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Why Liberal? A Toothless Manifesto

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The fence is sometimes a painful thing to sit on. Trust me: it’s much easier to be anything but a liberal these days. When I say liberal, I mean something different from what George. W. Bush means — he clearly intends the word to suggest something like “closet Stalinist who performs back-alley abortions for kicks, while fisting.”

No, I’m using the word in a slightly more traditional sense. Although it still requires defining. “Neocon,” for instance, means something like “classical liberal.” Yet I am not a neocon (even though otherwise beloved friends are). “Ted Kennedy” means something like “American liberal.” And yet I have never left a girl to drown in a car.

I guess the closest thing to my definition of “liberal” would be the term as currently employed on campus. Which is to say: it designates a person reviled by the left, and despised by the right. Or, in geographical terms, it designates — for Americans — a Canadian.

I am, nominally, a Canadian. I was born there — in Toronto to be precise — although I have spent most of my life running like hell from the place. I am currently a resident alien stationed officially in Manhattan, and if I had to define myself in terms of geography, I would call myself a New Yorker. When you think about it — despite obvious differences — New York occupies pretty much the same political ground as Canada. Occasionally New Yorkers and Canadians hold their noses and vote Giuliani, or Tory — generally when the left is getting a bit too anarchical. Occasionally they drift towards actual socialism, but get stopped short by concerns about fiscal responsibility. Both places often fall prey to Political Correctness, but here New York puts Canada to shame: my country of birth has nothing remotely like the First Amendment. (Some day I’ll write about the recent pogrom at Concordia University, as a result of which the administration decided that Jews should be seen and not heard.) Still, despite our differences regarding the joy of censorship, there’s a reason why 200,000 Canadians live in New York.

If you want to continue to define my brand of liberalism in terms of geography, you could point out that I am in semi-exile in Mexico. This is something liberals are doing a fair bit these days — or at least talking about doing: since they can’t seem to get their votes counted by hand, they end up voting with their feet.

In many ways I am not happy to be a liberal. Let’s face it, in terms of political theory, we have to make do with the least interesting, and by far the least poetic thinkers. We look enviously at nihilists (like Leo Strauss) who are defined essentially by Nietzsche, and can pretend to believe in Plato. These last are the two most beautiful writers in the philosophical tradition, and arguably the most interesting. No, we have to make do with John Stuart Mill, who is — despite being a bit dull, and considerably less profound — one of the only truly decent guys wandering the canon. (At least we’re spared the tedium of Marx.)

Luckily, you don’t have to read a lot of liberal theory to be a liberal. You can read the essential texts, which are vaguely unsatisfactory, and get it over with. Then you can spend all your time reading those great illiberal works, in order to define what you aren’t. I once asked Rabbi Fackenheim, a philosopher of the Holocaust, how a Jewish atheist might find God. He told me to read Nietzsche. The same is true with liberalism: if you want to find your way there, read Strauss. Or Heidegger. Or any of the great Haters of Liberalism. They’re fascinating, and frightening, and will ultimately lead you to a variant of Churchill’s Theorem: mine is the the least satisfying flavor of political theory, except for all of the others.

As far as poets and playwrights and novelists, liberals truly get the short end of the stick. Neruda, the greatest poet of the century, was an unrepentant Stalinist. Yeats occasionally wore a brown shirt. T.S. Elliot was an antisemite, and Nabokov, while an admirable foe of antisemitism (and Eliot), embraced McCarthy. Celine was a collabo. Goddamn.

So who do we end up with. Slim pickings, really, in terms of greatness. (This is unfortunate, and by no means consonant with John Stuart Mill’s theory. While Straussians and their ilk criticize liberalism as a recipe for mediocrity, Mill in fact intended his ideas to clear a space for great men to achieve.)

We do have a couple of shining lights. Philip Roth, perhaps the greatest living American novelist, is one of us. In fact, The Human Stain pretty much defines what I consider true liberalism: Philip Roth rightly conflates Political Correctness and Republican censorship, and cleaves to the sacred middle ground occupied by Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. By all means let presidents fuck their interns, as long as they remain decent men and fine leaders. Celebrate the fucking of interns! Better a man who loves life and thongs than a pinched censorious pornographer like Kenneth Starr, or a vicious hypocrite like the home-wrecking Senator “Mr.” Hyde. Better a cigar-wielding Bubba than a cigar-slicing Catherine MacKinnon. They say that Roth is not the most lovable guy on the planet, but I love him.

Mordecai Richler, Canada’s greatest novelist, was the country’s Philip Roth — and the uncomfortable center can lay claim to him as well. Everybody hated Richler, from leftist séparatistes to bootlegging plutocrats. A very great artist, and my kind of liberal.

The man who makes me happiest to be sitting here on my pointy fence is, believe it or not, Samuel Beckett. Beckett of course would have loathed the liberal badge, and considered his writing completely without moral content (he sometimes insisted it was without meaning at all); but Beckett the man was very much one of the good guys. While many of those who joined the Resistance (or cheered it, wall-eyed, from the safety of the sidelines) were really dying to replace Nazism with their own brand of vicious tyranny, Beckett was no Stalinist. He was no anything. He simply decided it was time to fight the Nazis because they “were making life hell for my friends.” When James Joyce, an almost-good-guy, was too busy fretting about the acceptance of his most recent masterpiece to be concerned about the slaughter of the Jews, Beckett was appalled. Samuel Beckett may not have called himself a liberal, but he was my kind of nihilist. A truly decent man. (With the good taste to keep his decency out of his art.)

No, we liberals get to count few of the greatest writers among our own — and we’re saddled with a whole raft of soggy moralists — but the few that we do get are enough to make the stigma bearable.

It’s not a glamorous thing to be, liberal. We don’t get to sport berets or boaters. We don’t get nifty armbands with sickles or swastikas. Let’s face it: chicks dig leftists. Except for the few who love a man in a uniform. If you wanted to get a liberal tattoo, what would it look like?

Liberalism is not sexy; it’s not comfortable; it’s not fun. It’s like Mormon underwear. We’re not talking hair shirts, however: liberalism doesn’t even offer the masochistic thrill of true suffering. It’s just not attractive. Hell, I wouldn’t want to sleep with me.

