Europe, Politics, recent, World Affairs

The Exhaustion of Hedgehog Morality

“The liberal world is suffering its greatest crisis of confidence since the 1930s,” columnist and historian Robert Kagan recently wrote in a major essay in the Washington Post,—reprising an analysis that has become familiar after Brexit, the rise of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), and other shocks to the established political order in Europe and the West. This analysis suggests that, as in the 1930s and the Second World War, liberalism today is being confronted by “authoritarianism.” In response, the analysis counsels, liberals should either renew their appeal to voters by persuasively restating their intellectual foundations and historical accomplishments or promote a more muscular version of their creed.

For example, in an op-ed published in multiple European newspapers, French president Emmanuel Macron, also invoking the war,  recently proposed that to protect Europeans from the emotional appeals and manipulations of “nationalists” (increasingly a synonym for “authoritarians”), the European Union should impose “rules banishing incitement to hatred and violence from the internet,” enforce a single asylum policy with common acceptance rules, and introduce common social rights and wages for low-skilled workers across the continent. Such policies, he argued, were essential to European “renewal.”

Never do liberal intellectuals and establishment politicians like Kagan and Macron—whether on the left or the right—seem to entertain the possibility, as suggested by political theorist Yoram Hazony in the Wall Street Journal, that people may be “much less interested in becoming liberals than liberals had supposed” and that no amount of persuasion, arm-twisting, or economic incentives will sway voters toward their agenda. It also never seems to occur to them to try to understand what the discontented citizens of Europe who voted for Brexit or the AfD are actually saying, or to be open to changing their own minds about, for example, the principle of “an ever-closer” European Union or the merits of an open-borders immigration policy.

Their closed mentality was encapsulated by Martin Schulz, the former leader of Germany’s Social Democrats, when in the 2018 coalition negotiations he insisted on receiving more refugees. According to the Financial Times, Schulz put the matter this way: “Germany must comply with international law, regardless of the mood in the country.” In other words: when the people vote wrongly, when their emotions lead them astray, fire the voters.

In a recently-published study, I suggest that the cause of this intellectual rigidity may be that liberal politicians are incapable of entering a mindset in which liberal values do not reign supreme. I also propose that it is the establishment left and right’s one-sided emphasis on liberal values that has produced the deep rifts in our political culture and given rise to new political movements in Europe such as the AfD, the Brexiteers, and, in my own country, the Sweden Democrats.

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The basis for this analysis is moral foundations theory, conceived by the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and popularized in The Righteous Mind (2012). Haidt takes his point of departure from the now-accepted fact that humans are not born as moral “blank slates,” but rather are equipped with pre-wired morality. This pre-wired morality consists of a set of intuitions, evolved over eons, that Haidt describes as “moral foundations.” According to the theory, selection processes have favored the development of at least six of them: care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity, and liberty.

This theory posits that all six moral foundations are the result of longstanding challenges faced by our primitive ancestors. They include “caring for vulnerable children [care], forming partnerships with non-kin to reap the benefits of reciprocity [fairness], forming coalitions to compete with other coalitions [loyalty], negotiating status hierarchies [authority], and keeping oneself and one’s kin free from parasites and pathogens [sanctity].” These five foundations also include the “adaptive challenge of living in small groups with individuals who would, if given the chance, dominate, bully, and constrain others [liberty].” Although they are ancient, these moral foundations also help humans respond to challenges that exist especially in the modern world. For example, the moral foundation of sanctity can be broadened to encompass chastity, sobriety, the maintenance of moral taboos, and reverence for religious rituals or national symbols.

Because genes, culture, and experience interact differently within each person, some people give greater preference to certain moral foundations over others. The particular mix of intuitions on which each person relies, moreover, influence his or her political views. Liberals and conservatives tend to rely on different sets of foundations—different “moral matrices.” Liberals tend to emphasise the importance of care, fairness, and liberty—and can struggle to recognise the other foundations as valid—whereas conservatives endorse all the foundations more or less equally, and view them all as mutually interdependent.

Like most American theorists, Haidt equates the terms liberal and conservative with left and right, suggesting that “Readers from outside the United States may want to swap in the words progressive or left-wing whenever I say liberal.” Yet his description of liberal and conservative moral matrices, in fact, correspond quite well to the European view of liberalism and conservatism. In the modern European political tradition, liberals are most concerned about the rights, liberties, and wellbeing of individuals. In contrast, conservatives are concerned about those values as well but also place limits on individual autonomy, endorse authority-based relationships, and embrace the virtue of sanctity, for example by regarding the nation in sacred or quasi-sacred terms. This is not a traditional left or right issue; there are liberals and conservatives on both sides of the establishment political divide.

The two moral matrices may, therefore, be employed as analytic tools for examining arguments and policies of the European left and right and discovering unexpected relationships between them. In my research, I suggest that the establishment left and right may have converged morally. In particular, the Swedish establishment parties, the Social Democrats and the liberal-conservative Moderates, have converged primarily on the moral foundations of care, fairness, and liberty, and this can be seen, for example, in their approach to both education and immigration.

In education policy, both left and right have long argued that schoolteachers have selfishly taken power over education away from pupils, and that a school system built on traditional pedagogy—based on the moral value of authority—and a classical view of knowledge, based on a set curriculum, is not in the best interests of young children. Instead, following a liberal view, pupils are to be given the freedom to choose, explore, and develop on their own (see my Quillette article with Magnus Henrekson on this topic).

Likewise, the establishment left and right’s concerns about asylum seekers—their personal wellbeing and freedom of movement—led them to jointly pursue a liberal immigration policy under which Sweden accepted an unprecedented number of refugees. In 2015, the top year for refugee admission, the number of asylum seekers who arrived in the country greatly exceeded the number of native births. In doing so, they did not consider trade-offs or potential costs to Sweden, going so far as to question whether Sweden had a national culture of its own that is worthy of preserving.

In both cases, the left and the right were consistently—but unintentionally—blind to the moral foundations of loyalty, authority, and sanctity.

What has also united the left and the right is their cognitive approach to policy. In Expert Political Judgment (2005), social psychologist Philip E. Tetlock classified political experts in academia and government along a continuum extending from “foxes” to “hedgehogs.” The framework derives from the Greek adage that “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

People with the cognitive style of the hedgehog, according to Tetlock’s framework, “know one big thing”

Foxes, he found, produce far better political forecasts than hedgehogs because foxes have a more balanced style of thinking about the world. They are more tolerant of nuance, skeptical of claims that deep laws govern history, and they tend not to reject unpalatable truths to maintain “moral purity.” By contrast, hedgehogs believe in big ideas and governing principles, and tend to stick to the same approach in all circumstances.

In recent years, both Swedish establishment parties have argued for greater freedom of choice for pupils and a liberal immigration policy with total self-confidence and seemingly little awareness of the possible consequences of such policies for the quality of education and social cohesion. Politicians and policy-makers have been hedgehogs rather than foxes. They have placed value on a restricted set of moral foundations in their moral matrices rather than taking them all into account, balancing them against each other.

But while the establishment left and right are governed by a more limited “hedgehog morality,” fox-like voters have long lacked political representation.

Photo by Zhan Zhang on Unsplash

The pervasiveness of hedgehog morality most likely explains the ascendancy of the new political parties and movements in Europe. If foxes perceive that the traditional left and right parties do not represent their morally-underpinned views, then it is understandable and legitimate that they seek out parties that appear to be immersed in a more conservative moral matrix. For many years, the Sweden Democrats were the only party in Sweden’s national politics that challenged the liberal moral consensus not only on immigration, but also on other issues relevant to a fox-like moral worldview. In Germany, the AfD likewise was the only voice for restricting immigration. In Britain, Brexiteers were pitted against hedgehog-like Remainers. Where else would foxes go?

