The Intellectual Dark Web’s Unwise Center

Wendelin Jacober / Flickr

There’s been much talk of late about The Intellectual Dark Web, a so-called movement of free thinkers who, in their various ways, lean to the left or the right. In a time of political extremes, with the identity politics left on one side, and the alt-right, with its fair number of racists, on the other, these persons are necessarily classical liberals. And despite the predictable, weak misreadings and distortions of their views, so representative of our stupid age, undoubtedly The Intellectual Dark Web, through their principled opposition to political correctness, is doing a lot of good. After all, one should not be compelled to believe that gender is a social construct, or that free speech should be limited by (subjectively determined) offense, just as one should not have to subscribe to the left’s pathological reduction of Western history and authority per se to evil and oppression. Those who are unwilling to engage in substantive argument demonstrate that they don’t know what intellectual life is. Meet your interlocutor on his or her merits or don’t get in the intellectual arena. Only in this way can an arena be said to exist, the alternative being mere groundless assertion, a comparative barbarism.

You probably noticed that I used the phrase so-called above. The reason is that it’s misleading to refer to Jordan Peterson and Christina Hoff Summers, Brett Weinstein, Ben Shapiro and the rest as a movement, as though they represented some kind of school or philosophy. As often happens — with the so-called Existentialists, for example — we have here a disparate group of people, whose differences have been obscured by a handy linguistic category. The Platonic Republic of Shapiro would be very different from that of Weinstein, and The Intellectual Dark Web is “united” mainly by their admirable refusal to comply with the self-righteous and hypocritical intolerance that increasingly serve to corrode both academia and the media: and so, alas, little by little to undermine the state itself. Yet having been coined, the phrase has caught on, so for practical purposes I will employ it in here.

Now, as grateful as we should be to this movement, given how spineless intellectuals have become, and academics especially, it is worth asking ourselves just what is the political value of the vaunted classical liberalism by which it is characterized. For its members seem to conceive of themselves as occupying a kind of ‘wise center’ between two extremes. They are the voice of individual reason, as it were, flanked on each side by collectivist authoritarians of the left and of the right. This self-conception emerges clearly from their writings, videos, podcasts, and Twitter exchanges. Representative here is Michael Shermer’s April 30 article in Quillette, “How Classical Liberalism Can Heal the Bonds of American Affection.” Yet Shermer’s essay is riddled with fallacies, vague sentimentalism, and dubious propositions. Worst of all, his ‘wise center’ depends on an egregious strawman of the right.

There are more problems. Quillette Senior Editor Jamie Palmer, describing President Trump’s Inaugural Address, tells us:

Even the passages promising national renewal were suffocated by the unrelenting sourness of the delivery. “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land” Trump intoned grimly. “From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. America First.”

For a moment, liberal internationalism seemed to have been vanquished at a stroke.

This is from Palmer’s June 1, 2017 essay in the magazine, “Paranoid Paleoconservatives,” whose very title reveals Palmer’s bias, even as his last sentence reveals his own paranoia. Of course, Palmer is right about the racism and intolerance of the alt-right, and right that paleoconservatism, too, has sometimes been marred by those evils. And yet, as Michael Shermer would write in Quillette less than a year after Palmer published the words quoted above:

The social-justice left [throughout academia and the media] now casually portrays whiteness (and sometimes maleness) itself as a sort of moral disease … Under the banner of identity politics, liberals tend to categorize individuals as members of an oppressed or oppressing group, using race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and other crude categories as a moral proxy … The resulting Us vs. Them tribalism leads to such illiberal policies as speech censorship.

To all this paleoconservatives had long been reacting, all while both the liberal neoconservatives and the liberals themselves had been neglecting the national good, as the paleoconservatives had consistently argued. Palmer disapproves of the address, but the man is a Londoner who, so far as I know, has never lived in the United States, and he seems to have little understanding of how poorly served most Americans (or “the deplorables,” if you like) have been by “the liberal internationalism” that he and his fellow classical liberals support.

