaims its novelty. Rational inquiry has improved conservatism; it has even transformed it. That is why neoconservatives are justly described as people who pursue liberal ends through conservative means. (Note 2) And while there are many important differences between the two ideologies (and I do not use the term pejoratively), they all hinge on their contrasting pessimism and optimism as to what the human being can be and what the human mind can achieve.
Among other things this disagreement explains, paradoxically, why the influx of neoconservatives in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s so dramatically revitalized conservatism in the short run. The neoconservatives believed in progress, and so they could enter the ongoing public debate on its own terms. They could argue with more leftist, non-classical liberals that the particular policy tools that had been adopted were not, in Indochina, in Detroit or at Berkeley, producing the progress that had been promised. And they could write magazine articles and books, and go on talk shows, to show where the true path of progress lay.
But their very belief in the existence of that true path, having gotten them into the debate, also and necessarily made their contribution to it ultimately futile. For those who expect the human condition to improve over time set, both for themselves and for others, very different standards for judging the success of a policy, or an entire culture, than those who believe with the author of Ecclesiastes that "There is no new thing under the sun." The latter aim only to create a Constitutional, political and intellectual order that, for a while at least, could offer citizens a decent space within which to live out live's possible triumphs and inherent tragedies prior to tumbling into the open grave over which every woman gives birth. This may seem uninspiring, but it is at least possible.
By contrast, the new and "improved" standards by which neoconservatism judges policies and ideas are inspiring, but also quite unrealistic. The neoconservative faith in human beings, and the concomitant faith in progress in the human condition as a necessary secular dynamic of history, led to large, even spectacular promises of progress if "conservative" policies were adopted. And that in turn led them - and conservatives, by default really - into an unwinnable bidding war with people who lack any sense of the possible, and so into a kind of intellectual as well as political Peronism. (Note 3)
Therefore only by converting neoconservatives to the philosophy as well as the tools of conservatism can we hope to create through public policy and through intellectual inquiry a decent space for private lives with their tragedy, and their meaning. This must be a public policy that relies on Charles Murray's "little platoons," that has as its model of statecraft Marcus Aurelius or Calvin Coolidge, not John Kennedy, and that above all accepts the limits of the possible.
That is difficult to do, because the conservative view is almost completely unfamiliar to members of a society whose fundamental framework is derived from the Enlightenment. Thomas Sowell, as profound a commentator as we have seen in recent decades and now an older and wiser one as well, recently wrote that it is imbecilic for grown men and women to want "change", a term that as he notes can encompass everything from the Third Reich to the Second Coming. And yet in the same book Sowell suggests we abolish the word "conservative" because it is only applied (a) as a term of abuse and (b) inappropriately, at worse to hard-line Soviet communists and at best to men like himself and Milton Friedman who are really classical liberals. It is particularly noteworthy that Sowell in the book also throws up his hands, very eloquently, over the puzzling fact that empirical failure does not seem to discredit certain theories. (Note 4)
For in our public debate most even of those who would put one or another of Hayek's works on their "three-foot shelf" of indispensable books are prone to call for "more education" as the solution to any problem you can think of or invent. (Note 5) Curiously, one of our most serious problems is our education system. Oh well, we need "more education" about that. The basic assumption that we shall climb onto the shoulders of giants, that in every debate some small gain is made for the forces of wisdom and light over those of evil and darkness, is not reexamined and reaffirmed in the light of our various experiences in public policy and public debate, for it is almost never questioned. George Orwell may have said that "There are some opinions so stupid only an intellectual could believe them," and he may or may not have known he was echoing Cicero's statement that "There is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it." But more education meaning better understanding remains the lens through which we view what is happening in our society.
Everything Is Relative
However this overweening pride in the human intellect is ultimately destructive. Hubris still leads to nemesis, because we just aren't that smart. The specific mechanism is that in views derived from the Enlightenment, the relentless push to innovate will always overcome the findings of rational inquiry. For whatever is learned is soon discarded; pride conquers wisdom and so no view is permanent. This cannot be overcome. It is inherent in the model. Galileo and Newton displace Aristotle, only to be themselves displaced by Einstein, who is displaced by Planck and/or Hawking, and so on. That is how progress operates.
