William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Take Burnham’s Test To See If You’re A Liberal: Suicide of the West at 50

Equality for all!

Equality for all!

It’s (past) time we examined James Burnham’s under-appreciated classic Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism, a book written fifty years ago (in 1964). Everybody (yes, including you) should buy this book and follow along.

Since the test of a good theory is how accurately it makes predictions, we’ll review the many predictions Burnham made half a century ago and see how well his theory stands up.

What is that theory? That liberalism was and is going to cause the death, via suicide, of classic Western civilization. So what’s a liberal? Burnham spent a lot of time on that important question. Chances are you, dear reader, are a liberal, either in its progressive manifestation or its conservative variant. Reactionaries are few in number.

To find out who’s who, Burnham created a test of “thirty-nine sentences“, which do not quite mirror the 39 articles, to which you may assent or disclaim. Let’s try (pp 31-35 in the edition linked above) and then we’ll have a go at modernizing the list. This only serves as a quick filter. Burnham had much more to say on this subject.

1. All forms of racial segregation and discrimination are wrong.
2. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.
3. Everyone has a right to free, public education.
4. Political, economic or social discrimination based on religious belief is wrong.
5. In political or military conflict it is wrong to use methods of torture and physical terror.
6. A popular movement or revolt against a tyranny or dictatorship is right, and deserves approval.
7. The government has a duty to provide for the ill, aged, unemployed and poor if they cannot take care of themselves.
8. Progressive income and inheritance taxes are the fairest form of taxation.
9. If reasonable compensation is made, the government of a nation has the legal and moral right to expropriate private property within its borders, whether owned by citizens or foreigners.
10. We have a duty to mankind; that is, to men in general. 11. The United Nations, even if limited in accomplishment, is a step in the right direction.
12. Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or juvenile corruption, is wrong.
13. Wealthy nations, like the United States, have a duty to aid the less privileged portions of mankind.
14. Colonialism and imperialism are wrong.
15. Hotels, motels, stores and restaurants in southern United States ought to be obliged by law to allow Negroes to use all of their facilities on the same basis as whites.
16. The chief sources of delinquency and crime are ignorance, discrimination, poverty and exploitation.
17. Communists have a right to express their opinions.
18. We should always be ready to negotiate with the Soviet Union and other communist nations.
19. Corporal punishment, except possibly for small children, is wrong.
20. All nations and peoples, including the nations and peoples of Asia and Africa, have a right to political independence when a majority of the population wants it.
21. We always ought to respect the religious beliefs of others.
22. The primary goal of international policy in the nuclear age ought to be peace.
23. Except in cases of a clear threat to national security or, possibly, to juvenile morals, censorship is wrong.
24. Congressional investigating committees are dangerous institutions, and need to be watched and curbed if they are not to become a serious threat to freedom.
25. The money amount of school and university scholarships ought to be decided primarily by need.
26. Qualified teachers, at least at the university level, are entitled to academic freedom: that is, the right to express their own beliefs and opinions, in or out of the classroom, without interference from administrators, trustees, parents or public bodies.
27. In determining who is to be admitted to schools and universities, quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors are wrong.
28. The national government should guarantee that all adult citizens, except for criminals and the insane, should have the right to vote.
29. Joseph McCarthy was probably the most dangerous man in American public life during the fifteen years following the Second World War.
30. There are no significant differences in intellectual, moral or civilizing capacity among human races and ethnic types.
31. Steps toward world disarmament would be a good thing.
32. Everyone is entitled to political and social rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
33. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and expression.
34. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
35. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.
36. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security.
37. Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work.
38. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions.
39. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Before commenting on the slightly dated nature of some of these questions, here are Burnham’s rules on scoring.

