Philosophy, Politics, Top Stories

The Twilight of Liberalism?

The place and the object gave ample scope for moralizing on the vicissitudes of fortune, which spares neither man nor the proudest of his works, which buries empires and cities in a common grave; and it was agreed, that in proportion to her former greatness,
the fall of Rome was the more awful and deplorable.
~Edward Gibbon

Is liberalism dying? Thirty years ago, those words would have provoked hearty laughter. Its chief ideological competitor, communism, had just collapsed, leaving it without serious rival. Some optimistic thinkers asserted that we had reached an ideological “end of history” and that, having triumphed over all viable alternatives, liberalism would govern “the material world for the long run.” Today, however, few are so optimistic. The rise of populism, of Trump, of opiate epidemics, of bitter polarization, and of yawning economic inequality have tempered the triumphalism of those who once celebrated the inevitable victory of markets and democracy. The good news is that this growing pessimism has compelled reflection and reanalysis; the bad news is that plausible solutions remain out of sight. So is it possible that the recent spate of challenges to modern liberalism are symptoms of a systemic and incurable disease?

If so, it is not the abstract logic of liberalism that is flawed, but rather the attempt to apply it to fallible humans. Like communism, liberalism conflicts with immutable human characteristics. However, unlike communism, certain kinds of liberalism (the industrial liberalism of the 1900s, for example) work because they are moderated by the material conditions of society. But as those moderating conditions are obliterated by technology, the problems of post-industrial liberalism have become clearer. The ultimate problem is this: Humans desire unfettered freedom, but need the discipline that constraint provides. Without such discipline, they risk slumping into an empty and unsatisfying hedonism that is ruinous to communities and to society more broadly.    

Those who are intelligent and self-controlled often create their own constraints and can therefore thrive in post-industrial societies that are radically unlike the societies in which humans evolved. Those who are less intelligent or self-controlled, however, often fail to create successful constraints and therefore suffer when once powerful cultural guardrails (such as religion, strict norms, civic groups, and so on) are destroyed by accelerating innovation and secularism. The result is a growing cultural and economic gap between segments of the population which, when coupled with the declining outcomes for a once thriving middle class, fuels growing bitterness and discontent. Combine this with a trend toward cosmopolitanism that increases ethnic and religious diversity and therefore potential sources of faction and conflict, and liberalism’s immediate prospects look bleak.


The ideology of liberalism, of course, did not spring fully formed from the mind of some transcendent intellectual. It was, rather, a slow, piecemeal development of seventeenth and eighteenth century political practice and philosophy. However, if we make allowances for simplification, these ideas are traceable back to the writings of John Locke, who contended that society was a contract agreed upon by free and equal individuals. This contention that freedom is a primitive possession of humanity, something with which they are born and something that can only be legitimately constrained with their consent, is the foundation and most important premise of liberalism. It means that a political system cannot justify itself by appealing to tradition or to the supernatural (divine right of kings); rather, it must appeal to reason. Political systems that cannot survive such a strenuous test are illegitimate. And, at least in certain cases, the people have a right to rise against them. The free and rational consent of the governed is therefore the most basic building block of social order.

At first, most liberals focused on government intrusions upon autonomy, but as liberalism developed, it became more confident and bold. Not only did it contend that many government impositions were intolerable affronts to liberty, but it also asserted that public opinion and inflexible norms were potentially equally ruinous of freedom. Many liberals, especially after the Enlightenment, also derided conservatism as a strong source of traditional values, and religion as a body of superstition that degraded believers and discouraged reason.

Ultimately, the goal of liberalism is to maximize freedom so that humans can achieve self-fulfillment. To this end, not only is government a contract that people can dissolve, but so too are virtually all human relationships: friendship, employment, marriage. If the arrangements do not enhance well-being, then they are eliminable. And narratives that promote subservience to—or mutual dependence on—god or humans, deserve scorn unless they are completely contractual. At the extreme, liberalism argues that even the borders of countries are irrational violations of the freedom of individuals to move freely from place to place. Why should one be bound to the country into which one was born (without consent)? And why should others be prevented by the arbitrary circumstances of birth from pursuing their goals wherever they choose?

Whatever one’s attitude toward classical liberalism, it’s hard to argue that it was wholly mischievous. In fact, combined with the scientific and the industrial revolutions, liberalism has helped increase humanity’s well-being more than any ideology before or since conceived. Its emphasis on liberty contributed, in large part, to the abolition of slavery, of cruel punishments, of aristocracies and arbitrary power, and led to free markets, free trade, women’s suffrage, and myriad other increases in human freedom that we now take for granted. Liberalism was an energetic and emancipating ideology that worked well for hundreds of years. However, it is struggling to cope with the challenges of a rapidly modernizing world beset by polarization, inequality, and acrimony.

Technological innovation, once a boon to liberalism, freeing humans from dreadful toil and greatly increasing convenience and well-being, is the cause of many of these new challenges. This is because technology has led to three unintended developments. 

1. The Cognitive Divide

Technological progress has increased demand for those high in cognitive capacity while decreasing demand for other skills (and especially decreasing demand for “middle-skills” jobs). Many analysts pointed to economic anxiety among the white working class as one of the reasons for Trump’s improbable 2016 election victory. Although this has been vigorously disputed, the increasing appeal of economic (and cultural) populism suggests that something transformative has occurred in the market. The most obvious change since the late ’70s (and especially since the late ’90s) is the decline of well-paying jobs for those with relatively low cognitive capital (education). Although this decline is a fairly general phenomenon, the weakening demand for manufacturing jobs illustrates the point. Between 1960 and 2000, the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States remained constant. But, since 2000, nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs have been lost.

The decline in well-paying jobs for relatively uneducated men has coincided with a decline in the prime age (25–54) male labor force participation rate. In 1996, 4.6 million prime aged males were out of the labor force. By 2016, that number had increased to 7.1 million. Importantly, most of the males who are leaving the labor force are those who do not possess skills fit for a post-industrial marketplace. Profound changes in the economy, most notably automation, have led to an increasingly polarized labor market with job opportunities concentrated in the high-skill, high-wage sector and the low-wage, low-skill sector.

These labor market changes fuel inequality and resentment as they destroy middle-income, middle-skill jobs that once provided opportunities for relatively uneducated males. It is unlikely that these jobs will return. In fact, as automation increases, many of the remaining well-paying jobs for uneducated males will disappear. For example, many experts project the loss of over one million jobs in heavy-trucking by 2030. Truck driving is currently the most common job in the majority of states and it is one of the only well-paying industries that has thus far been immune to automation and globalization. The forces unleashed by economic liberalism ensure that trucking will not be immune for long.

2. Geographic Mobility

Technology has increased mobility and therefore the ability of people to sort geographically. Travel is easy. Those with the cognitive capital to thrive in New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco can readily leave their less affluent towns and cities to join huge cosmopolitan neighborhoods with others who possess similar skills, talents, and interests. The increasingly efficient college system also contributes to this big sort because it more effectively discerns and rewards intelligence than it once did. Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, and other elite colleges act as social sieves that grant the requisite degrees for access to jobs in coveted locations. Since the 1960s, evidence suggests that elite colleges have become a more demanding and efficient sorting machine, delivering degrees to the cognitive elite and denying access to everyone else.

Ultimately, this means that many neighborhoods, towns, and cities will become more homogenous intellectually and ideologically. This is especially true of desirable neighborhoods, because only those with the required cognitive capital will be able to afford and thrive in them.  

Equally important, technological innovations allow people to sort culturally. For example, television once offered only a handful of channels. Families, therefore, could choose among a few shows, most of which aimed for the middle of culture, so as not to alienate potential viewers. Now, however, Amazon, Netflix, HBO, and Showtime each offer a dizzying array of entertainment options. No longer required to reach an enormous audience, television shows and movies can appeal to specialized slivers of the populace. This means more choice. And more diversity. And a greater divergence between the entertainment that the highly intelligent and less intelligent consume.

The same holds for other forms of entertainment and for leisure more broadly. Because humans enjoy greater control over their environments than ever before, small personality or cognitive differences can lead to large downstream cultural differences. People who score high in openness and therefore desire novelty may cultivate a taste for Middle Eastern music and Polish cinema, whereas more conservative people may enjoy traditional American music and blockbuster films. The shared narrative that used to bind people together, the shared discussion about MASH or Monday Night Football, has long since fractured. Very few entertainment spectacles or cultural practices bind people together from across the intellectual and economic continuum. Instead, people exist in cultural cocoons that seem alien and mutually hostile. Elites denigrate “lower” culture for being crude and boorish; and much of the population ridicules elite culture for its inaccessibility and haughty pretension.

3. Evolutionary Mismatch

Evolutionary analysts contend that the human mind is comprised of mechanisms that evolved to solve recurrent evolutionary problems such as a need to procure and consume calories or seek and consummate romantic relationships. Although intuitive, the notion that the human mind is a general thinking machine and is therefore able to thrive in any environment is not supported by theory or data. The human mind is, of course, a marvel of nature, but it is limited and fallible. It evolved—with an important qualification—to solve specific problems. Therefore, it is particularly good at grappling with some challenges, but not so much at grappling with other, more recent challenges.

Modern humans in the West, of course, inhabit a world full of novel challenges because of thousands of generations of technological evolution and innovation. Humans are cultural animals and have always thrived by creating useful technologies. But for much of human evolution, these technologies did not change dramatically. After the 1700s, however, technological innovation exploded, birthing the modern world and providing it with televisions, refrigerators, computers, automobiles, airplanes, iPhones, pornography, cigarettes, refined sugars, and much more. Novel and often bewildering or dangerously seductive, these technologies pose significant challenges to the human mind. Theorists call this gap between the environment humans inhabit and the one in which they evolved “evolutionary mismatch.”

Sometimes new inventions cause problems because they are simply confusing or perplexing. For example, it is highly unlikely that humans “evolved” to learn calculus. Rather, a small subset of the population can learn calculus with explicit instruction and careful attention and effort. But many cannot and are totally perplexed by its inscrutable equations. And sometimes modern inventions cause problems because they appeal to evolved systems but are ultimately distracting or harmful. Humans did not evolve in an environment with Hostess cupcakes or Oreo cookies. While a sweet tooth three thousand years ago was functional, compelling humans to seek wild fruits and perhaps honey, today, concentrated sugar is notoriously easy to procure and delightful to consume. Unfortunately, it is also potentially pernicious in the long run and can lead to obesity even in the short run.

We have already noted in passing a qualification to the contention that the mind evolved to solve specific problems. That qualification is general intelligence. Many theorists have contended that intelligence either evolved specifically to deal with novelty or at least allows humans better to cope with it. Consistent with this theory, evidence suggests that those who are more intelligent than others are better able to navigate and thrive in novel environments than others. Relatedly, self-control also seems to help humans function with novelty. This should not be surprising because one of the primary challenges many modern inventions pose is that they are incredibly pleasurable but also potentially dangerous or distracting. It requires self-control not to abuse euphoria-inducing drugs or lose one’s self in the appealing universe of an online video game.

The Consequences

These three stressors conspire to exacerbate divisions between cognitive elites and others, which creates an unstable and fractious political environment. Adding to this ferment, the West has become increasingly diverse ethnically, culturally, and religiously. One may celebrate this diversity, but it is difficult to contend that it has been an unequivocal blessing. Diversity increases divisions and undermines cultural cohesion, augmenting polarization, bitterness, and alienation.

The elites, because they are, on average, more intelligent and more self-controlled than much of the population, prosper in a technologically sophisticated (and mismatched) world and thrive in a social ecology that is less constrained by traditional narratives, judgments, and norms than by reason and rational interests. Flourishing in this freedom, these elites come to believe that others should enjoy the blessings of liberty and therefore assail what they see as stultifying institutions and values such as organized religion and other conservative ideologies. But this actually exacerbates the problem because it degrades valuable narratives and institutions that guide and give meaning to people’s lives.

This point deserves reflection. It seems likely that certain generally conservative ideologies (Christianity, for example) arose and evolved to guide humans successfully through the thicket of temptations that life offers, from reckless sex to wasteful violence. Arguably, these ideologies became more valuable, at least to a subset of the population, as society became more novel because they provided counterweights to the charms of seductive but potentially dangerous novelties such as drugs, refined sugars, and distracting but ultimately frivolous entertainments. As noted above, people who are higher in intelligence and self-control are better able to navigate these novel temptations and obstacles; therefore, many of them probably legitimately believe that conservative social narratives aren’t beneficial and are, in fact, intolerably coercive. They attack them, then, not because they are mean-spirited people, but because they think that by attacking them they are liberating humans from the chains of antiquated ideologies. And their persistent attacks on these narratives and institutions devalue and ultimately undermine them, causing them to retreat and decay.

This doesn’t harm the cognitive elites because they don’t need those institutions or narratives (they create different institutions and narratives that serve similar functions), but it quite likely does harm other people. And it arouses resentment in those who feel besieged and denigrated for, as former president Obama put it, clinging to “guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” As this cultural battle between cognitive elites and others intensifies, political elections become more fraught. People become more willing to support those who violate pivotal democratic norms because winning is perceived as more important than preserving fraying traditions. And authoritarianism is seen as an expedient way to win a furious cultural war and to cut through frustrating partisan gridlock.

These same growing cultural divisions enable (and perhaps impel) the cognitive elite to believe in more elaborate, esoteric, and alienating doctrines (which elsewhere we have called “radical progressivism). For example, radical cultural progressivism, which maintains that the West is nearly irredeemably sexist, racist, and bigoted, is ascendant and widely promoted by educated elites, capturing much of the Democratic party in the United States, which is forced at minimum to feign fidelity to its principles. Although many of the people who promulgate this ideology are undoubtedly earnest, it is hard not to see it as something of a signaling system complete with a legitimation narrative that justifies the enviable social position of the elites who espouse it. This, in itself, although slightly obnoxious is mostly innocuous.