And it is precisely progress that justified classical liberalism's, and hence neoconservatism's, free institutions: free speech, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, and so on. These things were aimed not at cultivating the individual during his or her lifetime but at advancing the human race, at having lives in general improve in a secular way, through time. It infuriates believers in such ideas to find them apparently perverted into the concept that all truth is relative, and indeed their original purpose was quite different.
But moral relativism is a necessary feature of this way of thinking, not randomly or by ethnic group but over time. (Note 6) Any given idea is seen as better or worse for its own time depending on how it advanced the progress of humans toward the globalized society of democracy and plenty. History is progress: above all in the statement of Henry Maine that progress consists of replacing status with contract. And of course an idea that was progressive in one era becomes reactionary in the next. (Note 7) Cleaner, healthier, better-fed people will find and fulfil capabilities barely hinted at in their overworked and undernourished ancestors, steeped in poverty and superstition. History is progress, and we have acquired wealth so that we may turn to higher pursuits, cultivate our spirituality, spend more time in art galleries, reading poetry, or something else equally ghastly. (Note 8) We will have replaced the base drives and motives that linger from our savage past and become kinder, gentler beings. And any institution that does not show manifest progress in that direction is clearly obsolete, no matter how well it worked in the past.
And so the fatal, and incurable, flaw of neoconservatism is that having examined the historical record in the twentieth century, and adopted conservative methods, though more in economic and foreign than in social policy, to be sure, it came in the end to naught because as soon as something was settled upon it became in turn the object of sceptical inquiry. It had to be that way. Children of the Enlightenment are temperamentally incapable of taking Palmerstone's advice: "Damn it all, why can't you leave it alone?"
Thus conservatism can not only explain but anticipated what neoconservatism can neither predict nor react to: not that we made mistakes, but that we didn't recognize them as mistakes the next time either. (Note 9)
For in the Enlightenment view, no limitations are permanent, including the apparent stupidity of this luminous race of thinkers. We will cure cancer, and we will cure unemployment. Hayek may have proved we couldn't, but only temporarily. We will master the processes of life itself, and we will reinvent sex and get it better this time, and we will certainly master those of the economy. We will overcome any temporary limitations to our knowledge, to our technique. (Note 10) The only reason we might fail is if we lost faith, and stopped trying.
The problem is, it just ain't so. Indeed, to portray the path from Mozart to Madonna as an improvement is not only wrong but an obvious absurdity. (Note 11) And it is also clear upon reflection that if every material improvement made us as much happier as we assume, (Note 12) our ancestors three hundred years ago, to say nothing of three thousand, would have committed mass suicide. Yet in fact there is no evidence that we are happier than they were at all, let alone spectacularly so.
So That's The Telephone. It Rings and You Run. (Note 13)
But although there are countless fragments out there that tell us progress is an illusion, we cannot derive from them any larger lessons unless we challenge the fundamental assumption of progress in human affairs and in the capacity of the human intellect. This is difficult, because their contrasting lack of faith in the existence of that path, and their scepticism about the improvement of mankind makes conservatives appear to neoconservatives to be country cousins, people you have to invite to the party but who you worry constantly are about to start eating with their fingers or hooking back corn likker straight out of the jug. (Note 14) Conservatives really do not share the sophisticated insights of the modern man, and they reject not this or that sophisticated theory but sophisticated theorizing as a practise. They really do think the solution to homelessness is to "cut your hair, take a bath, and get a job!"
That is not to say that conservatives are stupid or anti-intellectual. They certainly are not the complete moral relativists they would have to be to reject all change. They are quite capable of comparing things and calling one better than the other. Edmund Burke, notre maître à tous, himself said "'The society without the means of change is without the means of conservation."