The failures of “liberal internationalism,” deftly predicted by Edward Luttwak in his London Review of Books essay of April 1994,“Why Fascism is the Wave of the Future,” unsurprisingly have led to nationalist and populist movements throughout the West. Indeed, in an ominous sign, the liberal world order has not been so threatened since World War II. Like all large-scale human movements — Christianity, feminism, labor unions, even Buddhism — these movements have not been without some unfortunate moral evils; racism and xenophobia, for instance. But they are not, of course, reducible to xenophobia and racism, or to intolerance, or what you will, and do at any rate reflect the inadequacy of the political order against which they reacted. Liberal internationalism is incompatible with the very concept of the state, as the immigration problem, which has only just begun, powerfully attests. Nor is it wrong for peoples to want to preserve their cultural identity and unity — far from it. Behold, then, the paradox of the classical liberal internationalist à la Palmer: he decries right-wing extremism, while advocating a very destructive theory that some are bound to react to with pernicious excess.

Certainly the nationalisms and populisms that we are now seeing are closer to classical conservatism than is the liberal neoconservatism that has long been the norm in America. It is interesting that, so far as I know, except for Jordan Peterson, nobody in The Intellectual Dark Web has had a good word to say about classical conservatism. But Peterson, for all the use he makes of Christians Fyodor Dostoevsky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and of Christianity itself, is a classical liberal in politics. And yet, as many people have pointed out, Peterson, who so emphasizes the values of hierarchy and order, is essentially conservative in his thinking. Now surely it is a problem for a man who values these things that he is committed to the very theory that undermines them. Nor is Peterson a practicing Christian, so despite his appreciation for the religion and all the wisdom he derives from it, it is fair to ask just what Christianity can really provide for him and the non-Christians he wishes to guide. Peterson’s debt to Nietzsche is clear: “Dare to be dangerous.” But Nietzsche would have found Peterson another George Eliot: someone who vainly wants to preserve an intellectualized and humanistic cultural practice without the metaphysical justification on which it depends. Indeed, in this respect Peterson is not so different from a leftist such as Richard Rorty.

Then there is the web magazine Quillette. For all its reputation as the right-leaning flagship magazine of The Intellectual Dark Web, Quillette is biased against the right as a matter of course. I learned this myself dealing with Claire Lehmann, the magazine’s founder and editor-in-chief. As Quillette suddenly increased in popularity thanks to its fine scientific response to the James Damore Google memo controversy, Lehmann displayed the familiar intellectual cowardice of editors in our time: wary of alienating her liberal readership, she took care to avoid publishing anything that might appear too right-wing for good liberal comfort. In my case, this meant rejecting an essay of mine that she had already accepted, and even taken the trouble of editing, because a different submission, consistent with the subsequent, independent Heaphy Report, was somewhat contrary to the politically correct version of the events in Charlottesville of August 12, 2017. What is more, among other sins, in order to support a point I had linked to the pro-Trump American Greatness website. Like the Commentary Magazine for which she writes, the “conservative” articles that Lehmann publishes tend to be fundamentally liberal. Quillette bills itself as “a platform for free thought.” It purports to “respect ideas, even dangerous ones.” But this is sheer hypocrisy. In practice, unless you have the right politics, the opposite is true.

“Woke Nationalists,” says Lehmann, “are the mirror image of White Nationalists.” Lehmann benefits from a certain ambiguity that elides people who believe in racially exclusive states with any white person who happens to put his country first, as if it were not possible for him to do so without thereby discriminating against or hating other peoples. What Lehmann says of white nationalists would not be said of Chinese nationalists or Indian nationalists or Jewish nationalists, and there are plenty of white nationalists who are not, say, identitarians. Lehmann’s careerist disingenuousness is evident from this May 11, 2017 video for Rebel Media. People are “inherently tribal,” she observes correctly, and argues that “nationalism is the antidote to racism,” because “it brings people together” and “encourages them to cooperate.” So which is it?

Although they present themselves as constituting a kind of “wise center,” it must be said that The Intellectual Dark Web, insofar as they purport to provide a classical liberal solution to the modern moral-political situation — which is a hard, justificatory question of how people with incompatible values and interests shall live together — is in grave error. For classical liberalism has never provided such a solution, nor can it. Now it is the common vice of intellectuals, who spend their days amid books and arguments, to unwittingly reduce things to mere abstractions. This being so, the best way of getting at the inadequacy of classical liberalism is by asking some fundamental existential questions which have to do with how people live. Therefore, if classical liberalism is as philosophically robust and practically valuable as The Intellectual Dark Web seems to believe, then why did it happen, how was it possible for it to happen that the last century was so ravaged by fascism and tyranny generally? If classical liberalism is so desirable, then why didn’t it spread like Christianity or capitalism and so transform the regimes of Europe and the rest of the world into models of rationality, moderation, and tolerance? Why were Hitler and Mussolini, Stalin, Pol Pot and other tyrants able to murder so many millions? Why were the terrible fears of Friedrich Nietzsche, of Jacob Burckhardt, and of Fyodor Dostoevsky about the future all vindicated? Surely these questions are fair. Surely the value of a political theory must be determined by examining its effects — and lack of effects — on the lives of men and women. Surely if liberalism were what people want it to be, then the last century would have been much, much better, just as our own time would be.