And yet I am a liberal. I am happy to be where I am, even if it doesn’t make me happy. I shall remain where I am, even if I can’t quite identify the topography except in terms of the much more interesting sights to either side. And I welcome you to join me, even if I know it’s an invitation to a dull party, where all you’re likely to meet are tedious and unpleasant people who are, even worse, essentially decent.

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(If this post ruined your day, feel free to visit Dysblog, where it only gets worse.)

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About visigoth

  • http://philobiblion.blogspot.com Natalie Bennett

    A bit of decent, Mill-ish dullness sounds good to me, as long as you can add a dash of anarchism to leaven the mix.

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/VictorLana/ Victor Lana

    Douglas,

    Nice on the money post. But let’s not forget the actual meaning of “liberal.” There are more than 6 definitions in my small dictionary here, but #5 strikes me as most salient:

    “Broad-minded, tolerant, especially not bound by authoritariansim, orthodoxy, or traditional forms.”

    Synonyms include: generous, bountiful, munificent.

    And the Latin root, liberalis, means suitable for a freeman.

    From a New Yorker to a Canadian, enjoy being liberal. You have nothing to lose but your jeans.

  • http://jmaximus.blogspot.com John Bil

    Liberal = socialist, pro government

    Conservative = socialist, pro government

    Libertarian = anti big government

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >>”Neocon,” for instance, means something like “classical liberal.” Yet I am not a neocon (even though otherwise beloved friends are). “Ted Kennedy” means something like “American liberal.” And yet I have never left a girl to drown in a car.<< You really, really need to read up on what Neocons actually believe. Nothing could be farther from a ‘classical liberal.’ Central to their philosophy is an expansionist, imperialist foreign policy which borders on a communistic ‘convert or die’ attitude. Nothing could be farther from liberal, be it classical or otherwise. Dave

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    There’s nothing technically “comunistic” about a “convert or die” attitude…

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I made the communist comparison, because that type of foreign policy was central to Lenninism and later Stalinism. They had an absolute belief in the need to spread their philosophy and to destroy those who would not accept it. Neocons pretty much believe the same thing, even if their actual ideology is different.

    Dave

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Yes, I’ll agree, I was just making the point that communism in of itself is not inherently war mongering (Stalin tried like hell to stay out of Hitler’s cross-hairs, for instance), though its best known practitioners certainly make it seem so.

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    Actually, most of the neocons I know (and some of them are at the very center of the movement) would call themselves “classical liberals.” Like it or not, Jeffersonian universalism implies at the very least an imperialism of *ideas* — and it’s that attitude (perverted, I would argue, in the current administration) that fuels the current warmongering.

    I don’t happen to agree with Ignatieff that this particular war is at all Jeffersonian in the purity of its motives: the problem is that the current crop of influences upon the commander in chief tend to be *Straussians* (eg. Wolfowitz, Krystol); who are, in fact, the very opposite of classical liberals (although they tend to wear liberal masks in public).

    But classical liberalism is by its nature universalist, and that involves exporting and replicating itself. Period. Liberals want the world to be liberal. The current administration thinks that liberal democracy grows from the barrel of a foreign gun — which is, yes, a touch Maoist — there are better ways of spreading ideas. And, as I say, I think they have intentions somewhat more ominous than the mere propagation of liberal regimes.

    (Note that Jefferson was not particularly shy of bloodshed, however, when it came to universalizing his ideals: he was simply keen on the violence remaining local. He was quite pleased to see the French take up arms against the French.)

    By the way, anti-globalist academics in England tend to use the word “neo-liberalism” to refer to what we call neo-conservatism. I suggest it’s you that should do a bit of reading on the subject.

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    >You really, really need to read up on what >Neocons actually believe. Nothing could be farther >from a ‘classical liberal.’ (David Nalle at his most stridently wrong)

    In fact, from a very few seconds of “reading” on the web, I found a number of (admittedly banal) definitions of neo-conservatism, most of which look something like this:

    “NEO-CONSERVATISM
    A resurgence of economic and political beliefs associated with classical liberalism of the early 19th century. Should correctly be called neo-liberalism.”

    (from the very profound “Online Dictionary of The Social Sciences”)

    Now, I’m not keen on dictionary definitions, and the truth is that the current crop of neocons have, hidden in their midst, the most vicious closet enemies of classical liberalism. If Bush were clever enough to understand what many of his advisors *really* believed, he’d faint. (Virtually all Straussians are, for instance, militant atheists.)

    Straussians, however, are not really neocons. They are the most paleo of the paleocons. Strauss thought that even Edmund Burke was too modern (in that he believed in historical progress.)

    It’s true that neo-conservatism has drifted in recent years towards a caricature of itself, which looks less and less like classical liberalism. And it’s because it has become infected by Straussian “noble lies.”

    Bush inserting his mawkish piety into the public sphere — his theocratic tendencies — are anything but neoconservative. Which is to say anything but classically liberal, or Jeffersonian. And that tendency is encouraged, ironically enough, by a group of very very clever atheists. (Most of them students of Leo Strauss, or of his student, Allan Bloom.)

    So, yes, the issue gets complicated. But at its least nuanced: to identify neo-conservatism as classical liberalism is not only correct, it borders on a truism.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >>Actually, most of the neocons I know (and some of them are at the very center of the movement) would call themselves “classical liberals.” Like it or not, Jeffersonian universalism implies at the very least an imperialism of *ideas* — and it’s that attitude (perverted, I would argue, in the current administration) that fuels the current warmongering. < < They can call themselves anything they want, but they really don't seem to fit with the beliefs of classical liberalism, at least not as they practice their politics. As I alluded to before, their messianic foreign policy is rather like that of the soviet union. Remember, these folks are mostly former Democrats and followers of the Social Democtatic philosophy of people like Max Schachtman. As a group they were alienated from the Democratic party by the failures of the Johnson administration and moved into the GOP in the 70s on the assumption that the GOP was pro-military and anti-communist, and because they were relatively indifferent to the GOP's domestic policies. >>I don’t happen to agree with Ignatieff that this particular war is at all Jeffersonian in the purity of its motives: the problem is that the current crop of influences upon the commander in chief tend to be *Straussians* (eg. Wolfowitz, Krystol); who are, in fact, the very opposite of classical liberals (although they tend to wear liberal masks in public).< < I don't even think Jefferson's motives were ever pure. Jefferson was capricious and inconsistent and more often than not acted in contradiction to his expressed beliefs. >>But classical liberalism is by its nature universalist, and that involves exporting and replicating itself. Period.< < NOT by force of arms, or by economic subversion or by any of the other techniques espoused by Neocons. Classical liberalism is certainly a universal philosophy, but part of the belief in liberty is the belief that people have to find their way to liberty for themselves. The question which is open to debate is whether it's even possible to impose liberty on people who don't understand or necessarily want it. They SHOULD want it, but sometimes their priorities are different. >>By the way, anti-globalist academics in England tend to use the word “neo-liberalism” to refer to what we call neo-conservatism. I suggest it’s you that should do a bit of reading on the subject.<< My reading on classical liberalism is quite extensive, and I’m pretty familiar with the Neocons and their beliefs as well. Dave