Or consider France. As the journalist Mark Lilla has reported in the New York Review of Books, establishment conservative parties such as the Republicans “have made their peace with the neoliberal European order,” while the left “celebrates immigration, multiculturalism, and fluid gender roles.” In other words, hedgehog morality rules as if it were the only game in town—thereby creating space for movements like that of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, appealing to more than just three moral foundations. “They predictably reject the European Union, same-sex marriage, and mass immigration,” writes Lilla. “But they also reject unregulated global financial markets, neoliberal austerity, genetic modification, consumerism, and AGFAM (Apple-Google-Facebook-Amazon-Microsoft).”

It is not a resurgence of “authoritarianism” that explains the current backlash against liberalism, as Kagan and others would have us believe. Rather, it is weariness with hedgehog morality and its exclusive concern with individual rights and liberties. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the new president of the German Christian Democrats, was on to something vitally important when she recently responded to Macron’s op-ed calling for European “renewal.” “Neither the ‘Brussels elite,’ nor the ‘Western elite,’ nor the supposedly ‘pro-European’ elite,” she argued, “should remain in their silos. We will only gain democratic legitimacy for our new Europe if we involve everyone.” Those are the words of a perceptive fox.


Johan Wennström, PhD (Political Science), works at the Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) in Stockholm, Sweden. Follow him at @johanwennstrom. This essay has been adapted from his doctoral dissertation Interpreting Policy Convergence Between the Left and the Right: Essays on Education and Immigration.


  1. TarsTarkas says

    In sixth grade I experienced an ‘open classroom’ situation where students by their own free will could move from learning station to learning station, supposedly soaking up knowledge like sponges. After one semester it was shut down, because most children (and adults), are naturally lazy, and will only expose themselves or learn what they want to learn, not what they need to learn once they’re thrown out into the cold cruel world. Too many incompletes, F’s, and D’s did the experiment in, not because the students weren’t learning (I got an ‘A’ in reading, D’s, and F’s in everything else) because it made the administration look bad.

    • Ghatanathoah says

      By sixth grade you’ve learned all the actual skills you need for the cold, cruel world. Reading, writing, and arithmetic. The students who complain that they are never going to need all the things they learn in school are 100% right.

      For this reason I favor open classrooms, especially for higher grades. Not because they help students learn better, but because they at least let the students learn about things they enjoy. Better to spend your days learning something that is merely useless, instead of something that is both boring, and useless.

      • John McCormick says

        I find it informative that along with reading, writing, and arithmetic, you never mention, even indirectly, thinking.

        Here are the seven liberal arts: geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, music/physics, grammar, logic, rhetoric.

      • markbul says

        So you think the abdication of adult responsiblity for children is a virtue? Good luck raising your kids. Just keep your damn fool hands off mine.

      • OleK says


        I corrected your sentence. 😉

        “By sixth grade you SHOULD’ve learned all the actual skills you need for the cold, cruel world. Reading, writing, and arithmetic.”

    • Andrew E says

      I was in a similar class in grade 6, students were selected for participation supposedly because of some “giftedness”. We selected our daily activities from a box in the class. Most of us guys ended up tossing the football and calculating the ratio of complete to incomplete passes, and other similar activities.
      We got to our new regional school in grade 7 (this being the transition year from local primary to regional secondary schools where I grew up), and none of us “gifted” students could match students from schools where the traditional model was used.

  2. Ray Andrews says

    ” and its exclusive concern with individual rights and liberties.”

    Isn’t that a bit of an over simplification? For example the Correct say that you have total liberty to choose your gender but no liberty to challenge that doctrine. The conservative says that you are not at liberty to choose your gender, but you are entirely free to challenge that doctrine. IOW the progressives may grant you more liberties in action, but far fewer in thought or speech whereas it’s the opposite with conservatives. Even when it comes to actions, a leftist government is the one that is likely to persecute smokers and make wearing helmets mandatory when on a bike, whereas a conservative government is likely to leave such things to you. On balance I find that when I loose a liberty, I loose it to the leftists.

    • ga gamba says

      On balance I find that when I loose a liberty, I loose it to the leftists.

      Concur. The authoritarianism in words and in action I’m seeing is coming from primarily from the left.

      • A C Harper says

        Quite so. A philosopher reckoned (I can’t find the quote) that everything changes into its opposite. Barter becomes money, money becomes credit cards (debt). Just as with the fine values of the liberals. In emphasising the importance of care, fairness, and liberty everybody must behave in the approved way to promote those values, reducing the scope of care, fairness and (particularly) liberty.

        • Barney Doran says

          I would say that rather ‘everything changes into its opposite,’ it might be more accurate to say that, in time, everything becomes its extreme. Both left and right have proven that.

          • Sean says

            I find that politics is a circle rather than a long stick. As one moves to the end/extremist position, one moves very closely to the other side’s extremist position. After all, is there much difference between the extreme left and the extreme right?

        • Ray Andrews says

          @A C Harper

          Geez, you make it sound inevitable. Heck, if it’s inevitable then no point in chaffing about it. You may have saved me an ulcer!

    • Peter from Oz says

      Yes. The ”liberals” this author is talking about are not liberal at all. They want to bring in harsh laws and destroy their own culture. They are authoritarians dressed up as liberals.

    • Alan Gore says

      It’s not an oversimplification, but an assertion that the European left and right divide up issues in a very different way than the American left and right. The US right is very concerned with individual rights and liberties, while the left embraces consumerism while opposing edgy scientific innovation like genetic engineering.

    • Alan Gore says

      It’s not an oversimplification so much as an assertion that the European left and right divide up the issues in a different way than the American left and right. In the US, the right is most concerned with individual rights and liberals while the left embraces consumerism while rejecting edgy scientific innovations like genetic engineering.

    • David of Kirkland says

      Which government does not use authority to govern? It’s what they do. That’s why we created rights in the USA, to ensure that two sovereigns (the Fed and the State you are in, though even some suggest outside of a state you must bend the knee to those states) who have complete authority over you, are kept slightly in check.

  3. “It is not a resurgence of “authoritarianism” that explains the current backlash against liberalism, as Kagan and others would have us believe.”

    On the contrary, it is precisely authoritarianism that explains the current backlash–the authoritarianism of “liberalism.” Most people don’t want to be ruled by an unelected cadre of mostly white upper class/intellectual insiders (studies have shown they are largely white) who refuse compromise and are saying rapidly more insane things, e.g. that you can’t say a man isn’t a woman or you face severe punishment. The author writes this is “liberalism” when I think that encompasses too broad a category; many liberals and Democrats are against them as well. What I believe he means instead is a woke/far-left version of “liberalism.” And I put quotes about the word as these people have morphed into anything but liberal.

    You can’t get more ironic than this: “French president Emmanuel Macron, also invoking the war, recently proposed that to protect Europeans from the emotional appeals and manipulations of “nationalists” (increasingly a synonym for “authoritarians”), the European Union should impose “rules banishing incitement to hatred and violence from the internet,” enforce a single asylum policy with common acceptance rules, and introduce common social rights and wages for low-skilled workers across the continent.”

    So to prevent Europeans from becoming authoritarian, the unelected power brokers should be authoritarian. It’s ok because their cause is just. Is there anything more frightening than zealots who believe their cause is just and who believe it is their duty to shut down dissent?

    It is impossible to talk with them because they are not interested in talking. They are interested in forcing as many people as possible into their dogma, and excising and punishing (often severely) anyone who dares to stray even a tiny bit. Their tools are shame, threats, rage. Like the autocrats they are, they loathe the middle and lower classes – the great unwashed – and only like them if they can be used as tools for their own end (e.g. props in their propaganda) or if they do exactly as they are told, i.e. vote them into power.