In “Jonah Goldberg’s Soulless Case for Liberty,” his trenchant review of that rather narrow writer’s new book, Suicide of the West, Richard Reinsch writes:

Goldberg rightly takes Jean-Jacques Rousseau to task for his ethic of immoral grandstanding justified by Rousseau’s belief in a discredited society, a theme that becomes part and parcel of Western intellectual practice. Rousseau, though, may have understood better than anyone the political problems introduced by the Enlightenment Miracle. Rousseau sensed that the society of rationalist liberty and secularism and of sovereign individuals under a popular government, something virtually unknown before, would invite an authoritarian politics to hold it all together. That is, Rousseau’s political thought may be nothing more than the working out of the invitations that modern political thinking extends to both absolute individualism and to collectivism. Rousseau thought the way to make it work is the surrender of everyone’s will to a higher power and the constant, ongoing need to form the General Will.

For Americans, as for others, the question today is just what “General Will” might there be? Is it even possible? To what “higher power” might we all “surrender”? Free markets? One finds that over time this common libertarian and neoconservative idol leads chiefly to division, resentment, and enmity. And, without something that serves to bind us together, are we not likely to succumb to “authoritarian politics” (whether of the right, the left, or both), the eventual outcome of all our “rationalist liberty”?

The state, as it was classically conceived of by Aristotle, is a kind of extension of the friendship and care that marks the family. Presupposing shared virtues and ends, families and communities and small-scale states naturally found it much easier to realize the polity than we do now. To advocate liberal internationalism, globalism, and “common humanity” as Shermer, Palmer and other classical liberals now do, is to presuppose that the world itself is a kind of state which aims at achieving the same ends. But that is by no means the case. Were it so, the endeavor to install democracy in the Middle East would not have been the disaster it was. Nations, like the persons of whom they consist, would not constantly strike one another as begging the question. As it is, in Max Weber’s words, “the various value spheres of the world stand in irreconcilable conflict with each other.” Indeed, this internationalist or globalist conception of the state is asking for a great deal of trouble. This Victor Davis Hanson understands quite well.

Diversity was always considered a liability in the history of nations — not an asset.

Ancient Greece’s numerous enemies eventually overran the 1,500 city-states because the Greeks were never able to sublimate their parochial, tribal, and ethnic differences to unify under a common Hellenism. The Balkans were always a lethal powder keg due to the region’s vastly different religions and ethnicities where East and West traditionally collided — from Roman and Byzantine times through the Ottoman imperial period to the bloody twentieth century. Such diversity often caused destructive conflicts of ethnic and religious hatred. Europe for centuries did not celebrate the religiously diverse mosaic of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians, but instead tore itself apart in a half-millennium of killing and warring that continued into the late twentieth century in places like Northern Ireland.

In multiracial, multiethnic, and multi-religious societies — such as contemporary India or the Middle East — violence is the rule in the absence of unity. Even the common banner of a brutal communism could not force all the diverse religions and races of the Soviet Union to get along. Japan, meanwhile, does not admit many immigrants, while Germany has welcomed over a million, mostly young Muslim men from the war-torn Middle East. The result is that Japan is in many ways more stable than Germany, which is reeling over terrorist violence and the need for assimilation and integration of diverse newcomers with little desire to become fully German.

So again, while they are certainly right to oppose both the left and the racist alt-right, in view of human history and the incompatible values and interests that characterize the world, it seems rather dubious of the classical liberals of The Intellectual Dark Web to purport to represent some kind of “wise center” in politics. It is by no means obvious that classical liberalism, as a political philosophy, is an improvement on classical conservatism, which, needless to say, is not the same as the racist alt-right, although, yes, it does have plenty of problems of its own. (It will, for instance, tend toward becoming the corrupting “discredited society” that Rousseau adroitly diagnosed.)