And on that basis they do regard Magna Carta as a desirable thing. They do drive cars and they do get their teeth filled. They do prefer the fifteenth century to the Dark Ages; but not necessarily to the Pax Romana. They welcome the American Revolution, not because it created St.-Jean de Crevecoeur's "new man" but because it sought to write down and institutionalize a highly effective, and time-honoured, system of protecting liberty. (Note 15) And they do believe in free inquiry, though they insist on testing ideas by their performance through time and by common sense, not by abstract theorizing. As the Zen masters say, let your intelligence illuminate the wisdom of the simple.
So to deny that, say, Friedrich Hayek's 1944 classic The Road to Serfdom is a contribution to progress is not to call the work unimportant. It is to assert rather that what Hayek did, and it was valuable, was not to invent a new way of living but to cast more light on an old truth. And the reason he had to do that was not because the truth had changed or we had advanced but because entropy had been grinding quietly but persistently away at the limited understanding of these things that we had achieved. (Note 16)
The Gods of the Copybook Headings
Thus the crux of the disagreement between conservatism and neoconservatism is over the project of free inquiry and its promise of progress in human knowledge, human society and human nature. But particularly as conservatives think the proof of the pudding is in the eating, it would not do to keep this discussion on an abstract level. So let us at this point take a brief excursion through the calamitous twentieth century, with Rudyard Kipling as our guide, to determine whether it is indeed true that the process of free inquiry is not working as it was supposed to, not because neoconservatives and other liberals cannot find truth but because they cannot hold onto it once they have. (Note 17)
For Kipling, in The Gods of the Copybook Headings, gave us very specific predictions about each part of the public policy triad of foreign, economic and social policy. (Note 18)
Peace in our Time
This is what Kipling had to say about foreign policy:
“When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: ‘Stick to the Devil you know.’”
And the twentieth century has furnished countless confirmations of these maxims, to an increasingly literate and well-fed population in the West that has the leisure and the education to reflect wisely upon them. It just hasn't. But it isn't just the experiences of World War I and World War II, Viet Nam, Korea and the Cold War; it isn't just the extraordinary lack of interest in Richard Nixon's careful articulation of the Realpolitik basis of his diplomatic successes. The problem is that long before Will Rogers said diplomacy was the art of saying "Nice doggy" until you can find a rock, long before Edmund Burke wrote that "There is no safety for honest men but by believing all possible evil of evil men", (Note 19) the Romans had said, and proved beyond reasonable doubt, that Si vis pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war). And they were following the Spartans, who when advised by Philip of Macedon to surrender because "'if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people and raze your city'" responded "'If'" and were not attacked. (Note 20)
The secret, in fact, is not a secret at all: it is "Peace Through Superior Firepower." (Note 21) But though we heavily subsidize thinking and scholarship on the grounds that they create positive externalities, our assumption that there must be progress, that what is good enough to get us through the twentieth century isn't good enough for the 21st, means that the fatuous intellectual lesson we have drawn from all of this, without hesitation, is that we live in a New World Order where military force, despite drastically reduced defense budgets, can without difficulty be used to feed the hungry and reconstruct societies that lack democratic underpinnings so that they too become peaceful, progressive and feminist. For somehow, somewhere, there is a way to make the wars of the tribes cease. And if peace through strength doesn't do it, we'll try something else.
So we have not gained understanding about aggression in the twentieth century, we have lost it. Every aggression will be met with a belief that this time it really is our fault, and one day that belief, and the peace movement it spawns, will deliver us bound to the foe.
Of course, we may finish ourselves off first. On economics, Kipling said this:
“In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: ‘If you don't work you die.’”
This is much more obviously true now than when he said it. In 1900 governments consumed about 10% of the GDP of their societies in the West, most of it at a local level for education, roads and other relatively worthwhile things. But then came the Pied Piper of Cambridge, and no matter how much evidence accumulates we still don't believe that deficits don't stimulate the economy: you can tell because people say we cannot cut them during a recession. And don't a majority of intellectuals in Canada oppose free trade on a number of grounds all of which have been shown in practise not to be problems?
