The Corner

Before the Coercing

Roger Kimball in a review of Judge Bork’s Coercing Virtue in National Review in 2003:

Like many profound books. Coercing Virtue does not attempt to say anything new. Instead, it does something that is at once more valuable and more difficult:It reminds us of old, familiar truths—so familiar that they are everywhere neglected. “Democracy” means the rule of the people and its duly elected representatives,not the rule of unelected judges. Professional do-gooders, intoxicated by the emotion of virtue, are dangerous threats to public tranquility.Traditional morality became traditional largely because it provided sound answers to the hard problems of human frailty. Custom and convention are generally not the enemy of freedom but, on the contrary, something closer to its precondition.The single-minded pursuit of self-fulfillment is self-defeating. Individuality, like freedom, thrives best when limited by commitment and respect for values that transcend the individual.

These are the sorts of insights—plain but deep—that form the moral background of Bork’s argument in Coercing Virtue. The foreground is supplied by his wideranging consideration of the way law has been perverted into a Weapon of Mass Induction for left-wing activists bent on disenfranchising a public they regard as insufficiently enlightened.

Left to their own devices, most people tend to be mildly traditionalist. They are skeptical of ambitious social programs—not because they are callous but because the hard school of experience has taught them that such experiments breed more misery than happiness. They distrust Utopian schemes for the same reason.Bork has accomplished a compelling indictment of the smug,secular culture of proselytizing liberalism. They are proud of their country. They draw solace from their religion. They do not believe that pictures of crucifixes dipped in urine should be hailed as important works of art. They recoil from the degradation of manners and popular culture. They worry about the moral education of their children.

Gratitude from Roger today here.


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