Classical liberals appear not to realize that their conception of liberalism, by being essentially negative and pluralist in regard to moral value, inexorably paves the way for the very illiberality (of both the right and the left) to which they are so averse. Classical liberalism appears to be moderate and reasonable, but beneath that facade lies disorder. Its legacy is broken families, loneliness, suicide, drug abuse, gender confusion, class resentment, enmity between the sexes — in short, utter social breakdown. By the end of his life John Stuart Mill, far from being the irreproachable liberal of popular belief, was an advocate for socialism, which, though never successful, has always managed to make nations a lot worse. Consider Mill’s turn a lesson in the arc of liberalism.

Moreover, it takes a lot more to stop racism and tyranny and other evils than mere abstract notions of the good, a lot more than writing books and articles, doing podcasts and giving talks and lectures. It takes moral virtues applied to the conduct of life. In time these become vital habits, ongoing acts of goodwill and intention. Classical liberalism, for many, has become a kind of intellectualized Christianity, a universalism without God. But can it suffice in regard to the moral unity every nation needs? Men and women being creatures of passion, will enough of us feel motivated to be virtuous by essentially intellectual means? This is asking quite a lot. Too much, I think. “Claiming reason as the solution to social ills,” notes Antonio Damasio, “misses the point that often facts and arguments only improve conditions when they persuade and prompt action. Persuasion requires emotions and feelings as the critical negotiators.” After all, all moral value, in its experiential character, is essentially affective. So, even with all the wit in the world, it is necessary, for our practical purposes, to engage how people feel. The reason is that (however unconsciously) feelings will determine people’s perceptions and evaluations of moral ideas, feelings comprehending the values of those moral ideas as they are experienced by persons. Needless to say, it is nothing new that “reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions,” as David Hume put it unforgettably. The point was best made, perhaps, by William James:

Our judgments concerning the worth of things, big or little, depend on the feelings the things arouse in us. Where we judge a thing to be precious in consequence of the idea we frame of it, this is only because the idea is itself associated already with a feeling. If we were radically feelingless, and if ideas were the only things our mind could entertain, we should lose all our likes and dislikes at a stroke, and be unable to point to any one situation or experience in life more valuable or significant than any other.

Besides, reason, indispensable though it is, serves as the vehicle for those virtues and ends we desire because of the sort of people we are, and that depends to a significant extent on our cultural inheritance and social conditioning. Virtues and ends are not the same everywhere in the world, and it is important to remember, in our increasingly mobile era, that we have no evidence that people’s virtues and ends can exist any- and everywhere. They certainly do not derive from reason, and when, for whatever reason, a people ceases to live by its former moral-cultural inheritance, no longer being conditioned to do so, then it may or may not use reason to will the same virtues and ends its forebearers did. There’s always a strong chance, certainly, that they will not, lacking as they do the requisite disposition. Nor can reason make incompatible ends and perspectives compatible, of which there are a great deal, especially as nations become more “diverse.”

More people in this country used to feel virtuous, essentially affective motivation thanks to religion. Undoubtedly, that was a vital function. “Wisdom is cold and to that extent stupid,” said Wittgenstein. “Faith on the other hand is a passion.” But God is dead, and so mankind has a new idol. Its name is Reason, and its faith lies in the belief that men and women — who are, one knows, such rational and fair-minded creatures — shall employ argument and debate to arrive at a collective conception of how to live well together. Thus, “It might simply be the case,” Uri Harris speculates  in Quillette, “that individualism is a naïve idea, and that a confluence of scientific and moral advances eventually produces an objective moral system that supersedes it.” In regard to the polity, individualism is most certainly “a naïve idea,” but the notion of “an objective moral system,” arrived at through “a confluence of scientific and moral advances,” begs exceedingly difficult questions. “Moral advances?” By what criteria? By whose? Of what would the “objective moral system consist”? And again, by what, by whose criteria? Philosophers and theologians have been arguing about objectivity for ages, and what greater justificatory function can science provide here?