And so it is neoconservatives who have fallen for Michael Porter's shiny, sophisticated, modern doctrines of globalization and competitiveness, and government-business partnerships to make it all work. The plain fact is that economics is not a competitive but a cooperative activity, and there is no role for intellectuals in guiding an economy. If you don't work, you die. But to liberals that is defeatist, and they keep looking for the key. If not New Soviet Man, then New Global Village Person.
AIDS is Anyone's Disease
Finally, what about social policy, and the great God AIDS? Here is Kipling on that:
“On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: ‘The Wages of Sin is Death.’”
But although this was said a century ago, we have paid it no mind despite the rapidly accumulating evidence that a society without intact families is a war zone. Gary Becker has won the Nobel Prize for his work on this, so we don't need more education.
And the neoconservatives are up to their clavicles in this particular swamp, for they tend to shudder at social conservatism and hastily change the topic. Even materially this is not practical, for as publisher Ted Byfield wrote in BC Report, "The 'economic conservative' demands that the cost of government be cut, the deficit reduced, and the debts paid. But he does not face the fact that it was the pursuit of social liberalism that caused the deficit, the debt and the growth of government to begin with. Welfare costs spiralled upward as the family fell apart, couples divorced, and people refused to care for elderly parents or even their own children. Education budgets soared as discipline and standards disintegrated in the schools. Law enforcement became onerous when parents could no longer control their children. There can be no economic conservatism until we find ways of re-establishing social conservatism." (Note 22)
But it isn't just or even primarily the cost of our methods. It is our goals. We have recently, for instance, adopted a policy of "zero tolerance" of male violence against women. But although no one could support wife beating, there is no guarantee that any set of institutions exists or could exist that would eliminate it entirely. And as long as we insist that there is, that the goal is reasonable, we will inevitably experiment with ever-less-satisfactory methods: we will throw away what works imperfectly even if what replaces it is worse.
Thomas Sowell in Is Reality Optional? notes correctly that "Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good." Again, however, he cannot understand it, and ends that essay by noting that "Other great civilizations have declined and collapsed. We may be the first, however, to sink slowly into the quagmire, still beaming from ear to ear in self-congratulation at how 'innovative' we are in our social policies." (Note 23) But although he is right about what we did, he does not, at least yet, understand the deep reason why we did it. We had pills and potions and high-tech rubber; we could use technique to avoid problems, and discard the outmoded, stuffy, priggish morality of our ancestors. (Note 24)
The folk wisdom is the key to understanding the whole situation: the wages of sin is still death. Our grandmothers would have seen this coming a mile away, as they would have seen the other two as well. And they would have seen it by being less, rather than more, sophisticated. That is Kipling's point: the eternal verities combine the qualities of eternality and verity.
Thus the conservative says that we didn't take a wrong turn in the free debate. It was its premises that were at fault. This realization in turn requires us to develop not just different public policy but a different and less "sophisticated," if more sophisticated, understanding, and again not just of economics or politics but of the human condition. We must see that the Old Adam, and the Old Eve, are still with us. And we must see that the entire Enlightenment project of redesigning human existence was flawed, not only in its execution but in its basic design.
Consider, for instance, the view of Booker T. Washington, a man who fought for a particular change - decent treatment of blacks - but who was, and declared himself to be, a southerner: he said in his autobiography Up From Slavery that "I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed." (Note 25) If this is so, then overcoming obstacles in our own life, material or social, is an entirely different thing than trying to remove them ahead of time from the path of those not yet born.