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >>>You really, really need to read up on what >Neocons actually believe. Nothing could be farther >from a ‘classical liberal.’ (David Nalle at his most stridently wrong)

    In fact, from a very few seconds of “reading” on the web, I found a number of (admittedly banal) definitions of neo-conservatism, most of which look something like this:< < Perhaps you should try more than a few seconds of reading from a web search. There's all sorts of stuff on the web, some of it wrong and some of it - like what you reference - much too simplistic and nowhere near comprehensive. Why not go to the source and read what the Neocons are writing? Start with the Statement of Principles of the PNAC.

    Or for an easier start, try this introductory article in the Christian Science Monitor.

    Your definitions are fine as far as they go, but while they may describe Neo-Conservatism in its ideal form, they do not accurately represent the beliefs of the people in government or influencing government who identify themselves as Neocons.

    At least you realize that Neocons aren’t Straussians. The people in Bush’s circle aren’t Straussians either.

    >>It’s true that neo-conservatism has drifted in recent years towards a caricature of itself, which looks less and less like classical liberalism. And it’s because it has become infected by Straussian “noble lies.”< < The Straussians are more compatible with classical liberalism than the Neocons are, but they aren't classical liberals either. Maybe the problem here is that you don't actually understand what classical liberalism is. >>So, yes, the issue gets complicated. But at its least nuanced: to identify neo-conservatism as classical liberalism is not only correct, it borders on a truism.<< That would be at the level of nuance so low that all meaning is lost. Neoconservatism as a philosophy is incompatible with classical liberalism and as it is practiced it’s literally antithetical to classical liberalism. Dave

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com Michael J. West

    “NEO-CONSERVATISM
    A resurgence of economic and political beliefs associated with classical liberalism of the early 19th century. Should correctly be called neo-liberalism.”

    Were the definitions like this one that you found written by neo-conservatives?

    Because honestly, this definition sounds an awful lot like propaganda. Like, “You see? This is what liberalism is SUPPOSED to be like. Just goes to show you how misguided today’s liberals are.”

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I think the way others define Neoconservatism are a lot more meaningful than how they define themselves. But even more significant is to look at what they advocate and what they do and draw your own conclusions.

    Dave

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Why do you people insist on being so confident in things you don’t know about?

    I’m looking at you here, Dave.

    Most neo-cons ARE Straussians and vice versa, whether they know it or not. Not all neo-cons are Straussian and the influence of Strauss is overrated in those who were not educated at the University of Chicago, the clearest bastion of conservative philosophy in academe.

    Dave, we’ve already been over the definition of neo-conservatism and your lack of knowledge about it once before. Please read all the articles below before you pontificate about it any further, because that last discussion didn’t go too well for you.

    Neo-cons are not classical liberals if you’re talking about people who are primarily concerned with pluralism and rights enjoyed in a minimally invasive state. They were not anti-government, they were former Marxists who turned against the excesses of Stalinism and wanted to harness the Liberal state to achieve greater public morality in foreign affairs.

    The intellectual heritage of neo-cons, including Wolfowitz and Perle directly, has been decidedly shaped by the Chicago school of conservative political theory and natural law. The founders of neo-conservatism like Kristol, Glazer and Podhoretz Supporters of an Israeli state have found a lot of support in Straussian ideas of public morality.

    Straussians believe in the traditional intellectual canon and Western tradition, yes, but it’s that intellectual foundation that supports neo-conservatism’s moral interventions in the outside world. They are NOT paleocons who believe we should be isolationist and disregard the rest of the world and shut off our borders to immigration.

    Religion is central to how neo-conservatism has played out as a movement and is one of only many points linking Straussian natural law philosophy to foreign policy through the defense of Israel and an aggressive foreign policy against Communism.

    As part of Dave’s continuing education, here are some articles so you all can stop throwing around philosophical labels so incorrectly.

    Here’s a couple of basic quotes to sum it up if you’re too lazy to read all these links:

    “The original neoconservatives started off in the 1930s and 1940s as Marxists. This tight-knit circle of intellectuals included Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Midge Decter, and Nathan Glazer. They came to be deeply disillusioned by Stalin’s brutal dictatorship, abandoned their hope for communism, and began to perceive the Soviet Union as an aggressive enemy of liberal democracies. It was this issue that split the early neocons from the Democratic Party, which they saw as alarmingly indifferent to the Soviet threat. As their alienation from the Democrats grew, they also moved to the right on domestic issues. Inspired by philosophers such as University of Chicago professor Leo Strauss, the neocons argued for a greater role for religion and morality in the public realm.”

    “Some definitions are more high-falutin. Michael Lind — widely hailed as a conservative who moved to the Left — channels some of the more feverish paleocons when he writes in the British magazine, The New Statesman, that “Most neoconservative defence intellectuals … are products of the largely Jewish-American Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, which morphed into anti-communist liberalism between the 1950s and 1970s and finally into a kind of militaristic and imperial right with no precedents in American culture or political history.” But a recent article in the New York Times says the neocons aren’t Trotskyists, they’re Straussians: “They are the neoconservatives, or neocons a catchall name for a disparate group of authors, academics, media moguls and public servants who trace their intellectual lineage (accurately or not) to the teachings of a German émigré named Leo Strauss.”