To be sure, the mere knowledge of universal human needs (or universal vulnerability) hardly suffices to get us from is to how, let alone to agree about it. And again, of what, or how much use, really, is science in regard to this? Like Nietzsche, Jonathon Haidt helps us to see that, to some extent, moral value is irreducible, being intrinsic to different human types. Nor does science have any God’s eye point of view from which to get us out of this terrible dilemma. And God is the right metaphor, for Harris has smuggled in the old sense of God as omniscient judge under the idea of Reason. This is, as it were, the new faith of intellectuals, and Quillette is full of it. I had a genial exchange with Harris about his essay “Can Liberalism Survive” — for the most part, a solid work of political analysis — and he gave me to understand that, in lieu of objective justification, majority agreement in the legal domain could suffice: But Harris is a smart fellow and, once I pointed out the problem with that Rortian belief, he was quick to express grave concerns about such a state of affairs. He was quite right to do so. Again, there are many irreconcilable starting points and ends, and people are by no means inclined to compromise on what is most significant to them.

Since reason does not have the powers that many people would like it to, there is for conservatives like me a special value in ethnic and cultural homogeny: that is to say, in a “people descended,” as John Jay wrote in Federalist 2 (1787), “from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs.” Now let me be crystal clear here: I do not wish to be confused with those who advocate for a “white ethnostate,” an idea I find absurd and abhorrent. For me, culture is far more important than ethnicity because it concerns how people live, and we have seen in America that many foreigners are able to assimilate to our way of life. Still, there is a deep historical connection between ethnicity and culture, and it is difficult to have cultural homogeny without a fair amount of ethnic homogeny — unless, that is, there is cultural assimilation, now, alas, widely believed to be “racist.” Nor should we believe that cultural assimilation, very valuable though it is, is some kind of magic formula: some values are just not assimilable, just as some are not compatible with each other. In such cases, it would be best for people to simply leave each other alone. And to call this belief racist or whatever is not only cheap; it is also lazy and ignores the intractable difficulty of the issue.

“In the real world,” says Pat Buchanan,

history, faith and culture shape peoples, and peoples shape countries to reflect who and what they are … To the old right, America as a nation and a people already existed by 1789. The Constitution was the birth certificate the nation wrote for itself, the charter by which it chose to govern itself. The real America had been born in men’s hearts by the time of Lexington and Concord in 1775.

And quoting Paul Gottfried, he goes on, “For traditional conservatives, before the nation is born, ‘ethnic and cultural preconditions’ must exist. All ‘successful constitutional orders…are the expressions of already formed nations and cultures.’” According to Steven Pinker, “Progress is a gift of the ideals of the Enlightenment, and will continue to the extent that we rededicate ourselves to those ideals.” Contra that rosy illusion, the acute Yarom Hazony writes:

Consider the claim that the U.S. Constitution was a product of Enlightenment thought, derived by throwing out the political traditions of the past and applying unfettered human reason. Disproving this idea requires only reading earlier writers on the English constitution. The widely circulated 15th-century treatise “In Praise of the Laws of England,” written by the jurist John Fortescue, clearly explains due process and the theory now called “checks and balances.” The English constitution, Fortescue wrote, establishes personal liberty and economic prosperity by shielding the individual and his property from the government. The protections that appear in the U.S. Bill of Rights were mostly set down in the 1600s by those drafting England’s constitutional documents — men such as John Selden, Edward Hyde and Matthew Hale.

These statesmen and philosophers articulated the principles of modern Anglo-American constitutionalism centuries before the U.S. was created. Yet they were not Enlightenment men. They were religious, English nationalists and political conservatives. They were familiar with the claim that unfettered reason should remake society, but they rejected it in favor of developing a traditional constitution that had proved itself. When Washington, Jay, Hamilton and Madison initiated a national government for the U.S., they primarily turned to this conservative tradition, adapting it to local conditions.

In the current intellectual climate, it is almost certain that anyone who thinks in this traditional conservative vein will be deemed a racist, a xenophobe, or some other horrible thing. (Similarly, as Thomas West observes, “Policies that seek to preserve the existing ethnic and cultural balance are vilified in the most hateful terms.”) Nevertheless, I would submit that anyone who does not see that the above is merely true is either uninformed or self-deceived; in the throes, perhaps, of the rationalistic fantasy. In that fantasy, people turn to reason in a quasi-religious manner: If we all live by the right abstractions, faithful to our Enlightenment heritage, progress shall be ours. And yet, the fruits of reason, as they are applied, generally reflect their local, organic origin, and thereby reason’s limits. As Hazony points out, there is not “much truth in the assertion that we owe modern science and medicine to Enlightenment thought.”