    IT is very telling that they are aligned with far-right Islam as opposed to progressive Islam. That they are prone to vile conspiracy theories (e.g. Jew money secretly controls the world). That they are embracing Orwellian tactics of thoughtcrime, e.g. in the UK arresting a reporter for daring to call a man a man while ignoring real knife crime. That they want open borders to flood the market with cheap labor (which until not that long ago was a far right thing).

    What I don’t understand is why these people are clustered so very disproportionately amongst our Ivory Towers, our Silcon Valley, social media, our journalists, Hollywood, and white upper class.

    Now why they are so enamored with censorship, anti-democatic thinking, against free speech? Why are they so enamored with flooding the market with cheap labor while spitting on the faves of any working class bloke who doesn’t like it while pretending they are virtuous? Above all, why do they imagine they are the moral absolutists when they are the authoritarians, very clearly by their own words and actions? They honestly believe they are pure, and that if their motives are pure, any means is fine. This is the very very dangerous m.o. of authoritarians, dictators, and religious zealots – “I am pure, I know best, shut up, or be faced with exile or worse”. Why do they want this? Is it only to contain their own power in a rapidly changing world?

    • ga gamba says

      Astute comment.

      … the authoritarianism of “liberalism.”

      I hesitate to call it liberal. The intersectionalists? Leftist identitarians? Pseudo socialist larpers?

      • Ray Andrews says

        @ga gamba

        It really bugs me how words change their meaning and yet in a strange way they change their — I don’t know what the right word is for this: ‘moral feeling’? moral association? — much more slowly. For example the current meaning of the word Discrimination is exactly the opposite of the older meaning of discrimination. If we treat everyone exactly the same, we have not discriminated, but we have Discriminated, because Discrimination means not treating special people specially. Yet, Discrimination still ‘feels bad’ as tho it were still discrimination, which almost everyone agrees is bad. So how can the meaning flip 180 degrees but the moral value of the word remains the same?

        So the modern Liberal is nothing at all like the older classical liberal, the meaning has changed entirely, but being Liberal still sounds like something that it is almost impossible for a decent person not to want to be. Who doesn’t want to be liberal? Except that if I want to be liberal please understand that I don’t mean Liberal. But how canya? So words exert this strange leverage on us. A Bigot is almost exactly the opposite of a bigot, but I still don’t want to be called that because it remains an insult, even tho a Bigot is a person who is open to non PC ideas. So it should be a compliment but it isn’t.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Throughout history people have adopted the names that they have been called as insult as a badge worn with pride.
          Thus since the 2016 election in the US, many people have been proud to declare themselves ”deplorables.”
          The terms ”Tory” and ”Whig” were both oginally insults thrown at people with certain political ideas. Soon those people adopted those names.
          The difficulty with words like ”bigot” is that those who use it have not, like Ms Clinton, used it in a widely known quotation that is obvioulsy stupid and inane, like her comment about the ”deploarble”.

          But already I am happy to call myself an islmophobe, because I think that hating islam (not muslims) is prefectly right and natural, just like its right to hate communism or nazism.
          SO let us wear the name of ”bigot” with pride. Once we use it often enough its meaning will change into a postivie one.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Peter from Oz

            Thanks Peter, that’s a contribution to the subject for sure. But it’s not exactly the sort of thing I was talking about. We take an insult and wear it with pride as you say with Deplorable, but discrimination became Discrimination by stealth. equity has now become Equity, inclusion Inclusion, and so on. Language is so layered, so complicated. But as you say, if I pronounce myself an Islamaphobe I’m making a very overt political statement.

          • David of Kirkland says

            What is Islam without Muslims? They are the same unless the Muslims are not really into Islam. While ideas can be external to individuals, an individual who claims the idea in their identity has internalized it.

        • peanut gallery says

          @ Ray This is why I’m opposed to calling Progressives “Social Justice Warriors.” It’s like calling them the good guys. They win that rhetorical battle. If anything, they are Regressive. They will take us to a new Dark Ages.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @ peanut gallery

            I know what you mean, but I’d put it in reverse. I don’t mind ‘SJW’ because it’s so obviously meant sarcastically, but ‘progressive’? Who is to say what constitutes progress? Again, Progress and progress are hardly the same thing.

    • dmm says

      @d Why? Follow the (free) money, just like they did.

      Although a large portion of intellectuals have always been attracted to the envious, totalitarian politics of Marx – I’m more intelligent than they are, why do they have power and not me? (among other subconscious rationalizations) – at least in the States, I think it all started ballooning with government subsidization of the universities with grant money. Government handouts realigned their loyalties.

      And every year in May, they send their spores out into the real world, where new pods develop…

    • James Lee says


      “What I don’t understand is why these people are clustered so very disproportionately amongst our Ivory Towers, our Silcon Valley, social media, our journalists, Hollywood, and white upper class.”

      Because it’s an elite ideology that works primarily for elites. Which educational institutions push Intersectionality the strongest? Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, and extremely expensive private grammar schools. Even the affirmative action policies pushed by this crowd tend to help upper middle and upper class blacks and Latinos get into elite institutions.

      They don’t seem to care much about the problem of inner city crime in Chicago which has terrible impacts on working class blacks, but they care mightily if an upper class priest like Te-Nehisi Coates believes that a white woman in NYC bumped into his kid because of “Racism”.

      How does it work for elites?

      They get to pretend that their utter disdain for the working classes of their nations is morally virtuous. They get to ignore the obvious economic and spiritual distress of their working classes, who had their communities eviscerated by neoliberal economic policies which massively benefited Western elites. They get ideological cover for their anti-democratic mass immigration policies which lower their labor costs while weakening societal cooperation (see Robert Putnam’s work), and they get to feel good about their magnanimity.

      I don’t believe there is conscious intent to divide and conquer, but I do believe that Woke ideology aligns strongly with a divide and conquer ruling strategy.

      There will never be wealth equality, and I’m certainly not arguing for that. But history has shown that extreme inequality is antithetical to human freedom, and we are in the midst of peak inequality.

      • David of Kirkland says

        Unless the inequality is imposed on them by force, it’s unrelated to freedom. Freedom demands inequality because it leaves your life in your own hands, and not all hands are equal.
        Inequality is only a problem because the human mind is small and easily made to feel hatred, fear, loathing, entitlement, greed and jealousy. Inequality is just another form of Us versus Them, of basic tribalisms that suggest those with more than me are bad/evil and must only have it because they took it from me (zero sum economic “theory”).

        • James Lee says


          Of course people aren’t equal.

          However, there are degrees of inequality. There is the extreme inequality of slavery eras. There is the minor inequality of hunter gatherer societies (where I would not want to live). There is the harsh inequality of the gilded age, and there is the decreased inequality which grew during the 1930s through WW2 and ended around 1970.

          This is an empirical question. Do high levels of inequality correlate with human flourishing and wellbeing, or not? Do they foster creativity, or not?

          Do they protect elites from disastrous decision making, or not?

          Do you want elites who are actually tethered to the consequences of their actions, who actually have skin in the game, or not?

      • Peter from Oz says


        There is some truth in what you say. However, I consort with the elites on a daily basis, and the vast majority of them are conservative in political outlook.
        The real truth is that the top end Tories are too busy to worry too much about the tiny minority of left-wing whingers who are always concentrating on politics. That makes the leftt activists seem more important than they are.

        • James Lee says


          When I refer to elites, I’m usually not referring to the numerous class of political elites who change frequently, many of whom are financially tied to corporate donors (whether in the form of campaign donations or in the form of a wink wink future lobbying gig after the politician loses an election.) An Australian, British, or American congressperson/MP with a net worth of 50-100 million is not a global elite by this definition.

          Roughly speaking, I am referring to the class of people who attend Davos, who view themselves as globalist Cosmopolitans, and who attempt to actively shape the global and social order through money, think tanks, foundations, and coordinated corporate initiatives. We are talking about less than a few thousand people. I recommend reading Samuel Huntington and Christopher Lasch for a more detailed portrayal.