As Aleksandr Herzen, chastened by his own maturity and by what he saw around him in 1848, wrote in From the Other Shore: "Progress is infinite. This alone should serve as a warning to people; an aim which is infinitely remote is not an aim but, if you like, a brilliant trick; an aim must be more immediate - it ought to be, at the very least, the labourer's wage, or pleasure in the work done. Each age, each generation, each life had and has its own fullness." (Note 26)
And if this is so, then to try to make divorce economically costless by redefining property is not only as futile but also as mad as trying to make it emotionally costless by redefining marriage, or to convert laziness, irresponsibility or fecklessness into an "alternate lifestyle." To attempt any of these is to say that making every course a par three without water hazards could improve the golf or the golfing experience of those who played upon it. But it just ain't so. (Note 27)
Bob Hope recently hit a hole in one, at age ninety. Neither he nor I could derive more, or less, pleasure from the achievement if he had at that age put an arrow into the red, hit a palaeolithic squirrel with an old stone, or fired a laser beam right through a black hole.
For whatever progress may have occurred in the material or other circumstances of those who went before you, the meaning and measure of your life is what you make of the circumstances you inherit. Improvements in days gone by cannot leave you much better off at the start. In a fundamental sense, there may be no progress much beyond creating a society in which we can, however imperfectly, attempt to live together without starving, freezing or killing one another or being killed by strangers. That remains, however, an important goal.
The key conservative insight into public policy, therefore, is that individual improvements can be made, but the task of living in society and of designing institutions is in the technical sense chaotic not linear; we attempt to keep ourselves within acceptable distance of a brass, rather than a golden, mean, and with Ecclesiastes do what work comes to our hand, and we eat, and drink, and are merry, for one event awaits us all and yet our life is good. (Note 28) And free institutions should exist to allow each person to travel as long and fulfilling a road as possible, not to shorten all the roads as those would do who, through material progress or otherwise, seek to change and improve the very terms of life.
Here Comes The Flood
The consequences of failing to learn these old lessons, it should be noted, are potentially extremely ominous. (Note 29) For it is not the case that, aiming at illusory progress, we simply remain in one place. The constant changes that we introduce undermine what does exist, and we slip as many civilizations before ours have into barbarism and madness.
The neoconservative might be able to recognize that one of the experiments was to raise young people antisocially, and that one of its results was the discovery that antisocial people do not engage in rational inquiry so that this was an irretrievable mistake. But the conservative replies that if you play God you are bound to make irretrievable mistakes, and should have known it all along.
For at the end of The Gods of the Copybook Headings Kipling delivers this solemn, awful warning:
“And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!”
And truly the earth is trembling. Yet we would build.
Note 1: The dying words, it is said, of Joseph de Maistre.
Note 2: Or, more earthily, that a neoconservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.
Note 3: How, for instance, can a neoconservative consistently dismiss as rubbish Hillary Clinton's declared goal, in context of "the politics of meaning," of redefining what it means to be a human being in the 21st century? All that is possible is to quarrel over the redefinition. The conservative, by contrast, responds to promises of a whole new life the way Marvin the Paranoid android did: "Oh God, not another one."
Note 4: See Sowell Is Reality Optional? and other essays (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1993), pp. 192, 98-99, 13-14.
Note 5: This view has now also been endorsed by the rapper Ice-T (Vancouver Province 28/2/94 p. A22).
Note 6: So in fact is collectivism, for despite their ostensible emphasis on the individual all Enlightenment philosophies including neoconservatism concentrate not upon advancing the individual through his or her life but in advancing the race over the centuries. One might even venture to suppose that, as resources are limited, our concentration on the race has had as its necessary consequence our neglect of the individual that we see all around us.
Note 7: And so of course Karl Marx is a liberal heretic, not part of a rival tradition.
Note 8: And on this view in popular culture it is instructive to compare the superficially very different Star Trek and Star Trek: The Lost Generation. Although the former seems very red-bloodedly American (see for instance the episode with the Comms and the Yangs) and the latter is very politically correct (see for instance the episode with the cryogenic capitalist, homemaker and Bubba), both see us advancing to a New Space Order and they agree what it is (see any of the new shows, and the episode from the old show involving the Metrons).
Note 9: And that is why although Chesterton's warning about the limits to our knowledge was not superficially different from Hayek's, he understood as Hayek did not that he might not be listened to, because he understood that there is no necessary dynamic of progress in human institutions or human nature.