However, the problem is that radical progressivism also promotes policies that exacerbate divisiveness and undermine the cohesion necessary to sustain Western liberalism. For example, radical progressivism promotes a very generous immigration policy because it believes that diversity is everywhere and always a social good. From the perspective of the cognitive elite, this is likely true (at least in the short term). They benefit from the exchange of new ideas and foods and delight in exploring novel cultural practices. Those who are not highly educated or who are less open and less cosmopolitan suffer because their communities are irrevocably altered. Worse, they are then belittled as bigots for attempting to preserve their culture. This, in turn, makes authoritarianism even more appealing to many in the population as a way to protect their communities and countries from rapidly changing demographics and cultural norms.

Meanwhile, these cultural divisions will likely be aggravated by increasing economic inequality for the foreseeable future as technology continues to eliminate middle-tier jobs, creating a kind of market polarization between cognitive elites and others. This will likely lead to more support for economic populists and less concern to protect a market system that is perceived to be failing a significant proportion of the population.


The most depressing feature of this potential dissolution of liberalism is that it seems almost inevitable. It is not a conspiracy nor the result of a tyrant’s whim, but rather the collective outcome of myriad rational decisions. People want to live in cities where they can maximize the return on their social and cognitive capital. And they want to associate with others with whom they share talents and interests. But this locally desirable sorting almost inescapably creates and exacerbates cultural divisions. Furthermore, as technology increases the return on cognitive abilities relative to other skills, the market will continue to produce large economic inequalities. In other words, freedom, as understood by liberalism, will likely lead to an explosive level of bitterness, envy, and polarization.

The political theorist Patrick Deneen has argued that liberalism, whatever its benefits, was always a dubious political philosophy and has already failed. For those sympathetic to such an argument, these trends might not be surprising and, in fact, the decline of liberalism might be cause for cautious celebration. Its disease is, after all, fatal; all that is left is the painful wait for it to expire. Perhaps we should even hasten its death and begin to arrange the post-liberal world we’ll inevitably inhabit.

Others, however, see less reason for celebration. Despite its many flaws and despite the difficult challenges it now faces, liberalism has been one of the greatest and most resilient forces for good in human history. In his recent monograph, Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker argued that it is nearly impossible to envision a superior ideological alternative. The world before liberalism was one of arbitrary power, barbaric punishments, grotesque inequalities, and preposterous superstitions. What the modern era has lost in mystery and community, it has more than made up for in comfort, convenience, freedom, tolerance, and scientific understanding. Therefore, instead of denigrating liberalism, we should fight to save it.

What is needed for liberalism from this perspective is a fuller appreciation of the frailties and fallibilities of humans, a deeper respect for tradition and order, and a more tempered understanding of individual freedom—in other words, a kind of liberal conservatism that eschews dogmas about limited government and economic freedom in favor of the more pressing task of conserving the legacy of Western liberty.

Perhaps, however, even this will fail. Perhaps the challenges that confront liberalism are insoluble. Or perhaps we simply lack the political skills to solve them. And perhaps we are, indeed, watching the last glimmering light of liberalism disappear into darkness. If so, let us hope that respect for freedom, for individualism, for representative government, and for the other gifts of the Enlightenment are not enveloped by the gloom.


Bo Winegard is an essayist and an assistant professor at Marietta College. You can follow him on Twitter @EPoe187

Ben Winegard is an essayist and an assistant professor at Hillsdale College. You can follow him on Twitter @BenWinegard


  1. richard w. burcik says

    I read the Winegard’s essay and I wish to present a contrary view.
    Prof. Raghuram Rajan, economist at the University of Chicago, in his
    latest book, “The Third Pillar” (Feb. 26, 2019) reports in his opening
    sentences that “We are surrounded by plenty. Humanity has never been
    richer as technologies of production have improved steadily over the
    last two hundred fifty years. It is not just developed countries that
    have grown wealthier; billions across the developing world have moved
    from stressful poverty to a comfortable middle-class existence in the
    span of a generation. Income is more evenly spread across the world
    than at any other time in our lives. For the first time in history, we
    have it in our power to eradicate hunger and starvation everywhere.”
    Thus, I believe that the authors of “The Twilight of Liberalism?” are
    mistaken when they assert that “… yawning economic inequality (has)
    tempered the triumphalism of those who once celebrated the
    inevitable victory of markets and democracy.”

    Richard W. Burcik

    • David of Kirkland says

      Even if true, nations are created and ruled by government, not by liberty. The downfall of liberalism is democracy. Democracy suggests all are equal to have a say in society (by vote), whereas liberty and nature accepts some are more capable for the current environment (survival of the fittest). Once others can vote to take your stuff, to control you, to force helping those who cannot compete or find a niche, liberalism fades to central planning, to coercion, to authority.
      That some are addicted to opioids, they are destined to lose, to be the example to others of how not to behave (there’s no morality without immorality, no good without bad). That some invest in risky financial instruments created by fraudsters and opportunists, they are destined to lose their money and power and influence, until government steps in and denies them experiencing the losses they created for themselves “for the greater good.”
      Democracy is killing liberty.

      • Roger says

        The right to vote doesn’t guarantee the desired outcome, it depends on which faction wins the election. Even then making changes to benefit a specific socio economic class is not easy especially in Republic like United States where there isn’t any party solidarity and legislators are loyal to their constituents rather then their party.

        • Bill says

          While this is technically correct, elections in the days of the Internet and social media pandering has devolved to what we experienced in High School for student counsel. What is interesting is that the Founding Father’s seem to have foretold this outcome with the establishment of the electoral college; unfortunately, it was bastardized by the Seventeeth Amendment which stole power from the States and amplified the power of the people. It was further amplified by state electors operating as a bloc rather than as intended where each congressional district voted its elector and not a state popular vote deciding an entire slate.

          Much as how social media has driven individuals to post for likes as a measure of value, politicians are now doing the same. They offer promises outside of the jurisdiction and power of the office that they seek much as the student council presidential candidates offered no school on Fridays and free ice cream in the senior lounge. The mob, hampered by a lack of education on civics issues buys into these promises and votes with “likes” and the result is the present.

      • David MacLean says

        “…whereas liberty and nature accepts some are more capable for the current environment (survival of the fittest).” This misreading of Darwin stems from his choice of the phrase “natural selection”. The term “selection” brings the connotation of a choice between alternatives, and the term “choice” implies an entity who makes the choice.

        “Nature”, no matter how much you try to anthropomorphize it, is NOT an entity, and it does NOT make choices. What happens instead is that random variations occur in the genome of a species. These variations add to, subtract from, or have no bearing on the survival ability of the individual. If the variation subtracts from survival ability, then the probability of this individual passing on the genetic variation is lower than that of the variation in the other categories. Note that it does not reduce the probability of passing that on that variation (unless the variation is so contra-survival as to kill the individual directly); some of that variation is passed on to the next generation. Over time, the genetic variation that is empirically pro-survival spreads further through the gene pool of that species than a variation that is empirically contra-survival. (The variations that have no bearing on survival in the current environment sit in the gene pool, but could become pro-survival or contra-survival if the environment changes. The same happens with the contra-survival variation – it is seldom eliminated from the gene pool, and may become pro-survival.)

        All of the above happens without some entity making a conscious choice.

        The problem with “natural selection” when dealing with philosophical systems such as liberalism are the hucksters who claim that they are the naturally superior types that are chosen (by whom? Themselves) to lead by defining what liberalism is or is not.

        The problem with liberalism is not liberalism itself – its the plethora of elitists that wish to “guide” the system, mostly to the benefit of themselves, even if they wail that “It’s for the people!!”

      • Andrew Miller says

        Aww bless. And I bet you think you’re Randroid commitment to ‘survival of the fittest’ liberty would remain in tact even if it’s you that ended up in the gutter to preserve ‘liberty’ from democracy. I mean you can’t actually think there’s no set of circumstances whereby you experience ‘losses you created for yourself’.

    • Angela says

      I thought it was a good article, but just wanted to point out his reference to the opiate epidemic is something overjoyed. We had a major heroin problem in the 70s and a massive crack cocaine problem from the 80s to early 90s, yet that was the same time Liberalism has supposedly defeated all comers.

      Drug “epidemics” come in cycles and there’s no reason to believe this one will be any different. Overall teen drug use is down compared to the 90s if you look at the stats.

      • David MacLean says

        Under “liberalism”, if a person wants to put into his/her own body something that others consider noxious, then their liberty allows them to do so.

        Our picture of the “addict” has been altered from reality – the “typical” street junkie is in no way representative of the normal addict, which would be typical middle class people who sought release from pain. The street junkie picture is the picture that those who want to continue the war on drugs want to be entrenched in your mind. That way, when you hear about an arrest and conviction, you’ll think it is a disposable person, not somebody’s parent and neighbor.

        In addition, the current concern is not the amount of drugs – it is the type of drug itself. Fentanyl is the chief concern now. Why? Because it is 100 times more powerful than morphine. Consequently, overdoses are going up. This is a normal consequence, but will settle down once users get used to it – emotionally, they are still thinking of heroin.

        But fentanyl may well be a direct offshoot of the war on drugs. Most illicit drugs are smuggled in. Consider this – you are a smuggler. You have before you 100 cc of heroin and 10 cc of fentanyl. Both have the same number of doses, and ultimately, that is what is sold – a dose, or for the bargain hunter, a number of doses. Which do you, as a smuggler, have a preference for – the heroin or the fentanyl? Obviously, the fentanyl – its smaller, you can hide it more easily.

        Think that a high level drug lord never asked the question, “How can I reduce the size of a dose so I can smuggle more across the border?”

        Fentanyl appears to be the ideal solution to such a question, doesn’t it.

    • Stephanie says

      Richard, yes, the premise that economic inequality is a problem here is absurd. This generation can (and frequently does) get food from scores of restaurants delivered to their door, engages in work that is safer and less strenuous than ever, owns multiple devices with more processing power than the spacecraft that first landed on the Moon, have access to endless information and entertainment for virtually no cost, travels to exotic countries more than their parents or grandparents would have thought possible, ect. I’m a student getting paid less than minimum wage and my husband is an unskilled labourer and we can afford a very comfortable life in a stylish studio overlooking the Sydney Opera House. It would be downright petty to complain that older people with established careers have boats or go on more vacations. The authors lament the twilight of liberalism, but their own greed is what is killing it more than anything.

      • hail to none says

        I really enjoyed the essay but agree with Richard and Stephanie that the weakest part was the description of economic conditions. Income inequality has increased in the United States, but standards of living have too, even for the poor. There is still a healthy middle class and a growing affluent population (when measured in absolute, rather than relative, terms). Not everything is hunky dory–the decline in the labor force participation rate is worrisome– but it’s far from an economic wasteland.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Left wingers of the more extreme variety tend to measure things in comparatives, because they are riddled with that greatest of human failings, envy.
          It is this moral failure on the part of the extreme leftists that causes more problems in the world than the supposed bigotry which they are constantly fighting. They fight a chimera because of a weakness in their psychological make up that won’t let them be happy unless they can be self righteous

        • Kencathedrus says

          @hail to none: having status is more important than having a high standard of living.

          • hail to none says

            @Kencathedrus: your point is well taken, though it is likely that both absolute and relative income matter. For example, happiness tends to be higher in high income countries than in poor ones. Also, absolute standards of living have impacts on health and mortality. But you are correct that relative rank is quite important to people too.

        • Craig Willms says

          @hail to none

          Almost all the people I know who struggle economically who are at an age where they should be comfortably middle-class are the ones who are unmarried and are trying to raise small children. The majority of the poverty stricken in the U.S. are unmarried women with small children without a family support system. I would guess half the dire economic conditions would be resolved if the old family systems were still intact.

          The destruction of the family has many causes but so-called liberal ideals that denigrate religion and masculinity and offer a income replacement (replacing a male income earner) for young mothers is a huge aspect of the current situation. The liberalism that comes to mind for me may not be what the authors are speaking to, but in my mind it is a large part of the problem.

      • David MacLean says

        Stephanie, the comparison and contrast between “It would be downright petty to complain that older people with established careers have boats or go on more vacations.” with the phrase “…but their own greed is what is killing it more than anything.”

        Are you telling me that you did not use “greed” as a complaint. Isn’t that “downright petty.”

    • Bob Johnson says

      Yes, and as of late that freedom, as Charles Murray’s Coming Apart has documented, has lead to collapsing families, drug addiction, porn addiction, falling birthrates and rampant divorce in the midwest. No matter how many flat screens or human rights we posses, it won’t matter if the family and community are not intact

    • Andrew F. Martz says

      It’s not clear this is a contrary view. Technology, the product of liberalism, has largely delivered these outcomes. Where does liberalism itself stand, in the context of exponential technological advancement? Do the principles of liberalism carry on, in outcomes for the achievement of maximum freedom and self-actualization for all humans?

      Do the differences of outcomes between the classes of so-called cognitive elites, and those of so-called lesser cognitive ability diverge, exponentially, or do we simply equate cognition with the control of material resources, personal lifestyle choices, or the general adoption of particular modes of thought?

      Do we mistake cognition for other factors of value?

      • Andrew F. Martz says


        Do the differences of outcomes between the classes of so-called cognitive elites, and those of so-called lesser cognitive ability diverge, exponentially?

        Do we simply equate cognition with the control of material resources, personal lifestyle choices, or the general adoption of particular modes of thought?

        Do we mistake cognition for other factors of value?

  2. Kelly Lieberg says

    The increasing speed of change is creating an indigestion for society and culture. It is now when we need the anchors of historical understanding to see us thru an advanced enlightenment. My current day touchstone is Victor Davis Hanson.