          This class of people (and their sponsored bureaucrats/technocrats in activist organizations and think tanks) are the ones who were behind the neoliberal global trade deals which eviscerated the Western working classes and created skyrocketing profits for shareholders in global firms who could take advantage of the rules which they wrote. They include billionaires, senior corporate executives at the biggest firms, etc.

          Many of them are the key sponsors behind the think tanks and media organizations which support mass immigration to the West, and they are funding many of the Hate Speech initiatives being pushed by other activist organizations in coordination with MasterCard, PayPal, Facebook, etc.

          Hate Speech is the chief weapon in their current war to censor and even criminalize heterodox opinion. They are increasingly using financial blacklists under that rubric.

          Ask the leader of the Proud Boys and Laura Loomer, who among others had their Chase bank account closed. Ask Richard Spencer of JihadWatch, who had his Patreon account closed at the direct request of MasterCard executives.

  4. Karl says

    An interesting perspective. Thank you for the article.

  5. derek says

    I think it is worse than that. The ‘liberal’ order is great for about half the population. There are 10-15% who do very well in a globalized world, 20-25% who work for government, and another 10-15% who provide services to those two groups. The rest are either out of luck or targeted as problems to be solved by automation or regulation.

    Of course they don’t listen or understand, because they would rather they didn’t exist. In the exquisitely structured world views there isn’t room for someone who prefers to not travel the world or interact with people foreign to them, or don’t accept the new moral rules. They are bigots, losers, the deplorables. The hostility that is either open or passive aggressively expressed represents a desire to live in a world without those others.

    This mindset is established and nurtured in educational establishments. It is represented in policy.

    And there are substantial numbers of people who want it to continue and will use any lever of power to maintain it.

    The jilets jaune in France are a frightening illustration of how badly this can turn out. Notice how vigorously the ignorance of what is going on there is maintained?

    This is all very fragile and ultimately it is a zero sum game that will end badly.

    • Peter from Oz says

      As much as I sympathise with you, I have to say that most of what you say is off kilter.
      The problem is not about globalism, it’s about the growth of government under democracy.
      The problem is that democracy has a legitimacy that no other form of government has. That means that democratic governments have been able to encroach into more areas of life and become more tyranical with each passing year.
      We need to cut the power of these freeloding politicians who lets face can never get across a brief as wide as the purview of modern government.
      We need a huge repeal of laws ans regulations and a massive drop in government spending.

      • Jackson Howard says

        I can only disagree. There are lean and mean democracies and bloated ones. France is a bloated one. The state apparatus is enormous and quite inefficient. This is pretty much a feature, not a bug. France has always been a very centralized country with a powerful state sector and entrenched “privileges”. Nor are french Front National and far left parties new either, those have been existing with variable levels of success since the early 20th century (under other names, but the core ideas have stayed). It is good to remember that the French communist party was a very powerful political force not so long ago. What France is suffering from is simple really : both the traditional left and right have imploded after they crushed the communists. What was left was the FN (which has very enduring roots in the country side) and nothing else really. What Macron did is seize the opportunity and go in as an authoritarian neo-liberal centrist (which is a “fresh” thing in France). It should have been a close call with the Front National, but Marine ineptitude in debates proved fatal. Not that the far left candidates did better… Macron is the embodiment of the “Grande Ecole” elite and lives in a very different world than the French popular class. He’s 100% out of touch with the economic pain suffered by the bottom income quintiles (temp jobs, low pay, high taxes and rising commodities prices) and piling on an additional gas tax just after cutting wealth tax for the upper crust did not go well…

        Bi-partism is efficient (if your party wins, things can move forward fast), but fragile. If the two party worldviews become to different, almost all political energy is spend undoing the previous winner’s work instead of moving forward.

        I much prefer inefficient multi-partism with the messy alliances and complicated political branding as while slower, it’s more robust and can create solid consensus, something that I see sorely lacking in most bi-partist countries.

        Seeing the political world one a one dimensional “conservative – liberal” axis is a sad state of affair. As an aside, the “liberal” label as a very different meaning on this side of the Atlantic, and is a label used by the right and a liberal conservative is very much a thing (as in econ/trade liberalism, social conservative).

        • Sean says

          “There are lean and mean democracies…”. Can you elaborate which ones?

          In my experience, governments know money is power and even conservative governments rarely give up that money in the form of significant spending reductions. The better ones seem to grow spending slowly.

          The problem is when a government is flush with cash through a good economy they create programs which they or subsequent governments are loathe to shut down when the economy slows down.

          In Canada where I live, we have a mental midget of a prime minister. His idea was to lift families out of poverty the only way socialists know how, wealth redistribution. Trudeau has upped the child tax benefit so the maximum annual benefit will increase to $6,496 per child under age 6 and to $5,481 per child age 6 through 17. The amount will only be reduced for families earning less than $150,000, so pretty much most families. This is tax free. If a family had 4 kids, 2 under 6 and 2 over 6, they would get almost $24,000 a year.

          If the conservatives get in in October, what are the chances they will eliminate or even reduce the benefit? I highly doubt it.

          I think governments start lean and just grow over time.

          • Jackson Howard says

            Lean democracies are few, but they exists : Taiwan, South Korea and Switzerland all
            have efficient states with a low GDP government spending fractions.

            The only common factor I can see is few natural ressources, high exports, high tech.

            Switzerland militia parlement system may also be a factor, since it means that the MPs have to hold a job and so are maybe a tad more in touch with the “people”. Something interesting is that the swiss could in principle vote themselves more holidays, or increased welfare with their initiative right but do not.

  6. Cornfed says

    An interesting piece. Not really the point of the article, but one thing that struck me was that notions of Left and RIght do not readily translate from Europe to America.

  7. Andrew says

    “individuals who would, if given the chance, dominate, bully, and constrain others”

    this line perfectly demonstrates the contradiction of modern liberalism. Liberals want to use authority and power to dominate, bully and constrain those that they view as authoritarians. They have no sense of tragic irony in relation to their own authoritarianism, nor the authoritarian regimes necessary to dislodge and destroy the leftism-disguised-as-liberalism they promote.

  8. Sasha says

    I’m not optimistic that this authoritarianism conducted by particularly the EU will recede. Any student of the Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn or the semi-fictional trilogy of Anton Rybakov “Children of The Arbat” clearly demonstrates the gradual erosion of any liberties and the total lack of ethics and morality seeping into society.

    Solzhenitsyn showed total amazement at the declining interest of the common citizen as the authorities condemned, shot and exiled millions whilst they lived in a “see no evil hear no evil” existence is no surprise to me.

    Unless the knock comes on the individuals door, the small majority of fanatics historically can do as they please , and more disarming is that fact that the ringleaders either die peacefully or retire to their “dachas” unrepentant and are praised by their current media.

  9. Jay Salhi says

    This is a good article but I take issue with the claim that “liberals are most concerned about the rights, liberties, and wellbeing of individuals.”

    Yes, that used to be the case. It is no longer the case. Free speech, presumption of innocence and due process of law were once characterized as liberal principles The modern-day assault on these principles comes almost exclusively from the left. The left is increasingly illiberal and authoritarian. This has rendered people like me political refugees and is the reason sites like Quillette exist.

  10. Serenity says

    “French president Emmanuel Macron … recently proposed that … the European Union should impose ‘rules banishing incitement to hatred and violence from the internet,’ enforce a single asylum policy with common acceptance rules, and introduce common social rights and wages for low-skilled workers across the continent.”

    Stalin and Hitler enforced their ideological / political doctrines as far as their armies could reach. The decision makers of the EU don’t have to fight.