Note 10: And do therefore see William Barrett, The Illusion of Technique (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1979 (1st published 1978)).
Note 11: And indeed Lord Dunsany, who wrote prophetically in 1922: "Blame not the age, it is now too late to stop; it is in the grip of inventions now, and has to go on; we cannot stop content with mustard gas; it is the age of Progress, and our motto is Onwards." (Don Rodriguez (New York: Ballantine Books, 1971 (1st published 1922)), p. 71).
Note 12: "Wooden teeth!" we exclaim in horror.
Note 13: French painter and sculptor Edgar Degas, in response to a friend, eager to demonstrate progress to him, inviting him to lunch and arranging to be telephoned during it on his new telephone (Clifford Fadiman, ed., The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes (Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1985), p. 160; see also for instance Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology (USA: The Free Press, 1960) p. 225).
Note 14: On this, Canadian readers in particular should of course see the large and generally favourable profile of the "Neocons: Young bucks of the new right" that appeared in the Globe and Mail on February 5, 1994 (pp. D1-ff) and contrast his view of the "neocons" as sophisticated and urbane with his ridiculing and dismissal of the paleoconservatives as seeing "the world as a battle against the 'fembos, homos and pinkos.'"
Note 15: See Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1967).
Note 16: This is the same view expressed in the film version of The Name of the Rose by venerable Jorge, intended to be an unsympathetic character, who spoke of the work of the monastery as being the preservation and not the discovery of knowledge, because there is no new knowledge "but only a perpetual and sublime recapitulation." Although the film quite naturally cast William of Baskerville as the hero, the man of change, of new ideas, the man who added to the books, Jorge was right.
Note 17: Again, of course: this too is not new knowledge but just a restatement of Ecclesiastes' point about vanity, in modern and frankly less elegant terms.
Note 18: And what makes it so relevant for our purposes is that Kipling contrasts the sober dicta of the Gods of the Copybook Headings with the deceptive promises of the Gods of the Market Place. This author is as firm a believer in free markets as one can find, yet Kipling understood as most of my fellows, being classical liberals, do not, that the promise of markets that they could make individuals better off over the course of their individual lives should not have been taken as a promise that they could make life itself different and better. Markets, progressives like Herbert Hoover assured us, and progressives on the "right" still assure us today, can eliminate the tragic element in life.
Note 19: Sowell, op cit., p. 45.
Note 20: Fadiman, ed., op. cit., p. 449.
Note 21: And as my brother pointed out to me when I was denouncing the importance of technological progress, one area where it really does matter is in being better armed than your neighbours.
Note 22: Sowell op. cit. p. 23.
Note 23: That is why neoconservatives don't laugh at the cartoon in National Review in which a boy asks his grandfather, since in his day they didn't have all those terrible venereal diseases, "What kind of protective device did you use?" and Grandad holds up his left hand and replies "A wedding ring."
Note 24: Booker T. Washington Up from Slavery, (New York: Penguin Books, 1986 (1st published 1901)), p. 39. I am not, of course, defending slavery or bigotry when I say it, but the destruction of the Old South and the Old Republic was not the unmitigated blessing for mankind that Mill said it was precisely because it represented a victory for progress.
Note 25: Sowell op. cit. p. 23.
Note 26: That is why neoconservatives don't laugh at the cartoon in National Review in which a boy asks his grandfather, since in his day they didn't have all those terrible venereal diseases, "What kind of protective device did you use?" and Grandad holds up his left hand and replies "A wedding ring."
Note 27: Booker T. Washington Up from Slavery, (New York: Penguin Books, 1986 (1st published 1901)), p. 39. I am not, of course, defending slavery or bigotry when I say it, but the destruction of the Old South and the Old Republic was not the unmitigated blessing for mankind that Mill said it was precisely because it represented a victory for progress.
A version of this essay was first published in the inaugural issue of Gravitas, in the spring of 1994.