The Corner

Yearning For Freedom

I’m basically on Derb’s side of this argument. I don’t think everyone wants freedom. Indeed, when we get around to coming up with a new metaphysic, I think we’re going to need to include the fact that the human brain is wired to prefer tribal organization. All of the big “isms” of the 20th century — communism, fascism, socialism, environmentalism, progressivism — are predicated on a truly reactionary vision which tries to recreate tribal living on “modern” lines.Communism is a tribalism of class, fascism is tribalism of nation, Nazism is tribalism of race, Jihadism is a tribalism of religion, etc etc. Indeed, egalitarianism itself is a form of tribalism, if you ask me. It comes from the instinctive jealousy which says “no one should have more than his share of mastodon.”

For all the b.s. we’ve heard from “revolutionaries” these last 200 years, there has been only one truly revolutionary political idea: liberalism (of the classical variety). Locke, the founding fathers, Adam Smith et al.: these were the most radical thinkers of the last 2,000 years because they tried to break the logic of tribalism. Freedom is what we have in a state of nature and it naturally terrifies us. Which is why we like to live in the tribal arrangements we evolved in. Liberty, on the other hand, is a human invention requiring civic education and commitment to certain enduring principles. It takes work precisely because it doesn’t come naturally.

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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