  11. Peter from Oz says

    This artcle is another example of the total misunderstanding of Brexit. I really wish the writer would do a little bit more wrok and notice that Brexit was in fact supported by a broad cross section of the community, led by the real establishment.
    The Telegraph and the Spectator, the house organs of the true establishment supported Brexit. That is all you need to understand when thinking about the issue.
    ANyone who tries to claim that Brexit was some revolt by the yokels who wanted to stop the kind and lovely muslims from immigrating to Britain does not understand the whole thing at all.

    • Peter Tucker says

      I agree that the article didn’t really get it right with Brexit. There are plenty of “hedgehog” thinkers who voted for Brexit, not just “foxes”. I don’t agree with your comment however that Brexit was led by the ‘establishment’ – I think you are partially right, but your definition of what the establishment is, is not the only definition. And many of the “yokels” – as you call them – who voted for Brexit did not need to take a lead from anyone.

    • The idea of Jacob Rees Mogg representing the common man against the elite is rather amusing.

      In fact it is marked how all the key Brexit campaigners are public school educated often at Eton. British politicians are increasingly unrepresentative but those that campaign for Brexit are markedly less representative and even more exclusively from the elite than the rest.

      • Alistair says


        That’s simply untrue. Sure, Rees-Mogg and Johnson and Farage are public school. But NOT Gove, Raab, Cummings, Davis, Baker, Batten, Leadsom, Barclay etc.

        Approx 50% of British MPs, Judiciary, CEO’s, senior military, are educated at public schools. Control for your priors before inferring a trend.

        In fact, Brexiteers are substantially less likely to be public school than remainers. Many of their leaders are working class kids made good who despise the insider privileges of the elite that the EU provides. Go down the list of the ERG members and count the public school backgrounds. Then compare it to the background rate in the conservative party. What do you find?

        • It is very clear even from your response that those campaigning for brexit are very much the elite and unrepresentative of the general population.

          I think it is entirely reasonable to look at the 3 most promient brexiteers and observe that they are all public school educated and from very privilige dbackgrounds when responding to a claim that brexit represented a revolt of the common man against elites.

          The question you raise is whether brexiteers more or less unrepresentative and comprised of the elite than any other political group in parliment. To try to answer thsi question I took the first 10 names on a list of the ER membership and looked up their background. Educationally 3 were public school, 2 grammer school and 5 state school educated. They all had upper middle class or upper class backgrounds.
          Is this different to politicians in general? I have not answered that but it is clearly the case that Brexit is a political movement lead by the elite. I would conceed that this is part of a general trend in which politics i increasingly dominated by people from a narrow part of society and frequently concentrates on issues and concerns which are not priorities for the majority. The most dramatic and clear example of this is the modern labour party which has become an organisation dominated by the concerns of narrow ideological group of the middle class rather than practical matters or wider society.

    • Alistair says

      Come on Peter, be reasonable. You can’t characterise the leave vote as the “true establishment” based on the Telegraph; that’s an abuse of semantics. Look at the line-up.

      Newspapers & periodicals, leave

      Daily Mail
      Daily Express:
      The Sun
      The Spectator

      Newspapers & periodicals, remain

      The Times: Remain
      Guardian : Remain
      The Scotsman
      The Economist
      Daily Star

      Remain also had the formal backing of

      The Conservative Government and most conservative MPs
      The Labour Party
      The Liberal Democrats
      Plaid Cymru
      70% of MPs overall
      A large majority of The House of Lords
      The CBI
      The Institute of Directors
      Most think tanks
      Most of the charitable sector
      Most senior judges
      Most senior clergy
      Most senior military
      The European Union (duh!)
      The IMF &
      ….Barack Obama

      And this isn’t “The True Establishment?” Come on, be reasonable!

      • Alistair says

        I would normally add “The BBC” and “Sky News” but they were both fairly well-behaved during the campaign itself in line with impartiality requirements.

        They’ve been solidly remain ever since, though, so put them in the Remain column too.

      • Alistair says

        Missed another:

        The Financial Times

        Was massively, utterly for remain too. Is this an anti-establishment paper?

  12. Closed Range says

    Good point Peter – Brexit is not a rejection of liberal values, but rather of the increasing authoritarianism, corruption and imperialism of the latest attempt of a European empire, which has been the Franco German ambition since Charlemagne… No wonder Micron dislikes the idea of the nation state when he wants to push for an empire.

  13. I think this article misses the mark badly when analysing the short comings of the modern left.
    I consider myself a left wing liberal yet I find in the modern left all of the things which I used to oppose in the right often taken to much greater extremes.

    The modern left is extremely intolerant, wishes to supress many freedom even that of speech. It is deeply sexist and often racist. It has no respect for empirical evidence or science. My understanding of liberalism is that its core values were a believe in equality, tolerance and rationalism. In its idealism it perhaps tended to favour theory and experiment over conservatism and empiricism but it would never actually deny empirical evidence.

    The modern left to me seems almost classically authoritarian but with an ideology which is supposedly liberal but actually sexist and racist.

    It just doesn’t fit the model described.

    • Craig Willms says

      AJ – “I think this article misses the mark badly when analysing the short comings of the modern left.I consider myself a left wing liberal yet I find in the modern left all of the things which I used to oppose in the right often taken to much greater extremes.”

      Bingo. Well put. The term projectionism is often used when the new left tries to characterize the right. The new left is massively intolerant, to the point of real ugliness. It’s a major turn-off and at least in my part of the world it is pushing people right-wards.

  14. Pingback: #hedgehog morality… | Dr. Roy Schestowitz (罗伊)

  15. E. Olson says

    The problem with the Left is that they have been too successful and total failures. “Liberalization” has brought unprecedented personal freedoms and economic prosperity to a broader cross-section of people than ever, but now all the low hanging “liberal” fruit has been plucked in Western countries and tough questions have emerged. What do you do when the successful promotion of “liberal” values has fostered a welfare state to help the remaining poor and disadvantaged, which has instead created and perpetuated a growing “underclass” culture of dependence, vice, and sloth? What do you do when “liberal” Ponzi-scheme welfare states are dependent on ever rising populations of tax paying citizens at the same time as the successful “liberal” promotion of feminism and gay rights has led to below replacement fertility rates? What do you do when “liberal” scientists tell us that climate change requires 80% reductions in human sourced greenhouse gases? What do you do when the rise of the “liberal” welfare and academic state creates a huge bureaucracy of government employees who can vote themselves generous wages, benefits, and pensions, and are immune from accountability and efficiency motivations?

    The “liberal” answer to all of these questions is to increasingly tax and regulate the ever smaller productive segments of society to support the bureaucracy and clientele of the welfare state, while opening the borders to immigrants whom the “liberals” hope will help prop up the Ponzi-scheme state. Unfortunately, the vast majority of potential immigrants are illiberal and unproductive, which means they are antagonistic to “liberal” values of religious freedom, and equal rights for women and homosexuals, while at the same time incapable of contributing to the welfare state, and in fact make further demands on it. Thus the local “poor and disadvantaged” feel the welfare benefits to which they have become “entitled” are threatened by the vast new immigrant clientele of the welfare state, while police and other bureaucratic “enforcers” of liberal values battle with the illiberal values of “primitive” cultures. The “liberal” solution to these problems always involve further growth of the government and welfare state, which requires ever more taxes from and regulatory oversight over the already overburdened productive sectors of the economy.

    And when the citizens of both wealth and sloth start to complain and protest that their culture and way of life is under threat from illiberal and resource hogging immigrants and from an ever more hungry and powerful government bureaucracies, the “liberal” order calls them racists, deplorable, climate deniers, Islamphobes, xenophobes, bitter clingers, and greedy, and proceeds to use the coercive force of government to crack down on “hate speech”, to impeach/imprison “swamp drainers”, and further confiscate the wealth of the productive. Thus the success of “liberal” values also leads to a police state and societal collapse unless “conservative” values and economics are able to counteract them.