    • hal allred says

      Merging tech & changes foaming from GRIN such as Crisper 9 & 13 along with the work separating analog from digital intelligence…
      Unless interrupted by natural forces off the human lease…
      Points to a new class of human beyond Sapiens. Dressed and ready in every way with non carbon based tools as accessories to seed the stars & find friends, if that’s even possible.
      This sturdier exponentially smarter human will maintain core values such as they are or will be voted in a manner beyond human standards to a more consistent breed closer to a Spock than a Comm. Kirk.
      If there exists a code for a lifestyle that doesn’t contend with most of Maslows Hierarchy Of needs and the cycle of birth, death, and extinction, we have not found that touchstone.
      It seems our best choice to to make choices whoever we are wherever we are and let life prove the outcomes.
      The best metaphor might be an hour glass and the Hope that there is not congealed sand pebbles that will clog that passage from one way to another and therefore preclude the spring like mechanism that flips over the hour glass when all the pebbles have weighted the bottom and the force triggers anew beginning…
      Which in doing so reinvigorates the spring to its future chore if “keeping time”…
      You see, time is a function of mind and no other…
      Space & everything in it are real and can only be that…
      Read Wittgenstein’s brief synopsis, it’s about right!

  3. Jack B. Nimble says

    “……..At the extreme, liberalism argues that even the borders of countries are irrational violations of the freedom of individuals to move freely from place to place. Why should one be bound to the country into which one was born (without consent)? And why should others be prevented by the arbitrary circumstances of birth from pursuing their goals wherever they choose?………….radical progressivism promotes a very generous immigration policy because it believes that diversity is everywhere and always a social good………”

    Winegard and Winegard erect strawmen named ‘extreme liberalism’ and ‘radical progressivism’ who are assumed to be in favor of open borders–everywhere and at all times. They don’t provide any links or quotes to support their argument and–worse–they ignore other arguments in favor of generous immigration policies that are NOT AT ALL based on freedom and diversity.

    What are these other arguments?

    Many of those supporting generous asylum policies at the US southern border argue that US support for authoritarian regimes in Central America, plus US demand for illegal drugs, are driving the caravans northward as parents and their children seek to escape violence. Therefore, the US has a moral obligation to help those harmed by its own actions. This is a social justice argument that you can accept or reject, but it doesn’t depend on ideas of diversity and freedom.

    Other persons supporting generous legal immigration policies argue that an influx of persons of employment age and younger can take jobs that most Americans reject as being too strenuous, low-paying or low-status. These economic immigrants will pay Social Security and other taxes for decades before making claims on Social Security and Medicare, helping ensure these systems’ solvency. They can also help care for the increasing number of ‘baby boomers’ who need long-term care. This is an economic/utilitarian argument that you can accept or reject, but it doesn’t depend on ideas of diversity and freedom.

    Still others argue that some immigration is due to climate change and that the US has an obligation to accept some climate refugees because of its own past and ongoing CO2 emissions. This is an environmental justice argument that you can accept or reject, but it doesn’t depend on ideas of diversity and freedom.

    • Lydia says

      You are supposing uneducated illegals train and work real jobs. That’s not the case where I am. they have been taught all along their trick here, mainly by Catholic priests and other in NGO immigration activist, how to game our system. It’s a full time endeavor just trying to keep their anchor kids in FREE public school. The clerks in the school system’s don’t even bother trying to get their immunization proof as it’s impossible to track. You have a very romantic but shallow view of what’s really going on.

      • Jack B. Nimble says


        You are twisting my comment; I said in part ‘….Other persons supporting generous LEGAL immigration policies argue that an influx of persons of employment age and younger can take jobs that most Americans reject…….’

        As it happens, employers are clamoring for the US govt. to allow more ‘guest workers’ on H2A [ag] and H2B [non-ag] temporary visas. The existence of these ‘temporary’ permits shows that many people are in denial over the fact that the US needs more legal immigrants to keep the economy humming:

        from [emphasis added]

        Record demand for H-2B visas outstrips supply as Trump ramps up immigrant crackdown, by Zach Despart

        Landscaper Jay Williams needs 40 extra workers for the summer high season to dig ditches, prune trees, and otherwise beautify parks across Houston.

        Like he does every year, he advertised the positions widely, both on jobs sites online and in notices in the newspaper. Seven American workers responded, but only one came into the office, completed the application and passed the drug test.

        “We gave him the job,” Williams said. “But he never showed up for work.”

        Now Williams is part of a chorus of bipartisan voices, including Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, calling on the government to allow more immigrant workers to come here on temporary visas as part of a program known as H-2B. Texas employers request the most such visas in the country almost every year, citing a need in the seasonal landscaping, construction and hospitality industries.

        The push comes as President Donald Trump’s administration has not only ramped up its crackdown on illegal immigration, but is also making it harder to come here legally. His government has intensified scrutiny of applicants for a highly-skilled professional work visa program called H-1B, which Trump wants to reform. The administration is expected to soon end work authorization for the spouses of such recipients and has also slowed down the processing of H-1B visas as well as for green card applications for relatives of U.S. citizens.

        It’s all part of promises Trump made during his campaign, in which he vowed to curb immigration and focus on American workers. ….But the president has been uncharacteristically quiet on one aspect, the H-2B temporary worker program, through which his hotels and other properties hired more than 100 foreign seasonal workers last year.

        “It’s certainly hypocritical and at odds with the president’s stated goal of reducing immigration,” said Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank in Washington D.C.

        By statute, H-2B visas are capped at 66,000 and divided evenly between the winter and summer seasons. Employers must prove they tried to hire Americans for the jobs, and workers must pass background checks. Many of the same foreign employees return every year, most of them from Mexico and Central America.

        This year, on Jan. 1, the first day possible to apply for summer visas, businesses filed requests for more than 81,000 lower-skilled foreign workers, a record, forcing the Department of Homeland Security to pick winners through a lottery for the first time…..

        Bottom Line: I support legal immigration for purely utilitarian reasons. I also support heavy fines and even jail for human traffickers, employers who knowingly hire illegals, and persons who supply false documents or otherwise make money off illegal immigrants.

        • K. Dershem says

          I … support … employers who knowingly hire illegals, and persons who supply false documents or otherwise make money off illegal immigrants.

          I completely agree. This would be far more effective in reducing the flow of illegal immigrants than construction of a border wall. Over half of people in the U.S. illegally have overstayed their work or tourist visas, and the vast majority come to find jobs. Mandatory use of e-verify by employers could be combined with an expansion of existing guest-worker programs to regulate the flow of foreign-born workers.

          • Craig Willms says

            But hasn’t e-Verify been mandatory for many years? Selective compliance? Selective enforcement? Gaming the system?

        • E. Olson says

          JBN – one of the points for shutting down illegal and legal immigration is to force those landscape companies to pay a higher wage to attract the citizens and legal residents they need as employees. Of course the more effective means to solve both problems is to eliminate welfare for all able bodied people, which would force lazy citizens on the dole to find work even in unattractive industries, and greatly reduce the attractiveness of the US for immigrants looking for some goodies from Uncle Sugar.

          As for jailing and fining people who hire illegals – I’m afraid half of DC would be arrested due to their “under-the-table” hiring of illegal nannies, gardeners, pool cleaners, etc.. Such illegal hiring has tripped up several Democrat cabinet nominees during vetting/confirmation going back to the Clinton administration, and this rampant practice is certainly one reason Congress has been so reluctant to support e-verify.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @E. Olson

            ‘………eliminate welfare for all able bodied people…..’

            Haven’t you heard that general welfare in the US for able-bodied adults was drastically scaled back in 1996?

            “….The [welfare reform] bill’s primary requirements and effects included the following:

            Ending welfare as an entitlement program;
            Requiring recipients to begin working after two years of receiving benefits;
            Placing a lifetime limit of five years on benefits paid by federal funds;
            Aiming to encourage two-parent families and discouraging out-of-wedlock births;
            Enhancing enforcement of child support; and
            Requiring state professional and occupational licenses to be withheld from illegal immigrants..............."


          • E. Olson says

            JBN – and the Obama administration and various Blue States worked very hard to take away any work requirements for receiving welfare. 20+% of US citizens (and about 60% of non-citizens) are on some form of means tested welfare, and I’m pretty sure that not all of those people are disabled.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @E. Olson

            “…….20+% of US citizens (and about 60% of non-citizens) are on some form of means tested welfare…..”

            That statement is only true within the conservative bubble that you apparently live in.

            Center for Immigration Studies Overstates Immigrant, Non-Citizen, and Native Welfare Use By Alex Nowrasteh

            The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) just released a new report that purports to show that 63 percent of non-citizen households are on welfare compared to 35 percent of native-born households in 2014. The purpose of this report was to justify the president’s new public charge rule. For years, CIS and I have debated this topic and this blog is yet another installment. Please follow these links to read the previous installments.

            There are a few issues with the CIS report and an unsound methodological choice that they made that results in inflating the welfare use rates for immigrants and natives. I’m just going to make two points below.

            First, the welfare use rate reported by CIS is much higher than the welfare use rates estimated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) even though they both relied on the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP)……

            Second, CIS chose to use a head of household unit of analysis rather than an individual unit of analysis. This means that they designated some households as headed by non-citizens and others as headed by natives based on SIPP responses. Thus, CIS’ analysis counts many native-born American children, American citizen spouses in immigrant households, and doesn’t control for the size of the households. CIS does show welfare household use rates without non-citizens in them, but the entire household unit of analysis is a flawed way to look at welfare use rates….CIS’ analysis is not compelling. A competing analysis of the same data by DHS, using the individual unit of analysis that Cato scholars have recommended, found that all immigrants have a welfare use rate identical to natives and that non-citizens only have a slightly higher usage rate.


            Bottom Line: native-born Americans utilize government benefits at a 20%+ rate only if you include Medicare and Social Security. Source:

        • Stephanie says

          Okay, so on the one hand we’re saying there aren’t enough jobs for low-skill men, and on the other that we need to import tens of thousands of low-skill men. And we are to believe that it’s because Americans don’t want to do those jobs?

          A more realistic appraisal would be that Americans don’t want to do those jobs at that pay. Importing cheap labour to fill the gap serves only to keep wages low (contributing to the inequality the authors lament). The appropriate response to people not wanting to work for you is to increase pay and benefits.

          • Jack B. Nimble says


            You and @E. Olson are both saying that low-skilled jobs need to pay more, and I agree!

            But there are at least 2 problems with that simplistic solution:

            First………….Better pay by itself will never raise the status of someone who digs ditches, cleans toilets, collects garbage and so on. Heck, even Mao Zedong wasn’t able to raise the status of low-skilled workers in China–as shown by status-conscious modern Chinese–so how do we bring this about in western democracies??

            Second………..At least in the agricultural sector in the US, labor costs are a large part of the final product cost, and at some point it becomes cheaper to import food from other countries with lower labor costs. This is why, for example, foreign raised [Asian] prawns are able to be imported to the US and compete on price with native shrimp, in spite of the costs of packing and shipping the prawns across the ocean.

            Bottom Line: Too many politicians and business persons have a vested interest in keeping wages low. Don’t look for things to change any time soon, especially under Trump. He’s bringing in foreigners to clean toilets, etc. in his own properties!

    • Peter from Oz says

      Well said Jack B.
      The essay is full of inconsistencies and errors. First they say liberalism is dying and then describe so called elites who are liberals and who are changing the world in ways that would be called liberal by anyone else.
      Liberalism is the rump between the conservatives and the socialists. In some countries it was squeezed out of existence by the parties of organised labour in the early 20th century. In the US it survived as the opposition to conservatism. But, as America enters into decline, the socialists will no doubt, as they did in Britain, push the liberals to the side.
      The fact is that this is really a battle among the cognitive elite, not a battle between the elite and the rest. Most of the elite is actually conservative, not liberal. A few loud wealthy people profess to be liberal, but are really more interested in kicking away the ladder upon which they rose to where they are.

    • David of Kirkland says

      “argue that US support for authoritarian regimes in Central America, plus US demand for illegal drugs, are driving the caravans northward”
      So the “therefore” is to deal with the effects rather than resolve the cause?

    • Closed Range says

      “At the extreme, liberalism argues that even the borders of countries are irrational violations of the freedom of individuals to move freely from place to place. Why should one be bound to the country into which one was born (without consent)?”

      There is so much woolly thinking here, and I think it reaches the root of why there is a perceived decline in liberalism. Firstly, liberalism does not argue that borders are an injustice, restricting people’s freedom to move wherever they wish. In fact, it is actually the opposite – the liberal ideal is to maintain autonomous free societies which run themselves democratically (it is at least the ideal, and only sometimes practice.) and that have limits to their space demarcated by borders, that set rules, yes, on movement of people. In reality nobody is actually bound to their country of birth, however they are bound (at least in theory) to the rules of the countries they are migrating to. Almost all countries apart from perhaps North Korea, Iran, and a few others have some reasonable system for short and long term migration. In addition, in the west, the treatment of illegal immigration is very permissive.

      Why do I claim this to be the liberal ideal? Well, it starts with the fact that liberalism does not pretend that all cultures and societies are the same, or that the same laws are fit for all societies.
      This is the premise of the UN Charter’s Article 1 Paragraph 2: “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, ….”

      Part of an individual’s freedom is to participate in self-determination, and it is this right which entitles people to have a tribe/ local council /nation. It is then only logical that borders exist at these various levels to set the geographic limits of applicability of the laws and government. Violations of borders are a violation of this right, which is why invasions and colonisations, but also illegal immigration, are wrong. If we want to prevent invasions and colonisations, then we must recognise that fundamentally, no individual has the right to move wherever they please. There is nothing liberal in defending the right of russian soldiers to enter the Ukraine, of SS Panzer divisions to move freely into Poland, or 16th Century Europeans to settle the Americas (insert your own examples here).

