But there was even more to it than that. The collapse of the Roman Empire decoupled the idea of society from the principle of its 'ownership' by the state. It became evident that society as such was able to operate on its own during the Dark Ages betwee nempires. This was at a huge variance with the idea that state and society were one and the same, the latter being 'owned' by the former. As Quigley put it:
This experience had revolutionary effects. It was discovered that man can live without a state; this became the basis of Western liberalism. It was discovered that the state, if it exists, must serve men and that it is incorrect to believe that the purpose of men is to serve the state. It was discovered that economic life, religious life, law, and private property can all exist and function effectively without a state. From this emerged laissez-faire, separation of Church and State, rule of law, and the sanctity of private property. In Rome, in Byzantium, and in Russia, law was regarded as an enactment of a supreme power. In the West, when no supreme power existed, it was discovered that law still existed as the body of rules which govern social life. Thus law was found by observation in the West, not enacted by autocracy as in the East. This meant that authority was established by law and under the law in the West, while authority was established by power and above the law in the East. The West felt that the rules of economic life were found and not enacted; that individuals had rights independent of, and even opposed to, public authority; that groups could exist, as the Church existed, by right and not by privilege, and without the need to have any charter of incorporation entitling them to exist as a group or act as a group; that groups or individuals could own property as a right and not as a privilege and that such property could not be taken by force but must be taken by established process of law. It was emphasized in the West that the way a thing was done was more important than what was done, while in the East what was done was far more significant than the way in which it was done.
This outlook represents a hughe and unbridgeable gap between the niominally Christian West and, well, virtually everyone else. The upshot is that the relatively shot time (in the historical sense) that we here in the West have experiences freedom stands in sharp and irreconcilable ccontrast with the way in which the world has worked for everyone else on the planet. Combine the Pakistani-Preuvian Axis with the Scandanavian-Slavic Axis, and you've not got much left. Except for the brief and shining example of America. And the hour is growing late for us.
We who believe in individual freedom and all of the other principles of our brief Western civilization are at non-negotiable, irreconcilable odds with most of the rest of the world. In short, we're playing for everything there is. The triumph of our enemies - the triumph of the will-to-power - will usher in an age of slaughter, cruelty, barbarity and slavery from which the human race may never recover.
Looking at Germany today, or Scandinavia or Peru for that matter, does a lot to deflate these “big picture” theories.
Two of the signal characteristics of progressive politics and its adherents are a conviction of moral superiority and an attempt to avoid confrontation with avowed enemies by acknowledging their every complaint as justified and transferring the blame to their own domestic political opponents. This is an attempt to transcend conflict in pursuit of some utopian fantasy-land, hence the conviction of moral superiority.
In today's world this is appallingly dangerous. We had years in the early days of this country before a threat became so extant it had to be answered; as recently as the mid-20th century this had shrunken to months, the months between Pearl Harbor and the growth of a tremendous military effort to answer it. It has shrunken once again. Technological advances in travel, communications, and weapons effectiveness have empowered very small numbers of enemies to have an effect entirely disproportionate to their numbers. The world has not grown more peaceful during the Golden Age of Western civilization, it has grown more dangerous.
But the means of reply have grown equally. What has not grown is the moral character necessary for a strong society to defend itself against existential threats, settle non-existential threats by means short of violence, and especially the experience and wisdom to know the difference. Always there is the tendency of the progressive interested in the appearance of wisdom to deal with the process from moral heights that are a wild luxury in the real world. That luxury tends to get expensive over time, and when it can no longer be paid for, either the society must reject these affectations as the foolishness they are, or it must follow them and pay the price.
The latter has, since 2008, been the United States' polity's chosen course of action. The celebrity politicians in charge are adept not at taking responsibility, but avoiding it; adept not at taking the blame for ineffective or counterproductive policies and correcting them, but in blaming the other fellow and doubling down on them. It is truly a recipe for disaster.
I shall argue in another place my conviction that liberal politics, despite a hurricane of denial, do not actually aim at any egalitarian democracy, but at a return to outright feudalism, in which the ruling classes declare an international brotherhood and the ruled do the dying in pursuit of their masters' vanities. These are the upshots of Marx's doctrines expressed in Marx's own terms. Naturally, as a true progressive, he would deny them and blame somebody else, but it's the truth regardless.
Have a very happy New Year, Ward. We'll pick it up again later.
I don't think there are many that will argue against the uniqueness of modern Western Civilization as a whole, and in particular the "American Experiment" as it is often named. This uniqueness has two main dimensions (that are virtually all encompassing): 1. When compared to world "civilization" from the beginnings of recorded history, and 2. When compared to the rest of civilization of modern times up to the present. Perhaps I need to clarify the "are many" with "I don't think there are many (that are even moderately informed with mankind's history & don't have a particular agenda to grind) that will argue...."
I think that we both agree with many of the points of this uniqueness that Harris has described in his work. And it is my belief that this uniqueness (with all of its beauty and inherent righteousness) is what we see being constantly assailed by our enemies using the prongs of "multiculturalism" and "moral relevance." This uniqueness is at the root of the attacks, even if they are muffled behind other rhetoric.
While there are many aspects of this uniqueness spread across many dimensions, I believe that it is the combination of Judeo-Christian "outlook" (to use Quigley's term) and the identification of/with, and reverence for, Natural Law & Rights (both of which notably exclude any promotion or validation of the "will to power") that provide the root of our American uniqueness.
So "yes." I agree wholeheartedly that the creeping onslaught (as slow or impotent that it may seem at times) from a combination of these axes (Scandanavian-Slavic and Pakistani-Peruvian), as broad or as narrow as one may be wont to describe them at various points in time, is indeed our ever present enemy. And that this enemy is indeed moving at a greater pace in recent decades. Of note is also the fact that the enemy has made great inroads into our camp and has been extremely successful at bringing to bear a low-grade battle from inside the gates (and one of the greatest aspects of their "success" is the fact that the majority of the populace refuse to even identify its existence!).
And "yes," again, it is indeed for "all the marbles."