    Now here are some links over a couple of comments. Read up before we ever talk about the definition of the word “neo-con” again:

    Here are some links to excellent articles about the intellectual lineage of neo-conservatism (from both conservative and liberal writers) if you have a ton of time on your hands:

    Goldberg, National Review I

    Goldberg, National Review II

    Goldberg, National Review III

    More below.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Goldberg, National Review IV

    Free Republic

    American Conservative Magazine

    More.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Weekly Standard

    Dan Drezner, Political Scientist @ U of C

    Wall Street Journal

    More below.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Slate magazine

    The Week magazine

    More National Review

    Yet more to come.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Frum, National Review

    Logos Journal

    Krauthammer, National Interest

    One more, I think.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    There, read up and don’t come back trying to defend that you were right. LEARN something, be educated. You’re welcome — I’m sharing some research I’ve done on this topic for other purposes and maybe you’ll educate yourself if you don’t always think you’re right and expert on everything, which is the exact opposite attitude of people who actually KNOW and LEARN about the world.

    Conservative icon Frances Fukuyama, National Interest

    You’re all very welcome. Consider this your BABsie seminar in political philosophy. Please read ALL those articles in their entirety before any other pedantic comments about neo-conservatism since it REALLY bugs me when people mis-use and mis-label philosophy. Please do not bloviate or pontificate again about this topic unless you’re referring to things in these articles that show you’ve LEARNED something. I don’t want to hear any “I was right” weak defenses, because all the comments on this topic have been really, really ill-informed and off-the-mark.

    I’m being stern with you all because I think you need to learn how to learn instead of committing the worst sins of Internet commentary where everything’s an argument to be “won” or where everyone’s an expert on everything.

    That is all.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Here’s a fixed link to The Week article:

    The Week magazine

    That is all.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >>Why do you people insist on being so confident in things you don’t know about?

    I’m looking at you here, Dave.< < Why does it never enter your consciousness that we might actually know about the things we write about - certainly as much as you do, you arrogant twit. >>Most neo-cons ARE Straussians and vice versa, whether they know it or not.< < The Straussians I know - and I deal with a lot of them - would certainly disagree. They hate the Neocons. >> Not all neo-cons are Straussian and the influence of Strauss is overrated in those who were not educated at the University of Chicago, the clearest bastion of conservative philosophy in academe. < < As I said before, we're talking about Neocons here. They may have some Straussian influences, but they can't be classified as Straussians. >>Dave, we’ve already been over the definition of neo-conservatism and your lack of knowledge about it once before.< < No, we went over it before and it became clear that you were talking about a theoretical view of Neoconservativism based on some peculiar idea of your own, not the actual beliefs which Neocons currently adhere to. >> Please read all the articles below before you pontificate about it any further, because that last discussion didn’t go too well for you.< < Odd, as I recall it ended with you having been clearly demonstrated to be presenting a skewed and innacurate version of Neoconservatism which didn't match reality. >>Neo-cons are not classical liberals if you’re talking about people who are primarily concerned with pluralism and rights enjoyed in a minimally invasive state. They were not anti-government, they were former Marxists who turned against the excesses of Stalinism and wanted to harness the Liberal state to achieve greater public morality in foreign affairs.< < This is a book definition of Neoconservatism which has little or nothing to do with current Neocon beliefs except, perhaps, as background information. >>The intellectual heritage of neo-cons, including Wolfowitz and Perle directly, has been decidedly shaped by the Chicago school of conservative political theory and natural law. The founders of neo-conservatism like Kristol, Glazer and Podhoretz Supporters of an Israeli state have found a lot of support in Straussian ideas of public morality.< < This is possible, but since it isn't expressed in anyway in their current beliefs and philosophy I don't see how it's relevant.. >>Straussians believe in the traditional intellectual canon and Western tradition, yes, but it’s that intellectual foundation that supports neo-conservatism’s moral interventions in the outside world. They are NOT paleocons who believe we should be isolationist and disregard the rest of the world and shut off our borders to immigration.< < That's pretty much what I said earlier. >>Religion is central to how neo-conservatism has played out as a movement and is one of only many points linking Straussian natural law philosophy to foreign policy through the defense of Israel and an aggressive foreign policy against Communism.< < This doesn't fit terribly well with the fact that traditionally Neocons have been atheists. You can't have it both ways. You seem to be confusing the Neocons with the Theocons who believe that the state of Israel is a central element in achieving a Biblical 'end of days' scenario. >>As part of Dave’s continuing education, here are some articles so you all can stop throwing around philosophical labels so incorrectly.<< Perhaps you should read the articles I cited earlier so you have at least a basic familiarity with Neocons as they exist today so we aren’t talking about two different things. Your irrelevant theoretical definitions of Neoconservatism aren’t adding anything here. Dave

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    Thank you, Bob. One book to add to this (and I’m afraid you either have to read the entire book, or spend a couple of years studying with Straussians):

    “The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss,” by Shadia Drury.

    Drury is the leading non-Straussian scholar of Strauss. At the center of this school of thought is the insistence upon esoteric (as opposed to exoteric) writing; so anything written by Straussians themselves — unless they’ve taught you how to read them — will go out of its way to *hide* what the author truly thinks.

    No less a scholar than Martha Nussbaum wrote an embarrassing review of the Closing of the American Mind, in which she identified Bloom as a “religious man.” Why? Because she didn’t do her homework. *Anyone* reading that book, who wasn’t aware of the Straussian hidden agenda, would assume that Bloom was a devout Jew.

    Why do I pretend to know different? Because I *studied with Bloom*. And with Thomas Pangle, his student. If you’ve spent a few years with Straussians, in and out of the classroom, you get some sense of the esoteric teaching.

    And I’m by no means an expert on Strauss — he’s perhaps the most difficult of the twentieth century philosophers. I have a master’s degree in philosophy, and that does not, frankly, qualify me. I came very close to doing a PhD at the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago — the epicenter of Straussianism — and had I done that, I’d probably feel more confident in the identification of what Strauss truly intended.

    That said, I can tell you this. The Straussians are in almost every sense the opposite of any 19th or 20th century definition of “liberal.” They are in fact quite suspicious of the concept of democracy — I sometimes think that any regime, as long as it were capable of subversion by philosophers, would suit them fine.

    They are, as I say, atheists. When Strauss was offered the possibility of teaching at Hebrew University, he proposed (comically) to lecture about the centrality of atheism in the history of Jewish thought.

