A sort of instantly frustrating book, beginning with the misleading statements and deceptive terminology of the (apparently) new preface. When he claimed liberals were ignoring custom, and this written post-Trump, I nearly put it down.
But the real issue is that he conflates or distinguishes classical liberalism from contemporary western liberalism (or what can frequently be called progressivism), as it suits his needs. He acknowledges this complaint… but miraculously fails to explain why it’s wrong.
His arguments are, in truth, against modern Western culture. His targets begin with modern philosophy, which is to say, around the seventeenth century, but really, he is railing against what is sometimes referred to as the Enlightenment project, but deliberately uses words or goes off on tendentious digressions (usually around culture war issues) to make it seem like centuries long project is identical with a caricature of the Democratic (and implying, as well, that the loyal opposition is nearly free of these original sins).
I was reminded of a moment during the 2020 vice presidential debate and Pence answered a question about climate change and hurricanes by saying that scientists actually say that we aren’t having more hurricanes. Which is true (scientists say that climate change is increasing the strength, not the frequency of hurricanes). And knowing that, it is obvious he knows the truth about climate change and just chooses to ignore it for crass political reasons.
Oh. And apparently acceptance of transgendered people is the direct cause of both child trafficking and the use pregnancy surrogates. I wonder if this is what QAnon is like?
I could write more, but after reading some unfortunate remarks about the Civil War (which included some subtle support for the unreconstructed), I became convinced that is an attempt to creat an intellectual framework for the overwhelmingly white and mostly male rage that has fueled bigotry and violence in our country. He sometimes seems to praise a semi-rural, (practically speaking) white golden age and I almost thought he would advocate for a sort of Benedictine option, but running beneath it all is an angry undercurrent of support for tearing it all down which only feels more dangerous today than it must have felt when it was first published. And while he makes symbolic jabs at Republicans (Rubio gets name checked, which is fair, seeing as how he has never had a real job in his entire life but has always suckled at spigot fed him a mixture of tax dollars and lobbyist largesse; but the real target is always a caricature of white liberalism and dependents on the government, by which he doesn’t mean snotty little brats like Rubio, but the more usual targets of Republican ire).
I am trying to read conservative thought because I want to go beyond my own accepted beliefs, but I want to read intelligent discourse, too, and this book is a hot mess of learning gleaned from watching YouTube lectures on ‘Great Books’ (note: being able to reference the allegory of the cave from The Republic doesn’t make you sound smart; go a little deeper into the catalog if you want me to think you’re well-read) and dime store sociology, overlaid onto what I have said I believe is toxic resentment.
In short, it’s trash.