  16. dirk says

    Freedom of speech in schools is often ill at ease with that fairness, loyalty and the avoiding of social harm of Haidt. Kids on our schools, e.g., learn about the opposite what we learned once at geograhpy and history ( we learned that the West had all the rights to civilise and educate and rule the rest of the world). Our new Dutch alt right hero Thierry Baudet, with an old veneration of the “boreal” culture and the oikophylie for your own tribe, tries to bend this back again, by instating an offcial mail box where the kids can complain about that oikophobism and leftist (= illiberal in Europe) indoctrinating by their own, local teachers. Not everybody (not in the least the teachers themselves, and the minister of course) think this such a good idea. Because: more harm and less loyalty.

  17. X. Citoyen says

    Interesting piece.

    Note to Claire: Your fox is a coyote.

    • dirk says

      So: an Old World story with a New World illustration.

      • dirk says

        I am not a zoologist, but the photographer being from India, a jackal is more likely than a coyote. Anybody else who can throw light on this?? Note also that weed, could also be a clue!

        • X. Citoyen says

          I know my coyotes, Dirk. But for your edification I looked up the photographer, Abhishek Gupta, and found the photo above. He called it “Coyote Crossing the Desert.” Let’s accept a Bayesian probability of 92% and call it a day.

          • dirk says

            So, not Old World story with Old World jackal, but with New World coyote. Morgan guessed wrong, and I was misled for a moment. BTW, to find a real fox can’t be that complicated. And is more colourful.

          • Gringo says

            I looked up the photographer, Abhishek Gupta, and found the photo above. He called it “Coyote Crossing the Desert.

            The photograph featured a “desert” with an appreciably tall tree at the far left and also snowcover. That is clearly NOT a desert. The mislabeling of “desert” might have pointed out to you that the animal was also mislabeled.

            The reddish fur said fox to me, not coyote. See my other e-mail.

      • X. Citoyen says

        It’s a red fox now, yes. The photo was replaced since my comment. The name of the artist has also changed.

        I probably shouldn’t be indulging people in this.

      • dirk says

        A taxonomic comment here: both jackal (old world)and coyote (new world) belong to the genus Canis (as the wolf and the dog do), but that red fox has its own genus, Vulpes (see also gringo). So, to come with a coyote in a story over foxes and hedgehogs is not quite correct. BTW, the reading hedgehog was OK.

        • dirk says

          Though, in the meantime, I see just now, the coyote has been removed for the fox.

        • dirk says

          Though, I see , in the meantime, the coyote has been removed for the fox.

  18. So,
    (1) Archilochus made a point in 650 B.C.
    (2) some guy reprised it
    (3) something about Brexit
    (4) a guy with a PhD advocates breadth over depth.

    Quillette sucks.

  19. James Lee says


    “What I don’t understand is why these people are clustered so very disproportionately amongst our Ivory Towers, our Silcon Valley, social media, our journalists, Hollywood, and white upper class.”

    Because it’s an elite ideology that works primarily for elites. Which educational institutions push Intersectionality the strongest? Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, and extremely expensive private grammar schools. Even the affirmative action policies pushed by this crowd tend to help upper middle and upper class blacks and Latinos get into elite institutions.

    How does Woke ideology work for elites?

    They get to pretend that their utter disdain for the working classes of their nations is morally virtuous. They get to ignore the obvious economic and spiritual distress of their working classes, who had their communities eviscerated by the neoliberal economic policies which massively benefited Western elites. They get ideological cover for their anti-democratic mass immigration policies which lower their labor costs while weakening societal cooperation (see Robert Putnam’s work), and they get to feel good about their magnanimity.

    They also get an ideology which all but ignores real wealth and power inequality, but which is hyperfocussed on “implicit bias”, invisible “structural oppression”, and the like.

    Humans are highly attuned to status and power. Woke ideology produces a sleight of hand for those who are conditioned to look for unfairness in society (don’t look here, look over there!) and it fundamentally serves the ancient strategy of Divide and Conquer, albeit without conscious intent.

    We are in the midst of an unprecedented power, wealth, and knowledge concentration. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Watch for the tech elites to continuously close off the new public square from non-orthodox dogma.

    • James Lee says

      Whoops, had problems with posting a comment. Ignore the earlier one, thanks.

    • Donnerhauser says

      James Lee, that is an excellent point. A while ago I recall reading another commenter who observed that the Great Awokening occurred after the biggest financial crisis in recent history and they wondered if this was seriously a coincidence.

      I think your analysis is correct, social justice/woke ideology (we really need a better term for that – intersectionalism maybe?) is supported by the elite institutions because it helps maintain their material wealth and power. They focus on the colour of your skin, the god your worship, the equipment between your legs, the gender you identify as, the structure of your brain but they seem surprisingly unwilling to discuss class and wealth. It is simply because that is the only one that seriously threatens their power.

      The embrace of intersectionalism by corporations is an obvious example – they see it as a means to expand their profits more than anything else (hilariously the only people who seem to notice this outside of the right-wing are mainly Marxists and other economically-focused leftists. The “social left” seems completely oblivious that corporations view wokeness as a tool by which to acquire yet more money). They are perfectly happy that strong elements of the left are happy to make peace with capitalism and big business, to accept corporate power provided it is sufficiently “diverse”. Indeed for them this must be a godsend – historically the left was opposed to the concentration of corporate power, so big business must be thanking their lucky stars.

      Could we see a future in the West where the right advocates social conservatism but economic redistribution while the left adheres to woke ideology in the social sphere but supports neoliberalism in the economic? I am not so sure that will happen – plenty on the left still believe in the primacy of class and plenty on the right support free markets and classical liberalism – but I do not think it is beyond the bounds of possibility, not anymore.

  20. TheSnark says

    Both sides of the debate are more interested in affirming their values than facing reality. The immigration debate is a good example.

    The “liberals” favoring open immigration may have a wonderful theory to back them up, but did they ever look at the numbers? Yes, Germany can manage a million Syria refugees if it really tries, but there are two or three hundred million Arabs and Africans who would move to Germany if given the chance. Does anyone seriously intend to let them all in? The same applies to the rest of Europe and the US, not to mention Australia.

    But the other side needs to face reality, too. Again, look at the numbers: how will we ever pay for our aging welfare states without a reasonable number of younger people entering the job market? As a minimum we should not be deporting the recent graduates of our best universities, that is insane.

    But numbers are boring, and pontificating on moral values is much more fun.

    • James Lee says


      The “debate” has been so poisoned by globalists and their media mouthpieces that people who oppose mass immigration are automatically assumed to hold a zero immigration position. Even Donald Trump, widely reviled by the left for his supposed “anti-immigration” stance, has actually called for increased skilled labor immigration, which of course corporate America loves. Bernie Sanders was accused of racism for daring to argue against open borders.

      The problem with mass immigration of low skilled workers from the developing world is this: we don’t have enough jobs for our own low skilled population. Those jobs were shipped overseas to benefit neoliberal elites. Ongoing automation threatens to destroy what few of those jobs are left.

      Just how exactly are millions of unskilled, uneducated immigrants, many of whom lack a 6th grade education, going to contribute to the tax base of modern Western societies? How are they not going to be major recipients of welfare? Well, I guess that’s not a problem for the billionaires, because they barely pay any taxes as it is. And the major corporations don’t pay any taxes either—Amazon paid what, zero dollars last year? I guess that taxes are going to be paid by the usual suspects- the lower upper to lower
      middle class.

      It takes a lot of willful blindness to pretend this situation is tenable, but unfortunately the West has no shortage of willful blindness.

      • Closed Range says

        Excellent point – it’s very curious how often the pro globalists point to the benefits of immigration, like the doctors and nurses (and usually other forms of high skilled migration, which usually occurs only in a controlled manner involving law abiding individuals, companies and governments and significant paper trails proving identity, education etc) and use this as so called evidence to support an uncontrolled mass migration policy where even the age and country of origin of the person is taken on faith alone, let alone levels of education. There’s a huge hipocrisy in pretending that these two forms of immigration are equivalent in their benefits and downsides.