      My own take on the matter is that a world of autonomous nations separated by borders is much preferable to a one-state world without borders. Invariably leaders and governments at any level of scale will make many mistakes in policies, sometimes well-intentioned but misguided, and othertimes out of self-interest and occasionally out of pure evil. Therefore, a single world government would be much more likely to cause catastrophes beyond any repair to humanity than our current system. Having multiple nations gives us furthermore the excellent laboratory for matching out different policies to results – this is how we know that communism fails, why tax-heavy welfare state nations have lower growth, why different schooling methods are better or worse, etc.

      Beyond the ideals, there are also practical considerations. If we rule out a one-world government, which is the only sane thing to do, then we must also rule out open borders if we wish to have any form of welfare state, from schools to health to pensions to workers rights…. I could go on all day here.

      To conclude, I think that it is not capital L- Liberalism that is in trouble, it is little l- armchair wannabe-liberalist people that have misunderstood what Liberalism stands for and then come up with these nonsensical ideas such as open borders without genuine thought and wonder why people won’t stand for it. In other words, it is the bad application of the philosophy, rather than the philosophy, which is being criticised here.

      • Closed Range says

        The Guardian and similar outlets in the US are some of the worst at pushing this regressive hard left Marxism which is what many of us come to Quillette to escape from. As I argue above, the respect of borders is a key tenet of modern Liberalism (not to be confused with the far left), as enshrined by the UN charter. Ten years ago the Guardian was paid for by selling papers, but to avoid bankruptcy they’ve started accepting donations, and the effect has become evident in how it has become a propaganda rag for whichever big organisation wants a campaign of support.

    • Rohit says

      “Winegard and Winegard erect strawmen named ‘extreme liberalism’ and ‘radical progressivism’ who are assumed to be in favor of open borders–everywhere and at all times.”

      Perhaps you should look at the news to see how firmly the Democratic party and Obama appointed judges are preventling Trump from enforcing immigration laws. It is hypocritical to say, “We don’t want open borders. We just want to prevent you from enforcing our existing borders.”

      If you do not have a lock on your door, you do not have a door. It is ironic to see that we have just had a massive attack in Sri Lanka, compared with attacks on Trump for trying to limit immigration from Islamic countries. Not to deny that most Muslims are good. But some are not. And when you have a lot of Muslims in a society then the security problem becomes unmanageable.

  4. Louis says

    The first sentence doesn’t bode well for the quality of proofreading on quillette. At the time of me reading this, it says: “Is liberalism is dying?”

  5. E. Olson says

    “…radical progressivism promotes a very generous immigration policy because it believes that diversity is everywhere and always a social good. From the perspective of the cognitive elite, this is likely true (at least in the short term). They benefit from the exchange of new ideas and foods and delight in exploring novel cultural practices. Those who are not highly educated or who are less open and less cosmopolitan suffer because their communities are irrevocably altered. Worse, they are then belittled as bigots for attempting to preserve their culture. This, in turn, makes authoritarianism even more appealing to many in the population as a way to protect their communities and countries from rapidly changing demographics and cultural norms.”

    This is totally backwards, because it is the radical progressives (aka elite Leftists) who resort to authoritarianism in response to populist movements. After all, it isn’t the middle or lower classes (or elite Rights) who are shutting down free speech on campus and social media, or trying to overturn disliked election results (i.e. Brexit, Trump), but instead it is the rich, educated, Leftist elites in politics, academia, business, and the non-profit sectors.

    And it isn’t bigotry that is driving the populist movements that lead to the disliked (by elite) election results, but rather a much more realistic sense among the Right and lower classes of the true costs of the radical progressive agenda, which isn’t surprising since Leftists tend to be bad with numbers. Yes unchecked immigration might lead to better restaurant selection and easier procurement of cheap gardeners and nannies, but unchecked immigration also brings in lots of people who will never contribute to the welfare state because they don’t have the brains or culture to be productive members of an advanced society, and instead become detriments due to increased costs of policing, prisons, schools, and welfare programs. The lower classes and those on political Right also accurately recognize that lots of unskilled and semi-skilled immigrants will depress wages for the working class citizens, and can create increases in societal disagreements that lead to increased violence and terrorism. Thus the people who actually pay the cost for the radical progressive agenda are voting for candidates (Trump) and policies (Brexit) who promise to block immigration, build walls, deport illegals (especially criminals), ban immigrants from welfare eligibility, and protect domestic jobs from unfair trade practices of aggressive trading partners.

    Liberalism is ultimately doomed as long as “Liberals” fail to recognize the utter incompatibility of open borders and the welfare state, and until they do they they are also doomed to lose more elections to populist candidates and policies, which is why they are resorting to authoritarianism in subverting free speech and free elections through deplatforming and criminalization of political differences, and using liberal courts to enforce their Leftist policy preferences.

    • El Uro says

      «…unchecked immigration also brings in lots of people who will never contribute to the welfare state because they don’t have the brains or culture» – Let me correct you a bit. Brains are not a problem. Culture is a problem. And that culture is under attack. The most interesting thing is that these people, who do not think about the future outside the annual financial report, do not understand that the culture is the basis of their well-being.

      • E. Olson says

        El Uro – I certainly agree that cultural incompatibility is a problem with most current immigrants, but you can’t discount IQ as a problem. The average IQ from the developing world is somewhere in the mid 80s (or less), and it is difficult to make a reasonable living (without welfare) in a Western country without an IQ of above 90-95.

        • El Uro says

          E. Olson – Let me make a cautious assumption about the strong dependence of IQ on nutrition and upbringing in the very early years of life. I once wrote that we would be surprised at the results if we could estimate the German peasants’ IQ in the Middle Ages. My assumption does not so much disprove yours as complements it.

          • E. Olson says

            Given how overweight so many Hispanic immigrants are I would suggest nutritional deficiencies are an unlikely cause of low IQ. Indeed caloric deficiencies are pretty much gone globally except in countries fighting civil wars where food deprivation is used as a weapon.

        • El Uro says

          E. Olson – Another argument that I mentioned earlier is that the success of a society is determined not so much by the IQ of its members, but by the culture of this society. This is the reason why I am more concerned about multiculturalism (which is a poison) than the merits of immigrants. Italians started with Al Capone, but they gave Francis Coppola and Al Pacino in the end.

  6. Richard says

    The authors identify reasons why those not in the cultural elite are resentful, but then expose the same condescension that they correctly identify in others by decrying resort to “authoritarianism.” Those outside the cognitive elite aren’t resorting to authoritarianism, they’re properly resisting the elites’ using every non-democratic tool at their disposal to thwart the “deplorables'” last ditch efforts to save a culture that whatever its faults served well. That culture may need adjustment, but the elites have shown it contempt and and at least a perceived intent on their part to destroy it. The cognitive elites show a desire to exclude those outside from participating in the process of correction. The reaction of the deplorables is entirely understandable to anyone who understands human as it is rather than as the elites want it to be.

  7. Don Parker says

    Liberalism on the down hill slide? Hmm… The Winegards actually mention the support factor for proving themselves wrong. Let me explain: Liberalism seeks equality of outcomes. Not equality of opportunity. As the “elite” gain more filthy lucre and the proletariat sink deeper into financial slavery, demand for equality of outcomes increases. It cannot be denied, that in our very own country this is being played out on the political fronts as we speak. Socialists, Progressives and Liberals of all stripe are under the Democrat party umbrella these days. A news cycle can’t go by without someone on the Left decrying the rich don’t pay their fair share in taxes. Never mind that they actually pay 90% of the income taxes collected by the IRS.

    So Liberalism on the down hill slide? Hmm… Don’t think so. Oh it will be at some point; When the left runs out of rich people to tax and when they have taxed all they have. However, as a Libertarian/Conservative, I do appreciate their emphasis on freedom. But from the tone of their piece, I think they just might include their freedom to pick your pocket to pay the way for those who have not worked for it. As far as the Left and their lower intellectual followers are concerned, being wealthy is criminal and unfair to the masses.

    Having said that, the separation between the elite and the common man is destined to grow. It is indeed an inevitable outcome of technological advancement. Those who invent and control it will enslave those who do not. The future for the common man is a bleak one, for sure. The only way to avoid it is to somehow, in a Star Treking, Utopian way, provide everyone all their needs and comforts. Let there be no one person with any more than another. But in doing so, we might also take away the incentive to grow, to invent, to improve our lot at all. We would stagnate. Stagnate is rot.

    Even so, such a system would not work. The strong will always take from the weak. The elite will reincarnate in some fashion. Then the cycle begins again. Mankind will be free for awhile and slave for awhile. All in it’s season.

    • Farris says

      This was a well written, well reasoned article. The only observation (not really a criticism) is that the view point comes from one side of the spectrum. As a conservative, the other side of the spectrum, it appears liberalism is flourishing.
      Note the goals of conservatism: limited, government, lower regulation and taxation, fiscal austerity, border control. Can anyone truly say these goals are within reach or do they remain distant dreams? The Left has been defeated before; Reagan, Bush and Trump. Yet the government continues to expand while conservative principals appear to wane.
      The Left May be demoralized over the election of Trump but that election is a blip that will recalibrate in 1-5 years. Only time will tell in 2020 if the pendulum swings back left but eventually it will. When the pendulum does swing the Left will enact changes that become once again progressively permanent. Can the Left point to any gains that have been over turned? Bill Buckley wanted to stand athwart history yelling “stop” but since that statement liberalism has bulldozed ahead. Liberalism controls most modern day institution and that control is part of the reason Trump’s language of “The Swamp” was able to resonate. Trump and Swamp rhetoric will eventually fade but the liberals will remain in control. To my conservative friends I apologize if this seem too pessimistic but I do believe it realistic. Liberalism occurs in big gulps: health care, gay marriage to name a few, after which the country must pause and catch its breath.
      The problem for liberalism is it thrives on the notion of revolution but as I previously mentioned it is liberalism in firm control of most institutions, so now revolutionary talk is somewhat counterproductive. The biggest immediate problem I see is it is need of a purge to reestablish its control. The far Left is currently leaving a bad taste in the mouths of the moderate middle. The right was forced to do the same with the John Birchers 50 years ago. Such a purge may be painful in the sort term but would reap benefits in the long term. No ideology will have a permanent reign and will have periods in the wilderness. However liberalism has managed to remain incremental while in the wilderness only to return enacting massive progressive changes.

  8. A C Harper says

    “Ultimately, the goal of liberalism is to maximize freedom so that humans can achieve self-fulfillment.”

    Whilst I am quite fond of some aspects of liberalism to reify liberalism and give it ultimate goals is still a philosophical or political collective trying to impose an outcome on an individual. Some individuals might not desire self-fulfilment, or perhaps an alternate ‘unapproved’ self-fulfilment.

    What level of maximisation of freedom is acceptable? Because there will always be some who don’t fit the vision. How do you deal with them?

    • David of Kirkland says

      History proves that most do not like liberty. They look for a leader. It starts with parents in home. Goes to teachers during schooling. Then to employers, as most seek to work for others than to create their own businesses. All during that time, many submit to their faith leaders and God. Of course, they then submit to many sovereigns from housing associations, cities, counties, states and federal governments.
      Liberty is hard; hence give me liberty or give me death. Most do not agree and prefer life with others in control. At least you have someone other than yourself to blame.

  9. Locketopus says

    A couple of points:

    1) Trump’s election was far from improbable to anyone who was actually paying attention. That apparently does not include the self-described “cognitive elite”, who were surprised in much the same fashion as the inhabitants of Versailles when they looked out the front door of the chateau and saw a bunch of peasants dragging tumbrels across the beautiful lawns.

    “Improbable”? “Inevitable” would be a better word there.

    2) While a few cities (including the three named) are gaining population at the moment, most cities are declining. New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles will soon follow suit.

    Nowadays one can get Polish cinema and Middle Eastern music in a safe, clean rural or suburban environment, without having to dodge muggers, hypodermic needles and piles of human feces on a daily basis.

    • E. Olson says

      NY, LA, and SF are already losing population according to the latest stats.

    • Morgan Foster says


      “Trump’s election was far from improbable …”

      I would quibble only slightly. Few recollect that there two elections in 2016 that would send Trump to the White House.

      The first, I think, was inevitable; Trump’s bloody massacre of every other Republican in the primary. This was the event that rocked the world, and this is the one that every Republican voter either saw coming with joyous anticipation, or felt fear, deep in their gut that it was likely to happen.

      The presidential election was a like a ball sitting on the edge of the cup at the 18th hole of Augusta. God coughed and the ball fell in.

      The first election … that was the big one.

      • Locketopus says

        The presidential election was a like a ball sitting on the edge of the cup at the 18th hole of Augusta. God coughed and the ball fell in.


        Trump spent the amount he needed to spend to win (less than half of what Hillary spent, as it happens). I think he was totally confident of winning (and I was totally confident that he was going to win… note that I was far from a fan of Donald Trump, so that wasn’t wishful thinking on my part).

        If he hadn’t been confident, he would’ve shoveled more money in the swing states (unlike Hillary, who didn’t even VISIT some of the swing states).

        That’s why the rage against the Electoral College is way off-base. Those who are riding that hobbyhorse are overlooking that a campaign strategy without the EC is totally different to one with it. In particular, Trump would’ve spent some money in California, Illinois, etc., rather than spending almost zero, as he actually did — that is a rational strategy given the EC, since money spent there wouldn’t translate to any electoral votes. If there’s no EC, the rational strategy changes.

        PERHAPS he would’ve still lost the popular vote, but perhaps not. It was close enough that I could easily imagine him picking up another 2% with strategic spending. Certainly it wouldn’t have been the guaranteed Hillary lock that the EC haters like to pretend.

        The Dem leadership has tried (largely successfully) to con their followers into believing that Trump’s win was due to the Electoral College, Russian bots, racism, the Bavarian Illuminati… because that keeps their voters from laying the blame where it actually lies: a thoroughly-rigged primary process that resulted in their party nominating a lying, greedy, incompetent criminal.