    What I cannot say for sure is whether Strauss was truly a nihilist. Which is to say: whether he in fact believed in nothing. I do know, from his letters to Benjamin, that he identified with Nietzsche: I don’t have the quotation in front of me, but the gist of what he said is that Nietzsche spoke for him, except in his dangerous decision to reveal the dark truth to the masses.

    It’s not surprising that we get foolishness like David Nalle’s, “The Straussians are more compatible with classical liberalism than the Neocons are, but they aren’t classical liberals either.”

    The Straussians don’t *want* you to know what they believe.

    If this sounds like a vast conspiracy theory, it’s because that’s precisely what it is: Leo Strauss’s identification of “esoteric writing” is in fact a surprisingly successful attempt to re-read the entire history of philosophy as a conspiracy. He, and his students, argue that philosophy is a private conversation between great men, and that *all* philosophers go out of their way to hide the essence of that conversation from ordinary readers.

    My current question — and I’m not sure whether even Strauss’s closest students could answer it with certainty: is *whether Strauss himself believed in the history of esoteric writing.* That is to say, whether he believed that philosophers themselves deliberately hid the true meaning of their work. I am beginning to think that Strauss created this notion as a tool of “strong misreading” — so that he could himself subvert the text, and project his own ideas into, for instance, Plato. (This, if it were true, would be utterly shocking to the most rigorous Straussians, who believe that the master worshipped the integrity of the text. But it would explain many things… not the least of which is that the only works of philosophy I have ever read which are *unambiguously* esoteric, are the works of Leo Strauss.)

    Here are some things, however, that I can say with certainty:

    The Straussians abhor economism.

    They despise Isaiah Berlin’s concept of “negative freedom” — which is at the center of any notion of liberalism: the idea that the individual should be free *from* the influence of the state.

    They see piety as a necessary lie. Politicians in particular should disguise their cruelty beneath a cloak of faith.

    They regard it as necessary for philosophers to ally themselves with the “gentleman class” — of which Bush is a key member. This is not because they particularly respect or value these people: it’s because only through that alliance is philosophy, as a practice, *safe*.

    Their reading of Machiavelli has taught them that there is more power in being the *advisor* to princes, than there is in being a prince.

    Nalle tells us that, “The people in Bush’s circle aren’t Straussians.” This is the kind of ignorance which makes this conversation almost worthless. Paul Wolfowitz was *in Leo Strauss’s class.* Not only that, but prior to this stint at the University of Chicago, Wolfowitz lived in a house at Cornell with Allan Bloom — Bloom was the faculty advisor.

    (Wolfowitz was also a student of Albert Wohlstetter’s, a man I don’t know a great deal about, except that he stressed the necessity of maintaining American superiority through the development of the most technologically sophisticated weaponry.)

    All this to say: yes, Bush’s circle contains more than one *highly* influential Straussian, and this administration’s foreign policy in particular cannot be understood without reference to Strauss.

    (Oh, and Bob: much as I quite liked what you just wrote, could you please stop signing things “that is all”? It’s unbearably pompous.)

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Cooper, I have to admit that your explanation of the Straussians was enlightening or at least intriguing. My understanding of their beliefs has been entirely external. If what you says is true and there’s an esoteric element which is deliberately concealed, then all bets are off. This isn’t something which any self-proclaimed Straussians I’ve talked to openly admit to, but then I guess that as you explain it they wouldn’t.

    The question it raises in my mind is whether this ‘hidden agenda’ of the Straussians is real or whether it’s entirely in the minds of their detractors.

    >>Nalle tells us that, “The people in Bush’s circle aren’t Straussians.” This is the kind of ignorance which makes this conversation almost worthless.<< Sorry to have intruded. Go on talking with Babs. I’m not intimately aware of the personal biography of Paul Wolfowitz. I had merely concluded form his public statements which don’t match my understanding of Straussian beliefs, that he and his associates were not practicing Straussians. My confusion here may come from the fact that the Straussians I’ve talked with before seem to be of the school of Henry Jaffa whose take on Straussianism seems to be much closer to classical liberalism, rather than from the Bloom group which Wolfowitz is apparently associated with, which is closer to Neoconservativism philosophically. I will freely admit that my understanding of Strauss is limited. His philosophy is too theoretical for me to enjoy reading. I understand the Neocons quite well, because their philosophy is a primarily political philosophy and that’s something I can relate to. Strauss is more purely intellectual, and frankly that’s something I have little patience for. Dave

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Dave, your problem here is the people you know who claim to be “Straussians” aren’t Straussians, aren’t from the Chicago school, and don’t know anything substantive about neo-conservatism or Strauss. And on this subject, neither did you.

    I’d drop to your level and throw around the word “idiot,” but I don’t think that’s quite right. I think the problem isn’t your intelligence, but your approach to information and knowledge. You’re one of the most close-minded people I’ve ever encountered and I think anyone who’s discussed anything with you on this site might agree.

    I’ll try to be civil and ignore your personal attacks because, in my own brusque way, I was trying to share some knowledge with you. It’s really too bad that makes you so angry.

    Is it so HARD to read the articles I link you to, which point out that Wolfowitz himself is directly from the Chicago school?

    The articles you linked to were meaningless and introductory, no offense. I did read them. They said nothing, which is why I referred you to some real research I’ve done for previous academic work (at least what was available online and not in book form).

    Douglas says the same things I do and he’s useful while I’m an arrogant twit?
    Apparently he did a better job at communicating with you (which is near impossible) without you getting your panties in a bunch, but I’ll really leave it to the readers of this site who the over-emotional, bombastic, know-it-all who constantly draws the wrong conclusions from a little bit of incomplete information is.

    Yes, I’m smarter than you and I just might occasionally be right when we discuss issues. Get over it. You’re too old to call me names.

    And might I remind you, the last time I had to correct you on this definition was because you thought neo-cons had some sort of domestic agenda that jived with religious doctrine, which is the exact opposite of what you’re saying now. I argued that neo-conservatism was primarily about foreign policy and did not imply any concomitant domestic agenda akin to the one you were describing at the time.

