In the world of literature on liberty, books fall into three distinct categories. First are the books for experts scholars, deeper works that address high level concepts, social or economic theory, and philosophical ideas. Next are the books for the informed reader, those that have a working knowledge of libertarian ideas and seek to improve one’s understanding of the philosophy of liberty. Finally, there are books for those just starting their journey in liberty, those who have little knowledge of economics or libertarian theory. Jason Rink’s Disciple of Liberty falls into the latter category, and it fills a particularly useful void in libertarian literature: an easily accessible explication of liberty to the Christian newcomer.
The American Left – which never had a sterling record to begin with – is rapidly deteriorating. In one sense it may seem surprising how expediently the Left has turned to violent, repressive censorship and destruction as a reaction against the populist wave of 2016. However, given the history of Progressive thought, it makes perfect sense. The Left is not really changing tactics; it is actually doing what the Left has always designed to do.
The atrocious nature of the Left’s policies is no secret to anyone who pays attention to world history. Yet for all the evils of fascism (which are widely acknowledged by most), the Left never seems to have anything to say about the vast impoverishment, tyranny and genocide perpetuated under leftist regimes; this was most blatant in the 20th century, but remains in a number of regions even today. But most of what contemporary people know of Progressivism is what I will refer to as Institutional Progressivism: what the Left looks like when it’s in power. In the most extreme form, this would include one-party communist states. In a less-obvious yet equally-malignant form, it is the modern Democratic Party, and also the Neoconservative wing of the Republican Party. The latter consists chiefly of Trotskyites masquerading as conservatives, though their brand of conservatism looks nothing like that of Edmund Burke, Robert Nisbet or Russell Kirk.
Around the same time that the post-medieval Church was going through perhaps the biggest internal shift in its history with the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, hard at work was Machiavelli: regarded as one of history’s greatest advocates for the power of the state. The Church never did regain the level of social influence that it held in the Middle Ages, and the state began to grow more powerful than ever. About a century after Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes –- though cloaking his political philosophy in ostensible Christianity –- described the origin of man as essentially spontaneous and godless. Left in pure nature and with scarce resources, every man was pitted against every other: what Hobbes called the “War of All Against All.” The solution, he said, was to vest all power in Leviathan: a supreme central ruler who would hold unquestioned power over life and death, and thus protect order and the survival of the many.
Machiavelli and Hobbes were monarchists in the truest sense, but in the so-called Enlightenment and onward into the modern world, we saw Leviathan take on a new form: no longer a king, but rather the mass polity offered by social democracy. Several centuries after Hobbes came Karl Marx, and along with him the Marxist principle of Perpetual Revolution. Marx’s chief ideological ally, Friedrich Engels, rightly observed that nothing is more centralizing than a revolution. The Marxists discovered that if the Left really wanted to bring everything under the purview of the state, the best way to accomplish it was through chaos, disorder, and the constant overthrow of institutions. By crushing competing societal institutions and promoting the unbridled chaos envisioned in Hobbes’ state of pure nature – the War of All Against All – they would pave the way for the state (Leviathan) to arise as the source of all order and control.
This is why Neoconservatism is really not conservatism at all; it is just another shade of Progressivism. The Neoconservatives and the open Progressives align on almost all key issues precisely because their strategy and goals are fundamentally the same. The welfare state creates a destitute society of poverty and starvation in which people become increasingly-dependent on government; the same principle applies to foreign aid. The warfare state causes endless instability and destruction throughout the world, leveling institutions in other countries and creating conditions for the assumption of total power by the global hegemony. This is Progressivism’s modern repackaging of Marxist Perpetual Revolution: generating constant chaos so as to centralize all power in the state.
Progressivism is based on a fundamentally wrong view of metaphysical reality. To the Progressive, the origins of man are low, and he is on a upward ascent to deity; this is a big part of why Progressivism and radical secularism pair so well, because sinful man’s innate desire for godhood is accommodated in the leftist quest for greater and greater human ascendancy (‘progress’). Yet as the denizens of Babel found out, those who seek to take the throne of God will be brought to ruin.
The Bible gives a different narrative. Man was made to be the crown jewel of the created order, and endowed with God’s own image. Man’s purpose was to mirror, glorify, and enjoy fellowship with God: the source and standard of all that is true, good and beautiful. But by rebelling against God and choosing to seize the throne of Heaven for himself, man spiraled into death, decay and ruin; to be severed from the source of life and order is to find yourself engulfed in death and chaos. According to the biblical narrative, man started at the highest point of the created order, and was plunged into destruction by sin.
These are two radically different ways of thinking about the world. Most Americans in recent generations hitched their wagon to a form of Progressivism –- either openly or under the guise of Neoconservativsm –- and have thus rejected the biblical narrative in exchange for the the Progressive, statist narrative. And of course, (supposedly Christian) America is always the hero in this narrative: the alleged bringer of order, peace and prosperity to all the world, thanks to its omnipotent toolkit consisting of central banking, unquestioned global military control, and a welfare state that provides an endless flow of cash.
We have definitely seen what Institutional Progressivism looks like in the 20th and 21st centuries. In the very brief historical survey discussed above, a great deal more could have been said, but one critical element which we didn’t mention was Rousseau and the French Revolution (taking place in the centuries after Hobbes but prior to Marx). It is here that that what I will call Natural Progressivism is best exemplified. This is what the Left looks like when it isn’t in structured power: rioting, vigilante censorship, and merciless violence against all perceived enemies of the Left’s agenda.
In the case of the French Revolution, after the corrupt aristocracy was purged, all semblance of order and stability tragically went with it, culminating in the Reign of Terror. But once this chaos starts, it isn’t easily controlled; Maximilien Robespierre, architect of the Reign of Terror, found that out the hard way when he himself was put to the guillotine. And out of the ashes of this madness came Napoleon, who became far more powerful than the old French monarch and aristocracy had ever been. As Engels would later observe, nothing is more centralizing than a revolution. If you want to get a glimpse of what Natural Progressivism looks like in action, pick up a copy of Charles Dickens’ perennial classic, A Tale of Two Cities. Or take a trip to Berkley, California.
Progressivism in all its forms is a destructive and decivilizing force that will lie, cheat, steal, kill, suppress, censor and destroy to get what it wants: a deified state which promises deified people (so long as they don’t cross the state itself). In 2016, Institutional Progressivism suffered perhaps its greatest pair of setbacks in world history: Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. The European Union is unraveling as populist movements continue to sweep through France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, and 2017 could prove even more devastating for the Left than was 2016. The centralized super-state utopia (really a dystopia) long sought after by the Progressives, Neoconservatives, technocrats, and other world elites is about to collapse under the weight of its own evil, and the Left rightly interprets this as an existential threat to all they stand for. With Institutional Progressivism suddenly wrecked, what can they do? All they know how to do: revert to Natural Progressivism with its commensurate riots, chaos, censorship, deception, and destruction. If you want to understand what the Left is doing right now, they are clamoring for a new cycle of Perpetual Revolution in a desperate attempt to reverse their demise. But the writing is on the wall.