  10. E. Olson says

    Another problem for the future of Liberalism is the fact that Radical Progressives do such a poor job of appreciating and marketing all the “progress” that has been made due to Liberalism. 250 years ago 98+% of the the global population lived on today’s equivalent of $2 or less per day, and had a life expectancy of between 30 and 40 years. Light women’s work was hauling water and wood to the house so they could spend 30+ hours per week cooking family meals, while their free-time hobbies were making and repairing the family clothes. Men worked 16 hour days in mines or in the fields, unless they were soldiers who died from minor battlefield wounds as the primary sign of surgical quality was how fast they could saw off an injured limb. All food was seasonal and organic, but most people struggled to consume enough calories to survive, and even fewer received what today would be called a nutritionally balanced diet. Hospitals (if they were available) were where you went to die, and where the mentally ill were locked up. Most people spent their entire lives having never traveled further from home that what a day’s walk or horse ride could take them. The only social security and social safety net was care by family members or church charity. Entertainment options were very limited and often consisted of getting drunk, literacy was minimal, and even if you could read, reading material was very expensive and difficult to read because there was no light when the sun went down.

    Since the industrial revolution, Capitalism has eradicated poverty in the West, and given even the poor citizens luxuries, mobility, entertainment, and health that ancient kings could only dream about. Western culture was also the first to eradicate slavery, give near universal suffrage and education. Globally poverty has been reduced to less than 10% of the world population living on less than $2 per day, and a strong middle class is growing rapidly in virtually all developing countries that have adopted most tenants of Capitalism and citizen responsive forms of government.

    And yet Radical Progressives never talk about this, except in contexts that belittle or criticize these developments and progress: We didn’t eradicate slavery fast enough, we stole land and resources from the natives, we cut down too many trees, and dig up and burn too much coal and oil, we don’t let trannies in the bathrooms of their choice, some people have gotten too rich, some people still think marriage is between men and women, white people and men have not been checking their privilege enough because some groups of people are still not equal. Never in human history has so much positive progress been made that has helped so many people, and yet all we hear is how terrible things are and how deplorable the people are who have been most responsible for all the progress. Given the situation, I think the more accurate target for the deplorable label are Radical Progressives.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Although you hit a lot of targets, I am left to question what you think “liberalism” is. From what I can see it is Conservatism that achieved the great advances of which you speak, not liberalism. But it may be that the American definition of liberalism is different to the definition that applies elsewhere.
      To me the one thing about political liberalism is that it is not actually liberal in the true sense. I mistakes privileges fro rights and concentrates on dividing people by category rather than as individuals. It’s biggest failing is that it’s freedoms are imposed by the government and not the organic freedoms that are inherent in mankind.
      What this essay misses is that liberalism isn’t dying, it is merely evolving into what it always had the potential to be, a tool for those who cannot actually add value to climb to the top and subjugate others.
      Unfortunately, many people who do add value are falling for the liberal propaganda and are trying to make themselves respectable by being “woke”.

      • E. Olson says

        Peter – I dislike the terms liberal and conservative because they mean different things in different parts of the world and at different points in time. I consider classic “Liberalism” to be a combination of representative/democratic government and capitalist economics, which are usually accompanied by protected individual rights such as freedoms of speech, religion, equal justice under the law, and personal property protections. Most of these things have historically been promoted by the political Right (aka conservatives in the US) because only the Right has supported the supremacy of individual rights. Unfortunately the term “Liberalism” has regularly hijacked by the Left (aka liberals in the US), who are associated with “collective rights” and leveling the playing field (often by discriminating against dominate groups) that has played an important role in classical “Liberalism” through the progressive movement. What is misleading about using the term Liberalism” or “progressive” as a synonym for Leftist politics is that the progressive movement has so often been promoted and most successful under otherwise Right leaning Republican leadership. Thus people such as Abraham Lincoln (free the slaves and the black collective), US Grant/Eisenhower (civil rights to blacks), Teddy Roosevelt (busting the powerful Robber Baron trusts), and Aaron Sargent (originator of 19th amendment giving vote to women) were all Republican progressives who widened individual freedoms for the weak and disenfranchised groups.

        The difference between Leftist “Liberalism” and Rightist “Liberalism” always comes down to equal outcome motivations and goals of the Left versus equal rights and responsibility goals on the Right. Thus the Right freed the slaves and supported universal suffrage and equal rights generally, but the Left says these “freedoms and rights” do not create equal outcomes and thus support discrimination against those with power and resources (i.e. whites, males, Christians, heterosexuals), which often means taking away some individual freedoms, because individual freedoms magnify inherent differences in intelligence, worth ethic, personality, honesty, etc. between people and groups of people that create outcome differences. Therefore, I think it is very misleading and inaccurate to call most Radical Progressive Leftist policies “Liberal” since they so often lead to reduced rights and freedoms.

  11. TheSnark says

    The author makes good points, but these are the same points made by writers bemoaning the decline of the liberal order and the decline of the West in the 1930’s. Just like then we had a boom followed by a big economic crash, and a slow recovery. We had plenty of inequality, we had the left wing espousing various forms of socialism and communism, we had the right wing promoting the hatred of all the “others’ under the guise of nationalism. And you had new technologies disrupting everything, the most obvious one being radio, Hitler’s communications channel to the masses. And you had the moderate centrists in retreat.

    And as in the 1930’s, the right and left have leadership, while the moderate centrists mumble apologies for their imperfections. It was only when Roosevelt and Churchill came along that the Western world order regained its spine and was willing to fight. Today, the West has not seen real leaders since Reagan and Thatcher, The only current glimmer of Western leadership is Macron.

    Yes, the old policies that brought us our current prosperity (and problems ) need to be adjusted to fit the new times and new technologies. But the core values that got us here are still valid. What we need are politician and intellectuals who are willing and able to expound on, defend, and celebrate those core liberal/Western/moderate/centrist values as not just the best ones, but as good in their own right.

    • David of Kirkland says

      Macron? Rioting in the streets weekly. Government owns Catholic cathedrals. Liberty how?

      • TheSnark says

        Yes, Macron. That’s what “leadership” of the West has come to. At least he unashamedly supports the liberal, centrist West. But he is trying to lead France, and as DeGaule said, how can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?

    • Stephanie says

      Macron of all people?? The one who shoved an additional fuel tax on an already overtaxed people suffering through a stagnant economy for abstract environmental purposes, uniting 80 % of the country against him?

      • El Uro says

        But when protests broke out, their first words were about budget losses not about environment. An interesting moment, isn’t it?

  12. carlo says

    The article gives way too much credit to the so called intellectual elite.
    1) Getting into the Ivy League today is a process very often out of sheer nepotism and result of heavy parental involvement rather than actual cognitive skills.
    2) Given the allergy to diversity of thought of the average Ivy League social science graduate, to claim they are somehow more intellectually sophisticated than your average Joe the plumber is a large stretch of imagination.

    The dichotomy: smart and successfull city dweller vs dumb and poor village dweller is simplicistic and stenches of liberal elitism. The shortcoming on economic and social policies as evidenced by the subprime mortgage bubbles, QE, migration issues simply hint that the smart and knowledgeable aren’t really so smart and knowledgeable at all, but they are shielded from failure by their political influence result of class network. To quote Taleb, they are IYIs without ”skin in the game”. At various points of human history the ”knowledgeable ones” de-facto detached themselves from reality so much that they lost sight of it and their societies eventually melted: the Byzantine Empire is one example, China of the Mandarins is another. Under that aspect, liberalism is dead, because liberals can’t be saved from themselves.

  13. Lightning Rose says

    The authors repeatedly refer to the educated elite class as “cognitive” elite. I take issue with that, as a closet Deplorable living among the buggers who stopped bothering to “pass” as of 2016. I couldn’t stomach them anymore and it’s too damn much work. Consider this a report from embedded fieldwork:

    I can tell you for a fact that their pack is sorted FAR MORE by slavish conformity to their pet issues and their dress code than by any measure of “intelligence.” Vast percentages of these people, many of whom were programmed by their “elite” institutions in the absence of wider contact, are subject to uncritical, even irrational, belief in some of the silliest false narratives imaginable–myths and scientific non-sequiters that the Deplorables they condescendingly sneer at never fall for. Exhibits A and B would be the current transgender madness and AOC hysteria-level CAGW.
    I could waste pixels giving other examples all day. And, they really suck at numbers.

    It’s all about being a member of a social “cool kids” group, no different than a clique in high school. In this la-di-da suburb of NYC, these phonies are running around in leased cars, enormous houses with media rooms and wine cellars they can’t afford to furnish, with mortgages of $15K a month. Their similar-sized credit card bills are run up on the fashionable vacations in exotic “adventure” locales, undertaken for bragging rights. Oh, but they’re “Green” because they dutifully wear Patagonia and declare their humanity with lawn signs in Arabic that scream “Hate Has No Home Here.” I am not making this up . . . meanwhile paying their maids under the table.

    Their corporate world demands perfection and limitless commitment from them, 24/7. It’s no longer enough to show up for work, sober and in clean clothes; their employers now insist they achieve the embodiment of company “image” and defiance of aging via mandated fitness monitors, “life coaching,” even their sleep habits must be perfect. The company owns them, 24/7. Weekends must be spent being seen running marathons for the Disease of the Week, or shaving their heads as publicity for obscure “charities.” They leave on the train for the City at 0-dark-30, and return in the dark at 8 PM. They miss their kids’ births, games, and graduations but have NO choice, because maintaining the curated illusion of this “lifestyle” is everything. The vast majority don’t actually have anything LIKE the money they’d like you to think they have.

    They speed past my house wall-eyed with stress every night in their non-owned Porsches, over-scheduled and overextended, trying to achieve Perfection and Have It All in a world so competitive that if you’re not willing to stomp on the face of everyone around you, you’ll be “left behind,” their greatest fear. Their wives spend all day in the gyms and spas, paying for any “treatment” that might preserve the illusion of trophy-wife beauty one more day, however ludicrous. They run by in their sprayed-on tights, gimlet-eyed in mortal terror that Mr. Moneybags will run off with the nanny or the pool boy for that matter. EVERYONE is on the market–cognitively, commercially, and sexually, all the time. Sound like a fun place to be? It’s why 3/4 of ’em are on DRUGS.
    And believe me, they don’t spend much time thinking about “deep” issues like the ascent of man or the progress of liberalism. They just mouth the required bullshit at tedious charity cocktails where, increasingly, the mandate is to virtue-signal so hard you just might hurt yourself. That’s the NEW competition.

    This “Elite” culture of the moment is a self-limiting phenomenon, having little to do with the classical Liberal philosophy, BECAUSE . . .

    (1) They’re not as smart as they think. Coming from monied, 2-parent homes where academic success is assumed and rewarded, they’re very good at test-taking and saying what authority figures want to hear. Critical thinking, media savvy and historical grasp, not so much.

    (2) The policies they push defy human nature. Need not revisit Marx and Lenin; you get it.
    One place they really err, however, is lack of familiarity with the human Dark Side. They think everyone’s just like they are and follows the rules they learned in kindergarten, like “fairness.”
    They want to believe “their” reality is everyone’s “because they say so.”

    (3) Their numbers are much, MUCH smaller than their media noise machine would have us believe. Recent polls estimate the number of registered Democrats who identify as “progressive activists” as somewhere around 8%. Of THEIR party, not the US population.

    (4) Most of the Deplorables pay little attention to them. I don’t know any ordinary people, with kids to raise, mortgages to pay and limited free time, who are following pols and pundits on Twitter or looking to Hollywood and rap-music luminaries as “thought leaders.” If they notice them at all, reading the New York Post in the diner, it’s to poke fun at their outfits and asinine antics. In this most blue of blue states, 45% still voted for DJT.

    (5) The Elites (recycling Divine Right to Rule) think they must solve every human problem, by authority if need be. This is deeply mentally exhausting. Poverty, addiction, racism, wrong-think, bullying, hierarchy, sex roles, they see everything in life as a “problem.” The Deplorables see it as the human condition, and take care of their own patch. Their expectations are lower, satisfaction with life therefore easier to attain. When you don’t expect Perfection of the World, you can relax and be happy. As in “Pop me a beer, man, I’m good!” 😉

    (6) The Deplorables have ZERO plans to cave to Elite nannyfingers’ wagging. Thank you, but we’re going to keep marriage, religion, our means of self-defense, our pride in American heroes, culture, and history, and our patriotism. Our interest in becoming urban cosmopolitan soy-fed quivering stress-grenades at war with reality is ZERO. In short, most of us are (gasp!) WELL-ADJUSTED. We’re not trying to Change the World. We don’t believe it needs changing. We’re fine with it as it is. And we’d like to keep it that way . . .

    • E. Olson says

      LR – a masterpiece of descriptive storytelling – I know these miserable people and try to avoid them, which isn’t easy since they dominate the mainstream media, entertainment, and education.

    • Amen! Very well said. The elites aren’t elite and the deplorables aren’t really deplorable.

    • Locketopus says

      Well done.

      Once again, compare the lifestyle of Versailles, from about the time of Louis XIV until the French Revolution.

      The Sun King decreed that all the nobles (or at least the important ones) would live at Versailles, living a lifestyle of conspicuous consumption.

      The ruinous expense kept them from having any money left to fund opposition to Louis.

      They, too, were convinced they were the “elite” — at least until the tumbrel rolled up to the door.

      • Perhaps our new Bourbons in the Cognitive Elite Media should adopt a new motto: Let Them Eat Facts.

    • Chris says

      LR..”take care of their own patch.”

      That’s really it in a nutshell. At least it’s what holds my little blue collar world together. Get up too early, and spend too much time doing stuff I don’t much like doing anymore, because it helps my little gang live in some comfort and safety. A far cry from the top rung of Maslow’s hierarchy perhaps, but I am tired enough to sleep at night, and motivated enough to get up and do it again the next day.