    Most neo-cons today are not atheists due to how the political movement has developed. Their support of an Israeli state need not be religious, it’s also a political movement. The founders of neo-conservatism were former secular Marxists for whom the Holocaust, Stalin and Zionism were turning points and many early Straussians were also atheist, as Douglas points out. But the intellectual movement has come more and more to embrace religion and natural law as the basis for public morality.

    Dave, I’d ask you for an apology, but I don’t think that’s in your character and I’m frankly not offended in the least because this is typical of how all discussions with you degenerate.

    I suppose I could have been more polite myself in sharing my information with you, as Douglas was, but your claims of always being right when others try to share ideas with you makes that folly in my mind.

    I have some reason to be familiar with the intellectual trends coming out of this movement, as well. Douglas has earned more familiarity, to be sure, but I get prickly about the misuse of philosophy and these imprecise labels.

    I think a part of the problem here is that a lot of people’s definitions of “neoconservative” comes from inaccurate Internet commentary and even mainstream journalism which lumps various ideas and policies together that don’t fit that label particularly well. A perfect example of this is the bizarre, apocalyptic “Theocon” label you have, something which no one could honestly argue for or believe outside the Internet. This is the most imprecise form of political labeling that doesn’t reveal any real understanding about the issues and personalities in question.

    Can we at least now agree that neo-conservatism’s intellectual lineage comes from Straussians?

    Douglas: I use the “That is all” closer as a kind of ironic bombast sort of thing because I’m surrounded by so many loud Internet types who holler their inchoate ideas constantly. It’s meant as a joke, but out of respect for your manners and learning, I’ll close without it on this one.

    Thanks for the good discussion, Douglas.

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    David Nalle says: “The question it raises in my mind is whether this ‘hidden agenda’ of the Straussians is real or whether it’s entirely in the minds of their detractors.”

    A legitimate question: the Straussian hidden doctrine is *so* utterly subversive, that it’s difficult to believe that anyone could believe, much less teach such a thing. Even in writing about it, I realize I come across as a paranoid lunatic, on the order of Lyndon LaRouche.

    That said: what I am saying is not in dispute. It’s not “my take” on Strauss. I have it from the horse’s mouth (or the foal’s mouth, if you like). Bloom and Pangle both taught *every* text in this way. (The one possible exception is Kant: the categorical imperative seems to preclude the possibility of a noble lie — I forget how Pangle dealt with this conundrum, although I am told that Strauss admitted that certain texts did not permit an esoteric reading.) Shadia Drury is the one to read, for an objective non-Straussian explication.

    It is fascinating, dangerous stuff. Wolfowitz watchers spend a lot of time wondering who is ascendant in his thinking: Strauss or Wohlstetter. From what little I know of Wohlstetter, he is a piece of work himself — in the final analysis, I’m not sure which would be the frying pan, and which the fire.

    As for our discussion of the terms “liberal” and “neoconservative” — the truth is that they have become approximately as precise as the term “romantic” (which has a comically vast number of often contradictory definitions).

    David Frum, in the article recommended by Bob, denounces “paleoconservatism” but I find this a bit slippery. One of the more amusing definitions of paleoconservatism — I forget the writer — suggested that if you believe in the privatization of national parks, you are a paleocon. Well, David believes in privatizing the national parks.

    Again, I know more about David Frum than you’ll gain from his blog: he was in my class in high school, and we were friends for twenty years. I don’t actually know whether we are still friends — I haven’t seen him in a couple of years, and I wonder whether politics would finally come between us. He’s one of the brightest people I know, and his politics are approximately as disgusting as anything this side of Jesse Helms. My loathing for Bush has sent me increasingly towards the center, and I suspect that David and I are now too far apart to have a civilized conversation.

    He does not seen himself as a “neoconservative,” by the way. For one thing, he notes that the term has become anti-Semitic code — and I tend to agree. Also — and I agree with this as well — the real neo-cons share specific biographical details, and he’s far too young to be one of them.

    One guy who intrigues me — I’ve never met him — is Bill Krystol. On the face of it, he seems to identify himself as *both* a Straussian and a neoconservative. Which leads me to believe that he is either confused (doubtful) or lying about the second half of the equation. Or, a third possibility: he’s a neocon who takes what he needs from Strauss, and rejects the rest. There are a number of thinkers in that category — George Grant, for instance, admired Strauss but rejected the atheism.

    I also studied with Rabbi Emil Fackenheim, a contemporary and friend of Strauss’s. He too admired much of Strauss — the admiration was mutual, I believe — but he was not a Straussian. Whether he was a theist, frankly, I don’t know. Yes he was a rabbi, but at the center of his thought was the Holocaust, and I often wonder whether he lost his faith.

    These categories are only useful as starting points. My post at the top is, if nothing else, an effort to suggest that I haven’t the faintest idea how to define myself, except that I am clearly *not* certain things. I am not, for instance a Straussian. On the other hand, I have yet to encounter a school of political thought remotely as interesting: so he is very much the respected enemy.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    I find both Frum and Kristol really interesting as well, but that could be a whole other discussion. Kristol especially is one of the most interesting and compelling yet vexing figures in political journalism today. I think the frustration you have with the uncomfortable dissonance between current neo-conservative doctrine and traditional Straussian cultural theory is manifest most in Irving’s boy, who happens to be the leader of the neo-con movement along with Robert Kagan.

    For what it’s worth, I think Frum deserves a lot of credit as a speech-writer for Bush — I mean how hard is it to make that man sound eloquent? And his book about his time in the administration had some really good inside hardball if you’re interested in Congressional politics.

    Jaffa doesn’t get a pass either — he was one of Bill Kristol’s teachers.

    Douglas, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the “Greatest Thinkers” topic. I reveal my hippie pomo Continental philosophy bias there as a child of Heidegger and Fritz, but you might have some interesting choices. Check it out:

    World’s Top 100 Thinkers

    That is all (and there it is again).

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Ugh, I did that link wrong, but it’s here

    That is all.

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    I’ll be honest: the 100 Greatest Thinkers list strikes me as a depressing parlor game. I’ve just finished contending with the equally depressing storm over Random House’s 100 Greatest Novels list. A number of people on that so-called thinkers list have never had a thought worth listening to, never mind listing.

    In terms of the great Continental vs. Analytic debate, I staked my claim by the first year of undergraduate study. Toronto had one of the few philosophy departments pretty much equally divided between the two (although I’m told that the Analytic thugs have since then pretty much silenced the Continentalists, as has happened in most philosophy departments this side of the Atlantic).