    • Stephanie says

      TheSnark, most Western countries are overeducated: we have more degree holders than we have jobs for. Canada has about 12 universities with Geology programs, pumping out hundreds of graduates a year. Last I checked, there are 17 job openings for geoscience in all of Canada, all requiring experience. These jobs tend to be given to immigrants who arrived in Canada on skilled work visas, who have years of experience in their home countries. Canadian graduates are forced to find jobs in retail or administration to try to pay down tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. The lucky ones go on to do MScs and PhDs, delaying the inevitable scramble to settle for a job unrelated to their education.

      That is the reality: even skilled immigrants are hurting, not helping. If we want to pay for these welfare programs, we need to focus on economic growth, and end the cancerous narrative that women should wait until they are established to start having kids. We’re scaring women into wasting their best reproductive years. If it becomes acceptable to tell girls the truth, that no corner office will give them as much meaning as family, that on their deathbed the number of publications won’t matter anywhere near as much as the love of their children, we can recover from this population slump and cut the depression rate among women at the same time.

  21. TheSnark says

    And the dialog has also been poisoned by the right-wingers who claim that the “liberals” all want unlimited immigration, which they don’t.

    I live in the US, and you don’t see native born Americans lining up for jobs picking strawberries or changing bedpans and sheets in the nursing homes. But those jobs need to be done. You would have to increase the pay a lot to attract natives to those jobs, at which point the nursing homes would be more unaffordable than they are now.

    I have been on the management side, and for basic service and manufacturing jobs I’ll take legal immigrants over natives almost every time. Legal immigrants have a better work ethic, they show up on time, do their job, don’t do drugs, and are generally better employees even if their English is bad. There are plenty of native-born that meet those criteria, but they already have better jobs.

    For the high-end jobs, yes, we waste immense resources training far too many English Lit (or Geology, or Anthropology or whatever) PhDs. But we don’t have enough native kids who want to do serious STEM studies; that is hard work. The immigrants who complete those courses at our universities don’t compete for jobs, they create them. I know an Indian immigrant like that who started a company in the US that now has over 1,000 employees. Over a third of the Silicon Valley startups are started by immigrants, or at least that was the case before we started throwing them out.

    Immigration needs to be accepted, but controlled. Right now, non-native born are nearly 15% of the US population, which seems too high. At that level assimilation becomes harder and native resentment gets stronger. The last time it was that high was 1900 to 1910, and the result was an over-reaction that almost totally stopped immigration for over 30 years. If we tried that today, our Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid programs would never survive (and those are not going away, whatever the Libertarians might hope for).

  22. Charlie says

    The governing class is effete impractical and brittle because it lacks the courage, energy and initiative required by pioneers to build a civilisation. I suggest reading Sir John Glubb’s The Fate of Empires .

    XIV Art and Luxury

    Boys’ schools are intentionally rough. Frugal eating, hard living, breaking the ice to have a bath and similar customs are aimed at producing a strong, hardy and fearless breed of men. Duty is the word constantly drummed into the heads of young people.

    XV The Age of Affluence
    There does not appear to be any doubt that money is the agent which causes the decline
    of this strong, brave and self-confident people. The decline in courage, enterprise and a sense of duty is, however, gradual. The first direction in which wealth injures the nation is a moral one. Money replaces honour and adventure as the objective of the best young men

    XVII Defensiveness

    Another outward change which invariably marks the transition from the Age of Conquests to the Age of Affluence is the spread of defensiveness. The nation, immensely rich, is no longer nterested in glory or duty, but is only anxious to retain its wealth and its luxury. It is a period of defensiveness,
    Money being in better supply than courage,subsidies instead of weapons are employed to buy off enemies. To justify this departure from ancient tradition, the human mind easily devises its own justification. Military readiness, or aggressiveness, is denounced as primitive and immoral. Civilised peoples are too proud to fight. The conquest of one nation by another is declared to be immoral.
    Empires are wicked. This intellectual device enables us to suppress our feeling of inferiority, when we read of the heroism of our ancestors, and then ruefully contemplate our position today. ‘It is not that we are afraid to fight,’ we say, ‘but we should consider it immoral.’ This even enables us to
    assume an attitude of moral superiority.

    The ruling class are no longer an elite ; they lack the courage, hardiness, initiative and energy of pioneers and can only offer affluence, intellect and decadence. Compare the courage of Elizabeth ! of England to May or Merkel or a Florence Nightingale to most female entertainers and one can see the change from the age of pioneer to one of intellect and decadence. Elizabeth ! had a knowledge of 6 languages , including Latin and Greek .

    My loving people,

    We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit our selves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear, I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you in the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean time, my lieutenant general2 shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting but by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.

    Elizabeth loved and respected her people, she did not treat them with contempt.

    Ibn Khaldun said garrisons and walls make men feeble. The wealthy lack the ability to fight to protect what is theirs but pay for walls and armed guards to do it yet they allow in immigrants of which some are criminals who attack those unable to pay for protection. If people who had been attacked by an immigrant could have afforded at least one armed body guard, they would not have been attacked. If the wealthy lived in the violent no go areas and risked the same level of assaults, at least they could be accused of hypocrisy .

  23. @d
    Agree with all you’ve said and answer your “why?” in the following way: Many”progressives” are religiously zealous because they have abandoned organized religion and have replaced it with the orthodoxy of “wokeness.” (John McWhorter makes this point.)

    @James Lee
    Agree with all you’ve said and recommend the work of Peter Turchin at University of Connecticut. He uses the phrase “elite overproduction” to characterize the present hierarchies among globalists, both Left and Right.

  24. Fickle Pickle says

    Never mind that not just liberalism but Western Civilization altogether, or what remains of it after the devastation of the two world wars. has inevitably failed or come to its inevitable dead end.

    It seems to me that some form of liberalism is still our best hope because there are very few
    positive alternatives to be found anywhere, especially on the right side of the culture wars divide. And particularly those aligned with or advised by Steve Bannon – check out the essay by Jordan Riefe titled The Brink Lays Bare The Banality of Evil In Steve Bannon.

    One little known positive alternative can be found here: It is interesting to note that this book and the phenomenon associated with it is seldom, if ever, mentioned in any of the main stream culture wars shouting matches.

    Meanwhile back in 1994 Robert D Kaplan wrote an essay in The Atlantic Magazine titled The Coming Anarchy: Nations Break Up under Tidal Flows of Refugees from Environmental and Social Disaster. As Borders Crumble, Another Type of Boundary is Erected _ A Wall of Disease. Wars Are Fought Over Scarce Resources, Especially Water, and War Itself Becomes Continuous With Crime, As Armed Bands of Stateless Marauders Clash With the Private Security Forces of The Elite. A Preview of the Twenty-First Century.

    The article described in shocking detail the utter devastation and anarchy that then existed in West Africa. He explained why ethnic nationalist conflicts, environmental devastation, “religious” and ideological fanaticism, and the political impotence of even the most powerful countries all but dictate the same fate for ever increasing parts of the world.

    In diplomatic circles it was at the time widely acknowledged that the then and future scenario(s) described by Robert Kaplan were essentially right.

    Meanwhile 25 years later the collective world situation has become much much worse by many degrees. And of course much of the now everywhere uncontrollable dramatized chaos has been caused by the invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the attempted regime change in Syria.

    • Sasha says

      I wonder what one is to think or do when we become a so-called civilised democratic nations. Historically I don’t know a single race of people who have not achieved settlement without conflict. The desire to protect ones norms after having suffered for them is understandable.

      Modern wars at their core are about forcing ones ideology on a reluctant contestant. When this occurs, are we to stand in silence and accept that the most violent and immoral will always win?