    • El Uro says

      I’m with you. «Nothing is more flatly contradicted by experience than the belief that a man distinguished in one or even more departments of science, is more likely to think sensibly about ordinary affairs than anyone else» Wilfred Trotter, quoted from «The Fatal Conceit», F. Hayek

    • Peter from Oz says

      I am part of the cognitive elite. And what I notice is that most of us are conservatives.
      This is why in a country with compulsory voter registration and poll attendance the richest areas usually vote for conservative candidates

      • Scott M says

        Compulsory voter registration and poll attendance (combined with making it a national holiday) is one of the only things that might save us here in the U.S. 🙂

  14. Jean Levant says

    “The world before liberalism was one of arbitrary power, barbaric punishments, grotesque inequalities, and preposterous superstitions.”
    What a great and definive sentence! Historians should learn to code after that.
    The Winegards’ liberalism is a sort of postmodern multiconcept wich means, depending the context, capitalism, enlightment, atheism, scientism and almost all what you want.

  15. carlo says

    A few other things:
    -The elites ”thrive in a social ecology that is less constrained by traditional narratives, judgments, and norms than by reason and rational interests.”

    which is why they are buidling their own narrative that relies on a completely self-imposed restriction of acceptable opinions, and whose orthodoxy of thought makes victims within the same circle of elites on daily basis by adding further restrictions. And those are the ”high on openness”.

    Also, the open minded, able to navigate with tech and self-controlled cognitive elites are the ones to be most addicted to social media, most likely to block and/or unfriend people for having a different opinion (so much for that openness) and most likely to participate in social media mobs (so much for self-control).

    Sorry, not a great article.

  16. Pinkot says

    I feel that the comments critical to the essay misunderstand the jist of it. Let me try to rehash what I undrestood as the main argument here:
    1. Liberalism is the ideology that wants to maximize human freedom.
    2. Maximizing freedom maximizes the potential for a person’s dispositions to manifest in their lives.
    3. Some people have more productive desires than some other people.
    4. Liberal meritocratic society selects elites out of the intellectually able.
    5. People that can’t reach the elite, because of their lack of intelligence have an increasingly hard time creating wealth as the elites create technologies that make the proletariate useless
    6. Cultural norms used to curtail some of the more destructive desires people have.
    7. Liberalism sees cultural norms as constrictive, and as such diminshing freedom.
    8. Social norms tied to nationalism and religion were tools to tie people together.
    9. Liberalism strives to destroy social norms that elites don’t need, but that might be beneficial to others as shorthands for thinking.
    10. People who because of their mental dispositions found such norms useful are left feeling that their sense of direction in the world is lost.
    C. As such liberalism is creating a more divisive society, even though it’s goals are admirable and it has produced unfathomable wealth, because it favours the intelligent and throws the less so ubder the bus.

    Increasingly I tend to agree with that sort of analysis of our societies. You can see this narrative gaining more traction all the time. For example Wil Wilkinson argues that the city dwellers are more liberal, because moving to cities selects for more openness. As a result liberals live in cities and conservatives in the countryside. You can see this divide in any “culture war” elections, such as Trump 2016 and Brexit.

    My solution would be to foster a new sort of nationalism that isn’t tied to 19th century notions of “breed” or “race”, but more on a sort of civic nationalism. The modernist view of nationalism sees it as B. Anderson put it, a “imagined society”. They are right, but they tend to attack the whole idea as malignant because of it’s excesses in part creating 2 world wars. But in doing so they don’t see the benefits that nationalisms have created in places such as the Nordic countries. There nationalism was used as a tool for creating a welfare state. If we could create such lies that bind people together, much of the antipathy to immigrants etc. would dissipate. But such a thing can’t happen because multiculturalism is dogma and western culture is seen as a grab-bag of various isms. Thus we are left with a dilemma of ever increasing liberty creating a ever divided society.

    • Stephanie says

      Pinkot, I found this article incoherent and scattershot, but your synopsis is much better and I think would have made a good article if the authors had maintained focus on that train of thought.

      Ironically it seems it is the authors’ anti-liberal ideological rigidity that got them lost in the weeds. They come out the gates lamenting about Trump and Brexit being threats to the liberal order, taking it as an axiom that any election or referendum result they don’t like spells doom for the Western world. Then with a complete lack of self-awareness, they complain about attacks on the free market and democracy. What are Trump and Brexit if not the products of democracy? Why is a victory for the side that exhaults the virtue of capitalism over the side veering hard socialist a threat to the free market?

      Your point about Wilkinson is interesting, and may once have been true, but most people living in cities today were born there. I think the tendency for cities to be left-leaning is because when you live in close proximity to others, you get frustrated by other people, and it leads you to seek to curb behaviour you don’t like. You’ll never find signs by lakes in remote areas disallowing alcohol on threat of a steep fine, but they are common in parks and beaches in the city (at least where I’ve lived). In the country young people getting rowdy and partying it up might be heard by no one, in the city there’s a multitude of people who will be impacted, from people living in adjacent properties, to joggers, to parents worried about broken glass, ect.

      I think there are personality differences between left and right people, but also that your personality and political impluses are impacted by your surroundings. There was a fascinating study published recently where placing just a few Latino men around affluent, hard-blue neighbourhoods for two weeks measurably increased the desire of residents for stricter immigration enforcement. We saw this impulse at work in real-time this week when committed leftists instinctively turned “America First” when Trump suggested releasing illegals into sanctuary cities.

      I do agree that a national narrative that transcends race is essential for a multiracial country. The US used to have one, the ethos that if you wanted to work hard and be free, you could become an American regardless of where you came from. Sadly multiculturalism has destroyed that, and trying to resurrect it is synonymous with racism for people on the left.

      • James Lee says


        I initially had the same feeling that you did in how the authors appeared to fall in the same old elite self-delusion by regarding the Brexit and Trump vote as somehow representing “Authoritarianism” when in fact they were legitimate popular democratic results, the very opposite of Authoritarianism or oligarchy/plutocracy. I’m not 100% certain about their stance on this issue, but I did find this paragraph interesting:

        “As this cultural battle between cognitive elites and others intensifies, political elections become more fraught. People become more willing to support those who violate pivotal democratic norms because winning is perceived as more important than preserving fraying traditions. And authoritarianism is seen as an expedient way to win a furious cultural war and to cut through frustrating partisan gridlock.”

        This is precisely how I see the elites responding to the intensifying culture war. They are the Authoritarians imposing new hate speech laws (where UK feminists have been arrested for tweeting that transmen aren’t women), imposing new hate speech codes across the public sphere through the Surveillance Corporations (aka GoogleFacebookTwitterAmazon), censoring non-elite views, and deboosting/“debiasing”/deplatforming/debanking the non-orthodox.

        We are witnessing a major upsurge of Authoritarianism, but it’s coming from the elites themselves.

  17. Ray Andrews says

    “Humans desire unfettered freedom”

    Some of us do, but many prefer the cloisters of ideological security. The Warriors battle untiringly to remove freedoms from themselves as well as from you and me. Freedom is scary and it demands a certain ability to think because even Big Sister can’t shield you from all the consequences of your actions. Those snowflakes who endeavor to remain children all their lives do not want freedom, they want security. Especially they don’t want freedom of speech, that can trigger.

    • E. Olson says

      Ray – you are being very unkind on Easter. Most snowflakes are all for free speech as long as the speech doesn’t include any hateful Nazi type words such as IQ, race, gender, personal responsibility, masculine, or borders.

    • Lightning Rose says

      They want the government in loco parentis.

    • K. Dershem says

      Many prefer the cloisters of ideological security. The Warriors battle untiringly to remove freedoms from themselves as well as from you and me. Freedom is scary and it demands a certain ability to think because even Big Sister can’t shield you from all the consequences of your actions. Those snowflakes who endeavor to remain children all their lives do not want freedom, they want security.

      Ray, I think your description is accurate to some (but not necessarily all SJWs), but it applies equally well to right-wing religious fundamentalists. Let’s not pretend that one side of the spectrum has a monopoly on groupthink and efforts to impose its views on the rest of society.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @K. Dershem

        ” it applies equally well to right-wing religious fundamentalists”

        Absolutely, and they have seniority. This loops back to the idea that SJ can be viewed as a religion in a previous article. I was persuaded that there are too many dissimilarities, but there are similarities as well and the above is one of them. Mind, not all religious people are like that, tho the ‘born again’ types usually are. The thing is that whereas Enlightenment can be cautiously viewed as an improvement on religion, and religion itself as an improvement on absolute barbarism, the sad thing about SJ is that it is a step backwards to pre-Enlightenment modes of thinking. I suppose you could call the Woke, the ‘born again’ of mere rational leftism. Have they not received the Holy Spirit?

  18. Jack B. Nimble says

    @D of K

    You make a good point, which is [I think] that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    However, Trump understands his base well enough to understand that ‘foreign aid’ is even less popular to many Americans than immigration. So he cuts aid to three countries in Central America, that might have helped to combat drugs and violence, and reduce asylum-seeking:

    Reuters.Com, March 30, 2019
    ‘Trump cuts aid to Central American countries as migrant crisis deepens, by Julia Harte, Tim Reid

    The U.S. government cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras on Saturday after President Donald Trump blasted the Central American countries for sending migrants to the United States and threatened to shutter the U.S.-Mexico border………..’

    Bottom Line: Trump always goes for draconian policies, even if they work against each other. Exactly what you would expect if policy is being driven by optics/headlines instead of rational analysis.

    • Stephanie says

      Jack, sending foreign aid to corrupt countries cannot be expected to accomplish anything but enriching the ones in charge. Throwing money at a problem is often counter-productive, and a successful businessman knows a bad investment when he sees it.

    • Honduran here. I promise you none of that money gets to where it needs to. Corrupt politicians, and yes, NGO’s steal it. These people aren’t coming here because of gangs (they can move to other towns without gangs or even places like the bay islands, where workers are always needed in hotels and restaurants). They are mostly economic migrants who have been taught how to rig the asylum process.

  19. Chad Chen says

    These two authors need to go back to school. The gaps in their education are showing. I’ll tackle just one of the biggest errors in their argument.

    Automation has been reducing the numbers of semi-skilled, high-wage jobs in the United States, but the US is not alone in the world. As other countries modernize, their expanding demand for US manufactured goods (e.g., military and civilian aircraft, automobiles, medical equipment, etc. ) should be great enough to sustain healthy growth rates for semi-skilled employment in the US.

    In the short and medium term, however, US manufacturing has been hit by the phenomenon of outsourcing (mostly to Asia). But that is not the result of “technological progress”. It is the result of shareholder greed and reductions in the tariffs imposed on trade.

    The United States has a shareholder class that can increase its financial returns by shipping many manufacturing to low-wage countries Outsourcing is a financial (profit-maximizing) strategy that enriches property owners at the expense of workers. If Bernie Sanders were president, and a like-minded Congress were elected, the loss of semi-skilled jobs could be stopped overnight by policy changes that would do nothing to impede “technological progress”.

    So all this huffing and puffing about the evolution of a society divided between prosperous, thriving “cognitive elites”, and miserable, drug-addicted, poverty-stricken dunces is not the result of “technological progress” or some inevitable historical dynamic. It is the result of deliberate policy choices that can be reversed.

    One other point. The glorification of “liberalism” is a mistake. The greatest enhancements to human welfare were achieved by two socialist dictators, Stalin and Mao. They used socialist mobilization to free nearly 2 billion people from grinding poverty. Stalin also defeated Nazism. Those have been the greatest contributions in human history to the betterment of the human condition worldwide.

    • Andrew Miller says

      So the man who’s responsible for more unnecessary deaths than probably any other human who ever lived made the greatest contribution to human wellbeing, righto…The most contemptuous thing about comments like yours is you’re almost certainly posting from a liberal democracy somewhere that’s never experienced the horrors Mao unleashed. One imagines that those living in these societies of wondrous human betterment couldn’t even read the nonsense you’ve spouted.
      The most laughable thing is that even when the Chinese communist party have raised tens of millions from grinding poverty it did so be rejecting virtually everyone of Mao’s economic ideas.

    • ga gamba says

      You forgot Pol Po, chum. Greatest feat of mass mobilisation ever.

      Stalin also defeated Nazism.

      He also facilitated it by allowing the Germans to secretly remilitarise and train inside the USSR in violation of Versailles. From ’39 to ’41 Stalin hoped to expand communism by supporting with war materials Nazism’s war on western Europe – capitalists killing capitalists. Had Britain come to terms with Hitler in ’40 this would have allowed the Germans to devote its war machine to seize the Caucasus, which would have put Stalin in the no-oil position Hitler was in. Further, UK and US bombing of Germany, Romania, etc. disrupted the logistics channels, reduced fuel production, and required Germany to keep 82% of its 88mm artillery at home to defend the cities – these guns were phenomenal at killing T-43s. And imagine Rommel charging through the Ukraine instead of North Africa. Let’s not ignore the US provided more than 200,000 trucks to Stalin. Wars are won on logistics, and with the addition of these the Soviets had superior logistics than the Germans, who still relied on horse and wagon.

      BTW, China’s hero was Deng, who reversed Mao’s insane and murderous development blunders.

      • El Uro says

        «Wars are won on logistics, and with the addition of these the Soviets had superior logistics than the Germans, who still relied on horse and wagon» – Losing 20 million soldiers on the battlefield was definitely a logistics achievement.

      • K. Dershem says

        China’s hero was Deng, who reversed Mao’s insane and murderous development blunders. Exactly right. China’s economy didn’t flourish until it abandoned Communist orthodoxy and embraced market reforms. Compare North and South Korea if you want to evaluate the relative merits of capitalism and collectivist socialism for improving human lives.