    For that reason, my education in liberalism is — and will remain — incomplete. I refuse to read Rawls. Life is too short.

    I was lucky, in that during my time in Toronto, the city was home to the Straussian exilarchy — they were thicker on the ground there, for a period, than they were in Chicago (although they taught in the Political Science department, not in Philosophy or Classics). It was also arguably the world’s center for studies in Hegel and Aristotle. At any rate, we had the greatest Aristotelian scholar of the century: Father Joseph Owens (who was distinctly opposed to Analytic interpretations); and we had Emil Fackenheim, an eminent Hegelian, as well as visiting lecturers who included the greatest Hegel scholars in the English language.

    I don’t, however, want to give the impression that I’m a scholar: I’m not. I know only enough theory to use in my work; and I think you’ll find that true of most novelists. And poets: Wallace Stevens — surely the most overtly theoretical of the modern poets — was asked to give a philosophy lecture at Chicago, and by all accounts it was an embarrassment — not even worthy of Philosophy 101.

    There are some novelists and poets who are clearly towering scholars — but even Nabokov, when you look at his attempts to do philosophy in Ada, proves not much of a theorist. Dostoevsky and T.S. Eliot are rare exceptions. (Nabokov resented them both.)

    This is one reason I never did a PhD in Philosophy: it became clear to me that I was obsessed with the narrative and the grand ideas (hence Strauss) and in love with the stylists (Plato, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche), but finally not much interested in the dry minutiae.

    Artists are allowed, in our way, to be quite stupid. I borrow intelligence from others, and use it in my work; and if I do it well I can fool people into thinking I’m a scholar — just as a competent actor, however cowardly, can present a convincing Julius Caesar.

    Just sayin’…

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    And that’s part of the art of blogging too, it seems. Take an interesting essay written by someone else or an article about a social problem, quote a bit of it, have a few passing observations, and conclude with some universally palatable platitude to wrap it all up nicely. I think bloggers often give the impression that they know much more than they do.

    That list of 100 Greatest Thinkers is somewhat depressing, but it’s much better-chosen than the Random House version of the canon, with a few notably pleasant surprises.

    In America, there is no real debate between analytic and continental philosophy since it’s all analytic with a few hippie enclaves and a token Nietzsche or Hegel scholar here or there, which is why most continental theory is done in literature, sociology, and cultural studies.

    I love Kierkegaard and if I cared more, I’d classify everyone who writes on this site on the basis of Kierkegaard’s typology of the despairing. I certainly see lots of different kinds of despair manifest in this site alone :)

    I don’t have the depth or drive to be an original theorist, although I enjoy theory, and I’m not an artist.

    I wouldn’t feel bad about your Rawls avoidance — I would doubt anyone else on this site has either. I’ve read only enough to have a rudimentary grasp of it, and I guarantee none of the libertarian caricature types here have engaged his work. I see a lot of Ayn Rand quoted, but never any Nozick.

    Stevens had great fun making fun of egghead academics and had more insight in his work than almost all the philosophers of his generation combined. Remember the refrain, Douglas? “The rationalists, the rationalists, with their pointy hats …”

    What kind of fiction do you write, Douglas?

    That is all.

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    Hm. Hard to say. Just to disturb my sleep, critics like to compare me simultaneously to people I loathe (Paul Auster) and people I revere (Calvino and Nabokov). I like to think I have nothing in common with Auster, and much more in common with Calvino and Nabokov than I actually do.

    In short: because I can’t really answer, I’m offering an incoherent list of unsatisfactory analogues (which is what the critics have taught me to do).

    Maybe the best way to put it is this: if you have any time whatsoever for Harold Bloom’s theory regarding the Anxiety of Influence, then the writer who looms largest in my life, and stares over my shoulder and sneers at everything I do, and whom I’ll have to castrate if I am ever to achieve peace, is Nabokov.

    I write plays too, and am trying to crawl out from under the influence of Strindberg and Beckett — although neither of them terrifies me the way Nabokov does: Strindberg because he’s just too far removed from my world; and Beckett because he was in fact humble. Nabokov, on the other hand, had such wide-ranging contempt, that it’s hard not to feel that you’re part of the target.