A full-blown liberal will mark every one, or very nearly every one, of these thirty-nine sentences, Agree. A convinced conservative will mark many or most of them, a reactionary all or nearly all of them, Disagree…I have confirmed experimentally…that the result is seldom an even balance between Agree and Disagree…self-defined liberals almost never drop below 85 percent of Agree answers, or self-defined reactionaries below 85 percent of Disagree; a perfect 100 percent is common. Certain types of self-styled conservatives yield almost as high a Disagree percentage as the admitted reactionaries…

These sentences were not devised arbitrarily. Many of them are taken directly or adapted from the writings of well-known liberals, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, or liberal questionnaires that have been put out in recent years by the American Civil Liberties Union. The last eight are quoted verbatim from the United Nations’ ‘Universal Declarations of Human Rights,’ adopted in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Yours Truly scored well into the reactionary camp, but I read the test with a historical eye. It’s clear that liberals, most on the progressive side of the scale, no longer care about some of these articles or no long interpret them in the same way. It’s the changes that are fascinating. Every mutation has been for the worse, as we’ll see.

Consider “2. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.” Liberals today assent to this readily enough, unless they suspect the opinion they’re about to hear is “hurtful”, “bigoted”, “hateful”, “x-phobic” (x is a variable) or something similar. People who will speak politically incorrect views are not entitled freedom, many liberals say, especially campus liberals.

While the reactionary might join the progressive in forbidding certain (but obviously not the same) speech—for instance, the reactionary might happily ban pornography while the liberal insists it be shown to grade schoolers—it is only the liberal who would punish thoughtcrime. Where the liberal will demand assent the reactionary will happily let people keep their mouths shut. Right St Thomas More?

Perhaps like the fortune cookie joke, we should add “as long as it is not hurtful, hateful, bigoted, sexist, or x-phobic” to the end of all items dealing with thought.

Likewise, the liberal will probably still assent to “12. Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or juvenile corruption, is wrong”. But who is it in practice who storms podiums or throws tantrums in order not to hear “disturbing” opinions? Fortune cookie it.

Item 15 is dated, but it can be modernized easily enough: “Stores ought to be obliged by law to participate in ceremonies of those professing same-sex attraction.” Quibble with the wording, but I can’t think of any liberal dissenting, while every reactionary would.

Number 18 has passed us by. Perhaps: “We should always be ready to negotiate with the socialist and other communist nations.”

The liberal will agree with 20, except in his own backyard. Ask one if it is okay for, say, Texas to secede. Theoretically, or to be consistent, he should agree. But he won’t. The liberal desires control above all.

Item 21 is dead. No liberal now thinks of allowing the freedom of religious practice. Modern version: “We should respect the right to religious worship but perhaps restrain or proscribe certain traditional religious practices if they interfere with the public.” Liberals Yes, reactionaries No, because both sides know what’s behind these words.

Like the other items mentioning speech, item 23 is now suspect. Liberals are firmly against censorship—of their ideas. But they like it fine for the opposition. Fortune cookie.

Most liberals will like 26 still, but that’s because the academy has been purged of all reactionaries and nearly all conservatives. Item 27 is out: quotas are in. This question is now the exact opposite. Perhaps: “…quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors which will enhance diversity are to be encouraged.”

The boogyman of the hour has changed in 29, but the idea is the same. Even George Bush is fading from memory, replaced maybe by Donald Trump or Scott Walker or Emmanuel Goldstein.

Item 32 is another polar opposite. Modern version: “Everyone is entitled to political and social rights and race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status shall be used to determine the extent of these rights.”

Numbers 33 and 34: fortune cookie.

Have we left anything out? Or can we live without Once we discuss these, I’ll put up the modernized list.

Read Part II: The Perfectibility of Man.

52 Comments

  1. Agree = 16; disagree = 12; unknown = 11. On your suggested update probably about the same. I live in the South. Lots of confederate flags about, but I am a determined Yankee. Here in Appomattox we wear buttons with Confederate flags on them (commemorating the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia (Stars and Stripes included on buttons)). Lately lots of confederate flags on front porches. (Proper flags with 13 stars for the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag). We seem to have racial harmony.