        • Chad Chen says

          China has had double digit growth rates from 1950, with only brief interruptions for the Grest Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Americans keep repeating this nonsense about growth only taking off in the 1980s with free market reforms. That is a lie. Western propaganda. Look up the numbers.

          • Andrew Miller says

            ‘Brief interruptions’ that resulted in the unnecessary deaths of around 40 million people. Do even comprehend how morally grotesque your glib comments are?

          • peterschaeffer says

            Chad Chen, Where do you get your stuff? Some Maoist propaganda journal? Accurate statistics for China only go back to 1952 (Penn World Tables 9.1). From 1952 to 1980 China’s GDP growth rate was 4.2% (hardly double digit). From 1980 to 2008 China’s GDP growth rate 7.4%.

            Per-Capita growth from 1952 to 1980 was a total of 85%. Per-capita growth from 1980 to 2008 was 447%.

            Your are correct in asserting that the ‘Great Leap Forwards’ was a disaster. GDP fell from 1957 to 1961. The ‘Cultural Revolution’ was another disaster. GDP fell from 1967 to 1968.

            I did “Look up the numbers”. You have no idea what you are talking about.

    • Locketopus says

      Stalin also defeated Nazism.

      Errr…. Stalin was getting the living shit kicked out of him until the Lend-Lease routes fired up,

      He also murdered way more people than Hitler did.

      • Chad Chen says

        That’s what Audie Murphy and John Wayne told you, but they were wrong. Lend Lease machine were a drop in the bucket versus Russian equipment and Russian manpower.

        • Locketopus says

          “That’s what Audie Murphy and John Wayne told you, but they were wrong.”

          No, that’s what actual facts and numbers told me, comrade. 17 million tons of stuff was moved. Tons.

          400,000 trucks. 13,000 combat vehicles. 2 million tons of petroleum products. 4 million tons of food.

          The Russian industrial base (almost all of which was in the west) was utterly wiped out and/or overrun.

          Both Stalin and Khruschev are on record admitting that without Lend-Lease, the Soviet Union would’ve been overwhelmed. It was a near thing even with it.

        • ga gamba says

          Lend Lease machine were a drop in the bucket versus Russian equipment and Russian manpower.

          Depends on what type of equipment. Russia produced most of its own tanks and aircraft, but it produced very few support vehicles (trucks) needed to run the logistics channels. If you can’t move fuel, food, water, ammunition, spare parts, and personnel into action when and where needed, your tanks cease moving after 250km travelled and cease firing after 77 shells shot.

          The allies also provided 2000 locomotives and more than 20,000 railcars to help move all this lend-lease equipment from the ports to the depots. Of the 11,000 aircraft provided, about two-thirds were transport which were also used for logistics.

          With the allies providing a lot of the logistics material the Russians were able to devote their productive energy to building T-34s and artillery pieces. But without all the less sexy things needed to operate them in battle, each T-34 becomes a 28 tonne land anchor.

        • Wiki says the US delivered 400,000 trucks to the USSR through 1944. That’s much more than a drop in anyone’s bucket.

          The result was that after Stalingrad the Red Army was more mobile than the Wehrmacht, which was always short of motor transport.

      • Chad Chen says


        I’m an economist I’m guessing you’re not.

        GDP is an aggregate measure of economic activity that is very hard to measure accurately. Even in the United States, official GDP estimates are assumed by knowledgeable professionals to be off by about 10% at least. For countries in southern Europe, the corresponding estimate climbs toward 30%. In Africa, Nigeria recently “overtook” South Africa as the largest subSaharan economy by re-estimating its GDP.

        So it should not be surprising that there is little agreement between Chinese and Western scholars on GDP estimates for China. Most Western scholars insist that, in most dictatorships, provincial officials try to make themselves look good by reporting exaggerated performance data to their bosses in the central government. This assumption is made in spades for any successful Communist country. As a rule of thumb, most American economists reduce official Chinese GDP growth rates by about two percentage points.

        I am not going to argue with you. According to revised data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, China grew its GDP from about 68 billion yuan in 1952 to 300 billion yuan in 1975. This covers most of the Maoist period. The overall average annual growth rate for the period is 7%, but there were double-digit increases in many years — 1953, 1956, 1959, 1964, 1965, 1969, 1970.

        • Peter Schaeffer says


          “According to revised data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, China grew its GDP from about 68 billion yuan in 1952 to 300 billion yuan in 1975.”

          Indeed, one can find that number in China’s official statistics. However, it is nominal yuan number. Adjusted for inflation, the actual number is considerably lower. You would think an economist would only use constant yuan numbers. You would think…

          As it turns out, a Mr. Harry X. Wu has published a paper on China’s economic growth using China’s official statistics as his source. See “THE “REAL” CHINESE GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT (GDP) FOR THE PRE-REFORM PERIOD 1952-77″ (see Table 3).

          According to his paper, China’s GDP grew by 4.9% per year from 1952 to 1975 (hardly double-digit) and 7.9% per years from 1975 to 1990. Per-capita GDP grew by 88% from 1952 to 1975 (in this data series) and 144% from 1975 to 1990.

          At this point, we don’t have any disagreement. Your claims don’t match the data published by the government of China. Perhaps you can convince the government of China to “fix” its statistics.

    • Denny Sinnoh says

      I liked your old detective movies, but you should have learned more history, especially about your own country.

      • Chad Chen says

        It’s not just me. In Russia, Stalin’s approval rating is about 70%, even though the Communist Party is out of power. In China, Mao is a demi-god.

        • Locketopus says

          And? The Mongolians have named the airport in Ulaanbaatar “Chinggis Khaan International”. I suspect the Great Khan would have even higher approval numbers than you claim for Stalin.

          That doesn’t mean they’re going to be saddling up their ponies for another transcontinental looting and raping spree any time soon.

          The Cold War is over, dude. Your side lost. We’re not going to let you murder another hundred million people.

          It’s time to accept that. Preferably before one-way helicopter rides become necessary.

        • Lightning Rose says

          Mao is a demi-god because if you don’t say so at least 3 times a day, that app on your phone is going to kill you in your sleep. Or at least deny you train tickets!

        • peterschaeffer says

          CC, Mao be a demi-god. However, Mao’s works are condemned without hesitation or mercy. In one (justifiably) famous Chinese book, a woman decides to exterminate all human life in bitterness over her father’s death at the hands of the Red Guards.

          Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the ‘Cultural Revolution’.

          Of course, this book (which has not been censored in China) is not alone. Other extremely vehement denunciations of Mao’s works can be found inside and outside of China.

        • Asenath Waite says

          My grad school advisor, a Chinese immigrant who was a child under Mao’s rule takes a much dimmer view of the dictator and has plenty of horror stories to tell about living in China during that time period.

    • Troll.

      Mao and Stalin “enhanced” 100 million people to death. But you already know this and you’re trolling for responses.

    • Stephanie says

      Chad, with regard to your first point about outsourcing, the problem isn’t only shareholders, it is that the middle and lower class are dependent on cheap goods. No one wants to pay $5000 for an iPhone just so that a few thousand jobs are brought back to home shores. Any company that tried to do so would lose out to a competitor who didn’t, and go out of business overnight. Normal people benefit far more from cheap goods than they do from such jobs.

      On to your second point, Russia was three generations out of serfdom and had a growing merchant class at the time of the revolution. They were modernizing so quickly that France feared the Russians wouldn’t need their financial support for much longer, so encouraged Russia to intervene on behalf of Serbia. The goal was to get Russia to help France defeat Germany before Russia was independent, and allied with its natural partner, Germany (both monarchies, and the monarchs were cousins). Russia (and China) would have developed faster if they had embraced capitalism. This is exemplified by the fact China only became an economic powerhouse after essentially dropping communist economic principles (sadly for the Chinese, the totalitarian dictatorship was there to stay).

      • Chad Chen says

        No. Not with tariffs in place. But the argument I made does not assume the US would manufacture cell phones. The examples I gave were automobiles, aircraft and medical equipment.

        As for cell phones, they are a close call. Apple, for example, has gross margins of 65% and profit margins of 25% after paying inflated salaries. Their business model is predicated on greed.

    • Heike says

      It’s not the shareholder class who ruined our workers. It’s the political elites in DC. They came up with the idea of NAFTA and admitting China to the WTO. Both of these were utter disasters, but our elites were all for them.

      It’s breathtaking to see Stalin and Mao mentioned as some kind of humanitarians when in fact they were worse murderers than Hitler.

    • Defenstrator says

      What a ridiculous re-writing of history. Stalin and Mao were incompetent butchers who both retarded their countries progress and killed millions of people besides. They caused massive ecological disasters, murdered massive swaths of the populace, and accomplished nothing that liberal societies did not do better and without all the terrorism and murder. Mao in particular was instrumental in keeping China firmly in the third world, something it is rapidly escaping thanks to capitalism.

      • peterschaeffer says


        “Mao in particular was instrumental in keeping China firmly in the third world, something it is
        rapidly escaping thanks to capitalism.”

        China already has the largest GDP in the world. Thanks to the end of Maoism, China has already escaped third world status.

  20. Andrew Miller says

    The problem with although these theses on Liberalism demise is twofold. Firstly, whatever liberalism faults anything lining up to replace it are all immeasurably worse. None of them come close to providing solutions to the issues raised. I get that the ideological adherents of various kinds of populism, authoritarian socialism, nationalism, religious values claim they do, but there’s no evidence they lead to anything but external conflict liberalism took steps to eradicate.
    Secondly, I can understand why those who want liberalism to fail would make these claims but for anyone else it’s bizarre that whilst mocking someone like Fukuyama so many people seem confident we’re definitely seeing the end of something, despite it being far more plausible that politics globally are going through a period of flux and that anyone making predictions are likely to be wrong, but that a revised and strengthened liberalism is as likely (actually more likely) an outcome as any other.

    • K. Dershem says

      @Andrew, I completely agree. It’s very likely that liberalism is like capitalism and democracy: the worst system except for all of the others. In my view, rumors of its imminent demise seem greatly exaggerated. All empires fall eventually, the Europe and the U.S. have survived much more severe challenges than the ones we’re currently facing.

  21. El Uro says

    I’m deeply sorry, but I’m unable to understand how the author considers as high in cognitive capacity those who support abortion until 40 weeks in pregnancy and participation of male transgenders in female sport.

    Can somebody here explain me this?

    • There are two possibilities. In the first, the author is correct, and the cognitive elite (who are more likely to have children and get married themselves), want to support the ability for abortion for the lower classes (the less intelligence people, from their perspective). After all, they have the intelligence to avoid using abortion, and to gain money to avoid its perceived necessity. It’s either a complex eugenics policy, or part of the delusion wherein they want the ability for themselves, as rich people, and don’t care how it damages society. And as the cognitive elite, they probably never had much respect for sports anyway, so why would they care?

      The other, probably more likely answer, is that the ability for complex abstract thought doesn’t make you “smart” in any practical sense. It makes you able to manipulate abstract concepts, which is useful in a world driven by math, computer science, and engineering, but is also tends to make you more susceptible to delusion of abstraction – or the inability to see how reality might be different from your abstract vision of reality. They live in the internal world, and have trouble understanding or accepting the world as it really is. Any little idea can affect their abstract notions of reality, leaving them highly suggestible, and subject to the novelty of madness.

      • El Uro says

        My life experience gives me the opportunity to make a more pessimistic conclusion: the educated elite is inclined to unite into a crowd that amazes with its snobbery and intolerance, but still the crowd, angry, bloodthirsty and more stupid than any other crowd.
        The only areas where Hitler lost the last elections in the thirties in Germany were rural areas inhabited by “stupid” Bavarian farmers. Today we would named them rednecks. Looking at the October revolution in Russia, we see the same picture.

      • TheSnark says

        “The other, probably more likely answer, is that the ability for complex abstract thought doesn’t make you “smart” in any practical sense.” You have identified a serious problem. Many of our current “elites” are educated beyond their common sense.

      • Sydney says

        “…the cognitive elite (who are more likely to have children and get married themselves), want to support the ability for abortion for the lower classes (the less intelligence people, from their perspective). After all, they have the intelligence to avoid using abortion, and to gain money to avoid its perceived necessity.”

        This comment (as usual for Quillette commenters) demonstrates absolutely no clue whatsoever of the why/where/when/who/how of abortion.

        Imagine if we woke up tomorrow and everyone on the planet had magically turned into a classic liberal, libertarian, or conservative. News flash: Women would still require and procure abortions.

        Regardless of political systems, social policies, governments, education, intelligence, class, income, race, nation, faith…women have always needed to end pregnancies, and they will always need to end pregnancies. They are ending pregnancies at this moment; and they will continue until the end of time. Good social policies ensure that they end their pregnancies and remain healthy. Bad and restrictive social policies create a cascade of horrific outcomes.

        • El Uro says

          Sydney, you are terribly wrong if you think, I’m against abortion at all. I would never deny reality and definitely it’s a woman right to make abortion. But:

          Not for my money, charity, if you want, women always supporting women.
          Till 40th week? Sorry, it’s a murder, I was born after 32 weeks of pregnancy, Dr. Sc, IQ 145, although now definitely lower, so for me it’s even a personal interest, I hope people like me have right to life 🙂

    • Lightning Rose says

      “Can somebody here explain me this?”

      Yep: Science denierz!! Read Alinsky’s Rules–one tactic is to accuse the other side of the stuff your side is actually guilty of. Ties ’em in knots, sometimes . . . 😉

      • El Uro says

        Lightning Rose – Not at all. Do you really think that abortion until 40 weeks in pregnancy and participation of male transgenders in female sport are justified?
        BTW, I’m a Dr. Sc, Physics, I am very interested to hear that I belong to “Science denierz” (your grammar not mine 🙂 )

  22. “The world before liberalism was one of arbitrary power, barbaric punishments, grotesque inequalities, and preposterous superstitions.”