    How’s that for a non-answer?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>Dave, your problem here is the people you know who claim to be “Straussians” aren’t Straussians, aren’t from the Chicago school, and don’t know anything substantive about neo-conservatism or Strauss. And on this subject, neither did you.< < I'm not a philosopher and haven't pretended to be one. As I may have mentioned, I don' t like or trust most philosophy. In grad school I managed to pass the required philosophy courses with the inevitable A grades, but it was mainly through writing skill and certainly not through insight. I understand economics and I understand politics, but abstract and theoretical philosophy isn't my bag. What I know about the Straussians comes from reading second hand and from talking with quasi-Libertarians who revere Strauss. What I know about the Neocons comes mostly from reading the political writings of people like William Kristol. >>I’d drop to your level and throw around the word “idiot,” but I don’t think that’s quite right. I think the problem isn’t your intelligence, but your approach to information and knowledge. You’re one of the most close-minded people I’ve ever encountered and I think anyone who’s discussed anything with you on this site might agree.< < Obviously I think you're enormously off base, but since you're one of the most judgmental people I've encountered on BC that's not surprising. With very little knowledge of me, my beliefs or my interests, you jump to conclusions like this, and it's far more condescending and insulting than simply calling someone an idiot. >>I’ll try to be civil and ignore your personal attacks because, in my own brusque way, I was trying to share some knowledge with you. It’s really too bad that makes you so angry.< < The condescension irritates me. Cooper even mentioned that it irritated him. He manages to say much the same sort of thing you do, but he's not rude or condescending about it. >>Is it so HARD to read the articles I link you to, which point out that Wolfowitz himself is directly from the Chicago school?< < It's time consuming and when I have time I'll do it. I was interested to hear about Wolfowitz's direct connection to Strauss. I have only seen him as a political operative. It actually scares me quite a bit to know that he has such a strong ideological background. It's one thing to say 'I'm a neocon' or 'I'm a Straussian" because you agree with their politics. It's much more troubling to be one on pure philosophy. America hasn't had a tradition of being run by ideologues and this certainly isn't a good time to start. >>The articles you linked to were meaningless and introductory, no offense. I did read them. They said nothing, which is why I referred you to some real research I’ve done for previous academic work (at least what was available online and not in book form).< < My point was that what matters to a large extent is what the Neocons espouse in practice, rather than the pure ideology. That's why I linked to the PNAC statement, since it is their clear expression of their intentions. >>Douglas says the same things I do and he’s useful while I’m an arrogant twit?< < Because he expresses himself politely and informatively and you lace your comments with arrogance and insults. He also took the trouble to explain what he was saying rather than just providing links. Some of us appreciate the effort. >>Apparently he did a better job at communicating with you (which is near impossible) without you getting your panties in a bunch, but I’ll really leave it to the readers of this site who the over-emotional, bombastic, know-it-all who constantly draws the wrong conclusions from a little bit of incomplete information is.< < That's their job. >>Yes, I’m smarter than you and I just might occasionally be right when we discuss issues. Get over it. You’re too old to call me names.< < I'm not convinced that knowing more about the history of the Straussians and a few other topics makes you 'smarter' than me. But I think the key difference between us is that I'd never come out and say that I'm smarter than you are - and that's the kind of thing which people will draw their conclusions of the two of us from. >>And might I remind you, the last time I had to correct you on this definition was because you thought neo-cons had some sort of domestic agenda that jived with religious doctrine, which is the exact opposite of what you’re saying now.< < Because then we were talking about the people who CALL themselves Neocons, as opposed to those who can be clearly identified on pure ideology as Neocons. The truth is that there are many Neocon/Theocon adherents out there who are not terribly well informed about the philosophical background of Neoconservatism, but are what people see when they see Neocons. >> I argued that neo-conservatism was primarily about foreign policy and did not imply any concomitant domestic agenda akin to the one you were describing at the time.< < Except that this is only true if you're talking about the pure intellectuals. The rest of the mass of self-defined Neocons also believe in a moralistic domestic agenda. I'm not sure how you can find this confusing. >>Dave, I’d ask you for an apology, but I don’t think that’s in your character and I’m frankly not offended in the least because this is typical of how all discussions with you degenerate.< < I apologize. I'm not sure for what. I haven't really insulted you here, just argued with you. But if arguing hurts you that deeply, I'm sorry. >>I suppose I could have been more polite myself in sharing my information with you, as Douglas was, but your claims of always being right when others try to share ideas with you makes that folly in my mind.< < See, you can't have to good grace to move on without throwing in another insult. >>I have some reason to be familiar with the intellectual trends coming out of this movement, as well. Douglas has earned more familiarity, to be sure, but I get prickly about the misuse of philosophy and these imprecise labels.< < Labels change and evolve. When we talked about Neocons before I made it very clear that I was talking about the political movement not the root philosophy which most of the political adherents are at best marginally aware of. I pointed that out to you and you still persist in deliberately misunderstanding. >>I think a part of the problem here is that a lot of people’s definitions of “neoconservative” comes from inaccurate Internet commentary and even mainstream journalism which lumps various ideas and policies together that don’t fit that label particularly well.< < It's not just the media or the internet. There are people who hold these beliefs. Ask some of the big Bush defenders on BC what they think Neocons are. I guarantee you'll get fuzzy definitions which include a moralistic social agenda. >> A perfect example of this is the bizarre, apocalyptic “Theocon” label you have, something which no one could honestly argue for or believe outside the Internet. This is the most imprecise form of political labeling that doesn’t reveal any real understanding about the issues and personalities in question.< < Theocon is a great and accurate term for those on the right whose domestic agenda is motivated by religious zeal. If you want to set government policy based on the bible, christian philosophy or the ten commandments, you're a Theocon. Nothing could be clearer or more accurate. >>Can we at least now agree that neo-conservatism’s intellectual lineage comes from Straussians?<< Sure, though I think origins are less important than actual practices. Dave

  • troll

    babble on – Gentlemen

    troll

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    I like when a troll calls himself “troll.” Rare in this world, honesty.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Ah Douglas, but the one billing himself as “troll” really isn’t one at all. He’s not making cheap ad hominem attacks, and he usually has some halfway reasonable point. This particular case was a very succint point of criticizing some arguably overly longwinded comments by several of you, but even at that it’s “gentlemen.” That’s not a troll word.

    Would that some of the anonymous slanderers who frequent the site were more like this supposed “troll.”

    Now take your false presumptions off his bridge!

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    Damn. And I meant it as a real compliment. If he’s a gentleman in troll drag, I’m a bit disappointed.

    This would have been the first time I’d ever experienced a troll who took pride in his calling.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    I’m guessing that Troll will in fact take it as a compliment, but he does generally strike me as pretty gentlemanly in his comments.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Complete aside: How many hours would you say you’re logging on the BC front, Dave? It’s got to be damned impressive.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Me? Not so much. Maybe an hour a day, sometimes a tiny bit more. Don’t be deceived by my number of comments. I type 120wpm and 90% of what I write is just off the top of my head or another take on one of the perpetual themes.

    Go by my number of original articles if you want to judge my real output – it’s nothing compared to the most prolific posters.

    Dave

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Surely Comment #31 alone must’ve taken some time.

    (To be honest I didn’t read it, but the length is what prompted my remark…)

  • troll

    The esoteric meaning of #32 seems to have gone unnoticed – good thing too as the editors would have had to delete it

    if you want to understand the insult fully you will have to read your Strauss – led by the nose down his garden path…no fun

    Question – when the guillotine falls again will it take the head of the noble liar – ?

    troll

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    31 is at least half quotes, so don’t let that throw you off, Eric.

    Dave

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    Babylon, perhaps? (For Strauss it was, I seem to remember, the worldly city…)

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    And “gentleman” is of course, a borderline insult for Strauss (indicating the chump to be manipulated by the philosopher)

    (Trying to read an esoteric insult into this… you should be pleased)

  • http://www.dysblog.blogspot.com Douglas Anthony Cooper

    If you’re still interested in this stuff, I’ve posted another liberal vs. Straussian rant

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Politics Editing Team, headed this week by Natalie Bennett picked this as a pick of the week. Go HERE to find out why. And thank you very much.