1.19.2010

THE RELUCTANT ANARCHIST

The following is an excerpt from The Reluctant Anarchist by Joseph Sobran at Lew Rockwell.com. If you find the time read this! Promise you won't be disappointed.

This seems axiomatic to me now, but it startled me when I first read it. After all, I was an American, and American patriotism typically expresses itself in superlatives. America is the freest, the mightiest, the richest, in short the greatest country in the world, with the greatest form of government – the most democratic. Maybe the poor Finns or Peruvians love their countries too, but heaven knows why – they have so little to be proud of, so few "reasons." America is also the most envied country in the world. Don't all people secretly wish they were Americans?

That was the kind of patriotism instilled in me as a boy, and I was quite typical in this respect. It was the patriotism of supremacy. For one thing, America had never lost a war – I was even proud that America had created the atomic bomb (providentially, it seemed, just in time to crush the Japs) – and this is why the Vietnam war was so bitterly frustrating. Not the dead, but the defeat! The end of history's great winning streak!

As I grew up, my patriotism began to take another form, which it took me a long time to realize was in tension with the patriotism of power. I became a philosophical conservative, with a strong libertarian streak. I believed in government, but it had to be "limited" government – confined to a few legitimate purposes, such as defense abroad and policing at home. These functions, and hardly any others, I accepted, under the influence of writers like Ayn Rand and Henry Hazlitt, whose books I read in my college years.

Though I disliked Rand's atheism (at the time, I was irreligious, but not anti-religious), she had an odd appeal to my residual Catholicism. I had read enough Aquinas to respond to her Aristotelian mantras. Everything had to have its own nature and limitations, including the state; the idea of a state continually growing, knowing no boundaries, forever increasing its claims on the citizen, offended and frightened me. It could only end in tyranny.

2 comments:

Bungalow Bill said...

Wow, that sounds like my life and how my views have changed. Brilliant piece.

Conservative Scalawag said...

I read the article as well, which is dead on the mark.

Many groups have taken words, that mean one thing - and to that advantage changed them to mean something else.

Just look at liberal as a prime example. One-hundred years ago it mean what libertarian means today.

This is what both the Dems and Republicans do, and the masses fall for it everytime.