    Like what? Barbaric punishments like the ones at Guantanamo Bay? Grotesque inequalities like a man worth billions and many men starving on the street? Preposterous superstitions like the idea that racism is like an invisible gas that seeps into people’s minds? Arbitrary power may be a fair point, but to claim that all illiberal societies had truly arbitrary power, or that liberal societies don’t secretly exert arbitrary power, is a little ridiculous.

    You also said that Liberalism is the idea that we should submit to reason, OR ELSE the people have a right to rise up. I find that fascinating. The implication, of course, is that in a reasonable society, people have NO RIGHT to rise up. Given how limited human reason actually is, how little we seem to know or be wiling to admit to ourselves, reason itself can be a tyranny that most people wish to avoid. Not to mention this simple, problematic fact: how reasonable were the Nazi’s eugenics policies? Isn’t it reasonable to kill those who are an economic burden? Reason is not an unequivocal good. Morality is often at odds with reason.

    You also talk about how people need to have “intelligence and self-control” to avoid taking drugs and/or getting lost in online games. In fact, there’s something else you need: the perception that it is possible or likely for you to have a better, more fulfilling life. If intelligence, otherwise strong-willed people look ahead of them and see a bad future for themselves, perhaps due to circumstances, perhaps due to mistakes of others or themselves, perhaps due to individual traits other than intelligence or self-control that harmed their progress, then why should they do anything else? Besides, there are more homeless in cities – the discards of people who tried and failed to compete in the cognitive elite’s struggle for efficiency.

  23. augustine says

    The rise of populism, of Trump, of opiate epidemics, of bitter polarization, and of yawning economic inequality…

    Yawn-inducing from the very start. These guys seem to specialize in predictable, Left-wing polemics. Fortunately Quillette can and does offer better fare.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Yes, the article and many of the comments underneath it seem to give a definition of “liberalism” that is completely nebulous.
      Liberalism isn’t dying it is merely evolving into what it always had the potential to be, a force of tyranny designed to fool the lower orders and the “victims” of society into believing that somehow they will benefit from being bossed about by fools in the government. And people see the underclass that has resulted from the acceptance of left wing ideas but still think that yet more of the policy prescriptions derived from those ideas are the way to stop the social misery that has arisen in the last 50 years.

    • X. Citoyen says

      Good review of Pinker, Charles. Interesting blog, too.

  24. Jean Levant says

    I see another flaw in this piece. Conflating the open-minded or tolerant species with the elite (the one with a higher education as well as the rich) or conflating the irrational with the less educated is not so evident than the authors think. Or at least, there is a glitch. The fact is when you are part of the establishment, you have much less chances to be in close relation with people of a different culture, especialy islamic at large. Why? Because people of islamic culture inhabit for the most part in disadvantaged areas and work at the bottom of the society. In general, people who live, work and sometimes marry with persons come from immigration are the poorest, not the richest or the more educated. Moreover, the differences of culture are a lot more marked among the poor than among the rich (you can travel in every select places of the whole world and find more or less the same kind of people, whatever their original culture is). The real confrontation between two adverses cultures (on some points) always happens at the base of a society not at the top. Hence, it’s absolutely not irrationnal, as the Winegards state, to these people to think they are screwed by their own elite.
    Finally, I think the elite deludes itself not a little on the topic of its higher tolerance. It’s just they are not hurt like common people in its everyday life by their own politics or views.

    • X. Citoyen says

      Conflating the open-minded or tolerant species with the elite (the one with a higher education as well as the rich) or conflating the irrational with the less educated is not so evident than the authors think.

      There’s a more general point in this remark: Tolerance or openness has gone from being a liberal attitude toward others—i.e., being liberal means being tolerant—and become part of the liberal self-concept–i.e., being tolerant means being liberal. In other words, tolerance or open-minded is how contemporary liberals see themselves; it’s not a fact about how they act toward others. Whatever its flaws, Haidt’s work on moral foundations has exposed some of this long-buried transformation in twentieth-century liberalism that’s still plaguing us.

      So many contributions to Quillette and other sources trying to break free of the Cult of Progress incorporate this mistake into their framing, which undermines the analysis. I think the Winegards have made this mistake on more than one occasion.

  25. the gardner says

    The “cognitive elite”….reminds me of Thomas Sowell’s “annointed ones”. They declare themselves educated, smart, annointed, and so they are. They are legends in their own minds. The rest of the fly over country rolls their eyes at their lack of common sense, their Faberge egg world views. Educated doesn’t mean wise. Elite educations don’t equate to the wisdom gained in school of hard knocks.

    “I never let my skoolin’ interfeer with my edukashun”. Mark Twain

  26. scribblerg says

    Wow, this is such utter hogwash and barely cogent intellectual preening at its worst. I have no doubt that the author considers himself one of “the elites” though, lol…So much to debunk and dismiss here, it’s hard to know what to focus on? Hmmm, okay, I’ll try to be super clear and focus on the biggest omission and intellectual error in this accounting.

    Uhh, how did Classical Liberalism die? Answer: It was killed by the socialists. How anyone who claims to be knowledgeable about political philosophy and recent political history cannot clearly see this is truly amazing. Sadly, most Americans don’t know the history of socialism.

    The term Socialism was coined in the early 19th century, well before Marx presented himself, by French philosophers. The term was in use in the 1820s, Marx publishes his “scientific socialism”, leaning heavily on Hegel’s “dialectical” mysticism born of German Historicism in what, 1847? But the idea of these great wheels of history grinding away towards “progress” was alive and well on the Left before Marx.

    Advocates of socialism claimed that the classical liberal order and free markets atomized man and put him in competition with his fellow man. That it was insufficient to create a just and free and prosperous society. So they advocated for socialism and then Marxism and then Progressivism and then Fascism (fascism was born on the Left by socialists in Italy, fyi).

    First thing you must get is that this is how the “Left” itself emerges as a political force. Keep in mind that this played out very differently in Europe. Each nation had its own history with aristocracy and class, and also had varying degrees of liberty. None were strictly like the U.S.’s radical experiment in liberty, self-government and limited government. But the socialists have conflated all that and shoved it down the memory hole so we don’t even start out with an analytical frame that fits history.

    I’ll stop there. If I have more time, I will further take apart the truly insipid, bootstrapped, mythological arguments he offers for why classical liberalism is slipping away. Short version? He seems to believe all these trends were “automagic” and that all we see was and is inevitable. Trade etc. Nope, he’s utterly wrong, there was so much more intent behind these developments but he doesn’t understand the events factually. He’s essentially blind to huge swaths of history and agency that drove what he discusses, but somehow, this doesn’t stop him from breezily offering meta-analyses. This is the disease of the postmodern man.

    Do not internalize the drivel on offer from this author. His POV if part of the problem, not the solution.

  27. geordie87 says

    Whenever commenters start using insulting language and hyperbole I start to disregard any useful information that they try to give us. If you can’t make comments without stooping to language like this you are not worth reading.

    • Kauf Buch says

      Go take a long walk on a short pier, geordie87…Scribblerg is 100% over the target; your post is more a reflection of your impotence to refute his points than anything else.

      “You are not worth reading”…said just the fascist Left which reflexively tries to silence its opposition. SAD!

      • Geordie 87 says

        More abuse, Kauf Buch. is that all you are capable of? I was amused to be accused of being the fascist left. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just want participate in civilised discussion without any name calling. That is the mark of someone with poor arguments.

  28. Kauf Buch says

    TL; DID R (But, boy howdy, do I regret it).

    Look at the forest of Liberty, sonny, and skip the trees of your verbal diarrhea. Anyone who writes, “…“radical progressivism“…although slightly obnoxious is mostly innocuous” misses the totalitarian objectives of today’s Left. In other words, this article is what you get when Leftist academia just needs to rationalize its totalitarianism…oppressive tolerance, and all that jazz.

    On the other side, whining about “(t)he rise of populism, of Trump…have tempered the triumphalism of those who once celebrated the inevitable victory of markets and democracy” shows the author is incapable of seeing that, at least as far as America is concerned – Trump (and his supporters) is the only thing standing between Liberty and the Left’s boot on Liberty’s face…forever.

  29. Shawn T says

    The authors are obviously deeply steeped in the conviction they are the cognitive elites! They can now clink their champaign glasses and bask in the glow of their own self-righteous identification of the core liberal problem: the rubes simply refuse to do as they are told by their betters. The bad orange man is merely a product of the ignorant. They can’t help themselves. Being stupid and lacking self-control, they cower in their hovels, clinging to superstitious religion (unlike the finer, more advanced religions imported in the name of diversity, of course) and lashing out at a highly intellectualized world which is passing them by. If only they would accept their place in some industry providing some sort of service for their superiors in urban areas, they’d let go of these primitive, knuckle-dragging beliefs and find joy at the feet of intellectual giants! Maybe these two should spend some time among the rabble and learn the differences between educated, smart and intelligent – few people are all three. Further, they should examine their own beliefs in religious terms: if the blind belief is the same, condemnation of heretics is the same and comfort in their own salvation is the same they are themselves constrained by religion every bit as much as the “bitter clingers.” Liberalism fails the moment you impose your definitions of the world, what has value, and what freedom means on others, no matter how righteous your intentions.

  30. James Lee says

    Overall, this is a very good piece. I would like to add a couple points.

    “For example, radical progressivism promotes a very generous immigration policy because it believes that diversity is everywhere and always a social good.”

    As Peter Beinart has
    documented in the Atlantic, progressivism was adamantly opposed to “a generous immigration policy”
    until a mere 10 years ago. It is the Corporatists, the Globalists, who have almost always been in favor of mass immigration as it cuts their labor costs. The only time they weren’t was during the 1910s and 1920s when members of their class were being personally targeted and assassinated by mosty Italian and Eastern European anarchist and socialist immigrants to the US.

    20 years ago, there were major protests worldwide against the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, and at Davos itself. So what happened in the last 20 years? Those protests were coming almost entirely from progressives- where did they go?

    The billionaire globalists co-opted the progressives with racial identity politics. This doesn’t imply that the globalists don’t also believe in Woke Ideology. Many probably do, because it’s an elite ideology that teaches that holders of the dogmas are morally superior beings, while requiring no real
    costs (the costs are borne by the publics).

    Human beings evolved with at least two very powerful social orienting reflexes. One, they were exquisitely attuned to fairness and the sharing of resources. We see this drive still in modern foraging tribes. This is the drive that is very sensitive to modern day rent seeking.

    Two, humans engaged in tribal genocidal warfare, and their biggest threats came from external tribal and ethnic groups.

    Identity politics is simply more primal than the drive to redress inequality (and the dangers of unprecedented concentration of Capital). It is far easier to get humans to focus on race and gender than on class and extreme wealth inequality.

    All it took to neuter the progressive left was for the corporate globalists to lavish hundreds of millions on NGOs, media organizations, diversity bureaucracies, etc. This was done by the corporatist “left” (Soros, GoogleFacebookAmazonAppleMicrosoftProctorandGambleChaseMasterCardPayPalEtcEtc) and the corporatist “right” (Koch brothers).

    Divide and Conquer is the most tried and true ruling strategy in human history. It’s even more powerful when it’s conducted outside the light of consciousness. As Liberalism teeters and the specter of a technotyranny—with widespread censorship and financial blacklisting—spreads across the globe, our elites insist that its all for our own good.

  31. Teddy says

    I’m sorry but this article leaves much unsaid and it is following a path outlined by the author that is lined with neatly placed corroborating evidence. In this world, intellectual conservatives do not exist, there were no hedonistic pleasures of the ancient world (what was Jesus even talking about anyways), and there couldn’t possibly be a nuanced interpretation of Christianity or any religion that could withstand the blistering force of the almighty rationality. Maybe, just maybe, we could exist in a world without absolute dichotomies, where philosophical theories didn’t have to be completely obliterated before another one could take root. Liberalism is a powerful protective and enlightening force surrounding the individual. We live in a world where there is significant power invested into the structures and technologies created by humankind, and not just the individual. We can find philosophies to help navigate this new and uncertain world without abolishing concepts like freedom and equality. I can almost certainly tell you it’s not going to come from some suburban “intellectual elite” neighborhood that can obviously use some down to earth time with the folks who still know how change their own oil or chase a wire. You’re right about one thing, and that’s how divergent America has become.

  32. peterschaeffer says

    I could, with little difficulty, cite examples of the failures of liberalism from the USA and Europe. However, Mexico provides a better example. Until the 1990s, Mexico was a closed, authoritarian, one-party state. From the 1990s onwards, Mexico liberalized its economy, trade, politics, society, and even religion. A book celebrating this change (“Opening Mexico: The Making of a Democracy”) was published in 2005. How well has this worked out? It has been a disaster. Liberalism has enabled the cartels to take over Mexico (to some degree). The death toll now numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

    Conversely, the illiberal states of the world are rising. China passed the U.S. in CO2 output in 2004/2005. China passed the U.S. in total GDP in 2013/2015. Measured in practical terms (coal, steel, concrete, electric power, etc.) China is already far ahead of the U.S. India is lagging China (so far). However, by (roughly) 2030, India will pass the U.S. in GDP (and CO2 output). The era of Western liberalism is over.

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  35. Dave says

    “What is needed for liberalism from this perspective is a fuller appreciation of the frailties and fallibilities of humans, a deeper respect for tradition and order,”

    This was all present in Adam Smith, but abandoned during the progressive era. Maybe it can be resuscitated.

    “and a more tempered understanding of individual freedom—in other words, a kind of liberal conservatism that eschews dogmas about limited government and economic freedom in favor of the more pressing task of conserving the legacy of Western liberty.”

    That just sounds like neoconservatism. If conserving the legacy of Western liberty is incompatible with limited government and economic freedom, … wait, what is it we are preserving, again?

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