A more serious claim of origin can be made by the Renaissance, the period between the 15th and 17th centuries, particularly in Italy, Holland and England. Tradition-bound English kings, for example, sponsored pathbreaking scientific institutions such as the Royal College of Physicians, founded in 1518. One of its members, William Harvey, discovered the circulation of the blood in the early 17th century. The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, founded in 1660, was led by such men as Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton, decisive figures in physics and chemistry. Again, these were politically and religiously conservative figures. They knew the arguments, later associated with the Enlightenment, for overthrowing political, moral and religious tradition, but mostly they rejected them.

In short, the principal advances that today’s Enlightenment enthusiasts want to claim were “set in motion” much earlier. And it isn’t at all clear how helpful the Enlightenment was once it arrived.

“It was once well understood,” Hazony reminds us, “that much of the modern world’s success grew out of conservative traditions that were openly skeptical of reason.” Looking back on academia’s better days, Yazony says that

When I was a graduate student at Rutgers in the 1980s, the introductory course in modern political theory had a section called “Critics of the Enlightenment.” These figures included more conservative thinkers such as David Hume, Adam Smith and Edmund Burke. They emphasized the unreliability of “abstract reasoning,” which they believed could end up justifying virtually any idea, no matter how disconnected from reality, as long as it sounded self-evidently true to someone.

As traditions wane, though, mankind becomes desperate for a new faith, for something that can mitigate their fear and anxiety about the uncertainty of events, while helping them to believe that things are better than they are and can become better still. It is telling that nobody is less “skeptical of reason” than classical liberals. We also find that unlike profound unbelievers from the past — Hume, Leopardi, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Santayana — these rationalists are generally optimistic about human affairs. In practice, this often amounts to a weird dogmatism that is no more sophisticated than that of the believers to whom they condescend.

In contrast to classical liberalism, classical conservativism agrees with the best contemporary work in the social sciences. In The Righteous Mind (2012), Jonathan Haidt usefully sums up Robert Putnam’s important research.

Robert Putnam has provided a wealth of evidence that Burke and Smith were right … religions make Americans into “better neighbors and better citizens” … the active ingredient that made people more virtuous was enmeshing them into relationships with their co-religionists. Anything that binds people together into dense networks of trust makes people less selfish.

In an earlier study, Putnam found that ethnic diversity had the opposite effect. In a paper revealingly titled “E Pluribus Unum,” Putnam examined the level of social capital in hundreds of American communities and discovered that high levels of immigration and ethnic diversity seem to cause a reduction in social capital. That may not surprise you; people are racist, you might think, and so they don’t trust people who don’t look like themselves. But that’s not quite right. Putnam’s survey was able to distinguish two different kinds of social capital: bridging capital refers to trust between groups, between people who have different values and identities, while bonding capital refers to trust within groups. Putnam found that diversity reduced both kinds of social capital. Here’s his conclusion: “Diversity seems to trigger not in-group/ out-group division, but anomie or social isolation. In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’—that is, to pull in like a turtle.”

The secular intellectual who thinks his abstract talk about liberty and tolerance and the rest is some kind of political improvement on the traditional function of religion — necessary for American democracy, according to both Alexis de Tocqueville and the Founding Fathers — is deeply naïve, and I say so as an unbeliever. These goods — liberty and tolerance — are also epiphenomenal, depending to some extent on a base of cultural or ethnic homogeny. For we are not rational machines, programmable as computers. Moral motivation is intrinsically not a rational affair. Words, unless put to the test of experience itself, are worthless. Meanwhile classical liberalism — a diffuse and palpably weakening metaphysical inheritance — amounts to Christianity on the cheap. It wants universal progress (“salvation”) without the concrete, individual sacrifices that make Christianity what it is. It replaces the most demanding moral imperatives with banal abstractions and a thin humanism that is a long, long way from the lofty Renaissance notion thereof. There is no reason, therefore, to believe that classical liberalism can serve as a substitute for religion in the political domain. The same goes for Jordan Peterson’s maverick blend of Jungianism, quasi-Christianity and self-help, however desperate Western men may now be for direction and guidance amid the West’s abysmal descent.

Christopher DeGroot is a columnist at Taki’s Magazine and a contributing editor of New English Review. His writing has appeared in The American Spectator, The Imaginative Conservative, The Daily Caller, American Thinker, The Unz Review, Ygdrasil, A Journal of the Poetic Arts, and elsewhere. Follow him at @CEGrotius.