The Corner

Yearning For Freedom

Derb – That’s all fair and fine, too. But let’s be clear that we’ve had an experiment in liberalism (again the classical variety) for a couple centuries now and it is catching on in quite a few places. I think we both agree that what sustains it is often something more than the merits of liberalism alone. The promise of prosperity, the horror at the alternative, etc have been big selling points. Also, it seems obvious that certain cultures take to liberalism better than others. So, while liberalism may be too much to ask of some humans or groups of humans at a given time, it seems there’s more than ample evidence that it isn’t too much for human nature generally. The trick is reminding people that liberty isn’t natural and therefore shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s a terrible cliché but liberty is like riding a bike. You stop working at it, you fall off.

Also, I don’t think the fact that human nature is becoming more grounded in science (I don’t think human nature was merely a poetic concept before), really should change the mission for conservatives trying to conserve classical liberalism too much. If anything, it should make it a little easier because it will demonstrate that we need strong republican and civic institutions to civilize our innate barbarian natures.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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