      When is it right to interfere in the slaughter of other human beings?

      That slaughter can be publically witnessed or discreetly carried out over time. When to ignore and when to intervene?

      Immediately taking a high moral ground seems to bring constant condemnation however but with no alternative solution.

      When should we intervene…one death, one thousand or millions??

  25. Fred says

    I think Haidt has some interesting insights, but I find both his moral schema and his evolutionary explanation of it a bit too pat and reductionist. Evolution is obviously a powerful explanation of how life developed on Earth, but outside of biology, it too often becomes a series of unfalsifiable “just so stories.” And even if the just so story of the evolutionary origin of morality were true, it is still subject to Hume’s “is/ought” distinction. Even if evolutionary biology tells us why we do behave morally, it cannot, even in principle, tell us why we should behave morally.

  26. Chuck McClenon says

    I had read Kagan’s piece when it came out earlier this month, and I was struck by a gaping hole in it. Kagan wrote “Humans do not yearn only for freedom. They also seek security — not only physical security against attack but also the security that comes from family, tribe, race and culture… Liberalism has no particular answer to these needs.” I was sure he was going to go somewhere with that, wrestle with what liberalism offers in lieu of it. Of course, in the ‘conservative’ view, it is those loyalties which give the human a ‘sense of belonging.’

    But indeed, earlier in his piece Kagan had written, of the liberalism of the Enlightenment, “The premise underlying these convictions was that all humans, at all times, sought, above all, the recognition of their intrinsic worth as individuals and protection against all the traditional threats to their freedom, their lives and their dignity that came from state, church or community.” Ah, Our ‘intrinsic worth as individuals’ must be protected against state, church, and even ‘community.’ But if you take away all the formal and informal rules of ‘community’, within which we live cooperatively, we are not ‘freed’ from the oppression of community, but left gasping for air in the vacuum.

    Yes, it seems like that goal of ‘freeing us’ is a narrow-minded hedgehog vision, unaccepting of nuance.

  27. Archilochus: a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing.

    I think the fox and hedgehog metaphor can be a useful way of illuminating current deep “cognitive” differences. However I find the author’s use of Phillip Tetlock’s interpretation confusing and unconvincing. In fact, I’ve always found the otherwise clearheaded Isiah Berlin’s famous essay on the fox and hedgehog also unconvincing. Both Tetlock and Berlin seem too fixated on a hard separation of fox and hedgehog whereas I think a more fruitful approach is to see them as two aspects of how humans think
    This unified interpretation is implied in the studies of neuroscientist Iain McGilchrist. Translated into his terms, the fox and the hedgehog represent two aspects of consciousness which tend to reflect the two hemispheres of the brain. Put simply: the left side of the brain tends to break the world into pieces, while the right side sees the whole. The fox could be seen to represent the left side and the hedgehog the right.

    The European Union (and McGilchrist argues modern civilization in general) could be seen as a hypertrophic dominance of the left fox brain – detail oriented, bureaucratic, “intellectual rigidity”, a fixation on a particular interpretation of reality etc. And insofar as populist revolts represent an intuitive understanding of the whole being out of whack, it seems to be right or hedgehog oriented.

    McGilchrist makes the provocative argument that much of human history can be seen as the left hemisphere’s perpetual attempt to dominate the right – in archaic terms, this is what is called idol worship – we worship our interpretations of reality as if they are reality. A healthy society like a healthy human represents a harmonious relationship of left and right hemispheres of the brain. That is to say, mutual respect between foxes and hedgehogs.

  28. JRStern says

    I agree with the author’s title topic, that if, when, and as parties become hedgehogs they become tiresome. The question then is whether a party can be anything other than a hedgehog. Could we, say, back the leaders of a party, and allow them to be hedgehogs or foxes as long as they largely support others?

    I cannot seem to read anything these days in which the voters, the citizens, are portrayed as individual decision makers. They are all counters in some demographic game, and you can tell the author’s own commitments by which side he insults most effectively.

  29. I’m pro choice and pro gay rights, but I am voting to the right. My main reason, the totalitarianism of gender ideology being pushed without question by the left wing.

    This movement pretends to be about diversity, but it isn’t. It hurts women by denying we are a sex-based class, it pressures gays and lesbians to reorient by “gender” instead of “sex,” demands we use language that we disagree with ( trans women are women) , that promotes the rights of privlged men rebranding as non-men and as women, ….something they don’t need to claim in order to genderbend or crossdress. Also alarming is the money behind this ideology, funded by the trans pharma lobby, which has taken over academia, sex ed in schools, and LGBT orgs, pushing a questionable dogma as truth. In the latter, it promotes gender ideology even when it is contrary to the interests of gays and lesbians. Heterosexuals rebranding as queer is not real diversity, its a fad. A fad of privlge and pretension, not real diversity. As it is now, lesbians are being censored and thrown out of LGBT orgs for stating that lesbians don’t have or like penises- because heteros males who claim to be lesbians have more clout with LGBT orgs than actual gay and lesbians.

    Yes, I will vote against many of my interested in order to stop this. For those who say this isn’t real liberalism and we shouldn’t blame liberals, let me be clear, I don’t care about your ideological purity. Whether its ideologically pure or not is irrelevant, the practical fact is that, Democrats, Labour and our other left wing parties are supporting and promoting this, taking the $, and turning a blind eye to the fact that it hurts women, gays and lesbians, and kids being sold the lie that they are “born in the wrong body,” if they don’t like stereotypical things associated with their sex. I hate supporting the right, but the left counts on the fact that we won’t go there, that we will hold our nose and support them, even when they throw us under the bus. They need to know that some of us will break ranks and vote to the right, even though it is repugnant and has a real cost. If you are interested in this, seek out the “gender critical” movement. we are out there, fighting this, from the left and the right.

  30. jesse says


    How do transgendered people harm you? I mean in a real, material way. So you see transwomen as privileged men invading female space—so what? You don’t have to associate with them, and you don’t have to like or agree with them or those who sympathize with them. You can live your entire life without them doing any real damage to you by just ignoring them. Let them say “Women can have penises.” Let them be wrong, and ignore their words. Are they threatening to take away your rights, or take something tangible from you? Ignore them. It’s not as if they’re a demographic that is going to grow appreciably.

    You are being manipulated. The combination of an ever-accessible web, social media, and hyperyellow journalism has hacked your brain. It’s not a conspiracy; it’s more that the so-called attention economy is real, but it’s more like an ecology, and content-creators—be they individuals on twitter or clickbait factories—are like organisms that feed on your attention and have already gone through many generations of evolution. These attention-stealers aren’t conspiring to steal your attention, they’re just the survivors of an evolutionary process, and happen to be extremely good at it. They hook into one of the most vulnerable parts of your mind: your sense of righteous indignation. I know from personal experience how hard it can be to re-focus one’s mind on more important things when one of these attention-stealing critters of the “righteous indignation” species has its hooks in your mind: it pushes all your buttons just right, and you feel that you cannot let it go unchallenged.

    Let it go unchallenged. The amplifying effect of social media, along with the never-ending clickbait war, has tricked you into believing that the raccoon rummaging through your trash is a pack of wolves about to tear your throat out. You are unwittingly engaged in an epic battle with the raving lunatic on the street corner.

    Go talk to some transwomen in real life. I strongly suspect that they will be respectful, and even embarrassed that they aren’t “real” women. You won’t find a straight man in drag, engaging in an elaborate deception in order to invade the lesbian inner sanctum. They won’t have seen the memes that were created to rile you up. They will be largely timid, fragile people who mean well.

    Then ask yourself, “What’s the best way to cast my vote, with the tangible well-being of myself and my loved ones in mind?”

    There are a lot of bad people out there doing seriously bad things. They depend on you and I being distracted.

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