Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg,
Authoritarianism is not limited to the right wing. Fascism and socialism sprang from the same intellectual waters of historicism and the revolutionary theology of the French Revolution. Both believe that central planning is superior to democracy and better serves the needs of the people. Both are wrong.
Before Hitler defined the term, the fascism of Mussolini was considered favorably by many leftists in the U.S. The eugenics that we associate with Hitler’s fascism had roots in Progressive American Academia.
The Treason of the Intellectuals by Julien Benda
Benda warned in 1928 that the intellectual institutions of the church, media and academia should not be used to serve the state but to hold it accountable. When these critical institutions bend to serve the needs of the state, he predicted we would see the worst war in human history. Prescient is a grand understatement.
The Children of Light and The Children of Darkness by Reinhold Niebuhr
Surveying the wreckage in 1944 predicted by Benda, Niebuhr challenged the appropriateness of Adam Smith’s principles of free markets to the world of remarkable technologies and economic concentrations. While Locke understood the brutish nature of man, our constitutional system came about in an agricultural economy with natural limits on men’s ambitions. Technology and economic concentrations of trusts and businesses unrestrained by physical and geographic limits brought us the progressive movement which tried to apply the limits of political power embedded in our founding to the economic sphere.
The Tyranny of Reason by Yuval Levin 2000
Tracing the origins of western philosophy Levin focuses on the misapplication of the scientific reasoning of the Enlightenment to the social realm. The arrogance that history and economics could be determined and controlled with the precision of physics and math led to a level of oppression on a new grand scale, aided by the advances in science and technology that were also a byproduct of Enlightenment and scientific reasoning.
The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek 1946
Like Niebuhr, Hayek wrote his thesis in the aftermath of WWII; that central economic planning would inevitably lead to tyranny because it assumed a unity that was a myth. One side must use force to obtain compliance from the others. While there are flaws in the ‘inevitability’ of his thesis given the many shades of gray involved in the term ‘central economic planning’ its greater service was the recognition of the myth of unity. Our government must function to recognize and give voice to our differences, not to ignore, demonize and oppress them.
This was further developed in The Constitution of Liberty by Hayek in 1960.
Man advances from the freedom given to the minority, and since we never know where that gifted minority may lie it must be given to all. “The use of reason aims at control and predictability. But the advance of reason rests on the freedom and unpredictability of human action. … There can be little doubt that man owes some of his greatest successes to the fact that he has not been able to control social life. His continued advance may well depend on his deliberately refraining from exercising controls which are now in his power.”
In our quest for a liberal democracy, ‘liberal’ carries the heavier load.
Bourgeois Equality by Dierdre McCloskey,2016, was part of trilogy which included Bourgeois Dignity and Bourgeois Virtue. McCloskey noted the parabolic increase in the betterment of man’s condition beginning in the late 16th century and attributes it to the recognition of the dignity and value of the common man and his ideas. Capitalism was the result, not the cause of this change. Scientific advances came from private labs and the results were codified in the university system to become the basis of further advances.
Why were English ships sailing into Chinese harbors, but Chinese ships not sailing into European ports?
A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell.
Our political differences are centered on the fundamental differences in our assumptions on human nature, the constrained vs the unconstrained vision of humanity. This is the core of the differences between the American Revolution and the French Revolution.
Ironically the system that recognized the permanence of human flaws, the Lockean influence on the American Constitution, has proven far less oppressive than the systems that believed in the malleability of human nature.