  2. Based on instant gut reaction here’s my score: Agree–11; Disagree–28
    If in a more charitable frame of mind I might have agreed with five more.
    My guess is Pope Francis would agree 100%.

  3. Disagree – 35; agree – 4. Yankee born but assimilated Texan. Have no idea what the expression “fortune cookie” means. Even Googled it. Clearly my reactionary bent is interfering with comprehending new lexicon.

  4. Not certain if it’s off-topic or not – I’m reading Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman”. I’m reading it for my wife to make certain it won’t ruin “To Kill a Mockingbird” for her.

    Atticus and Scout’s paramour have secrets that my wife may not want to be privy to.

  5. It really matters if you read the questions as “could liberals use this against people” or “is this a proper rule”. The right to freedom of expression, opinion, speech, religion, etc are to me correct. The fact that they can be exploited in no way changes the answer to the question. If reactionaries answer all “no”, they are saying we do not have the right to free expression, speech or religion. I’m not sure I understand how that works—shutting down thoughts, speech, opinions, etc are claimed to be bad by the reactionaries. (See #2, #12, #17, #21, #23 for example. To answer “no” is to agree with liberals that silencing the opposition is right, isn’t?)

  6. Burnham points out that liberalism redefines Western decline (obvious to him by then) and calls it “progress” or “victory”. It’s an ideology suitable for disappointed optimists. We can see the disappointment has changed to outright rage today, as liberals continue unchecked from “victory” to “victory”.

  7. Oh dear, I’d hate to see which ones you disagreed with!

    JMJ

  8. I make it 3 agrees out of 39.

    1. All forms of racial segregation and discrimination are wrong.

    Presumably ‘All’ includes e.g. casting in plays and movies. In that case disagree. Although, in general, I oppose segregation etc.

    2. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.

    I am somewhat dubious about the concept of ‘entitlement’ so disagree. I would rather phrase it in the opposite way: nobody ought to have the authority to impose a foreign opinion on others. Thinking about it, I’m not even sure about that. I am opposed to murder, and would quite happily try to make murders conform to my opposition. So disagree. (Although again, I have great sympathy for the basic idea, just not the way it is expressed, and there may be exceptions).

    3. Everyone has a right to free, public education.

    Again, don’t believe in natural rights, so have to disagree. Rights imply a certain entitlement that we are born with, and I can’t see that we have that. Plus they encourage pride and selfishness. I would much rather discuss responsibilities than rights, or rephrase in terms of a lack of rights. `In general, we lack the right to prevent others from speaking freely,’ which I believe to be more philosophically sound than `We possess the inborn right to free speech.’ I do, however, believe that one of the few responsibilities of government is to ensure that everyone, no matter how much in poverty they are, has the opportunity to be educated. How this is arranged is another matter; I do not see that it has to be free and public for everyone.

    4. Political, economic or social discrimination based on religious belief is wrong.

    Depends on the religious belief. If the religion believes that it has the God-given right to kill or enslave everyone not part of that religion, then we are right to discriminate against that religion. Indeed, we have to if we want to maintain a good social order. So disagree.

    5. In political or military conflict it is wrong to use methods of torture and physical terror.

    This one I agree with. Maybe there are occasions when it is the lesser evil (I would need to be persuaded of this). But it is always an evil.

    6. A popular movement or revolt against a tyranny or dictatorship is right, and deserves approval.

    On very rare occasions. Most revolutions have led to forms of government worse than that which they replaced (the US revolution being the only possible counter example I can think of), so I have to answer `It depends’, which is a disagree.

    7. The government has a duty to provide for the ill, aged, unemployed and poor if they cannot take care of themselves.

    I might agree if this said `duty to ensure provision is made for the ill, …’ Not sure that government providing it itself is the best way to do this. So disagree.

    8. Progressive income and inheritance taxes are the fairest form of taxation.

    Income, yes. Inheritance, no — I view that as unfair, taxing twice. So disagree.

    9. If reasonable compensation is made, the government of a nation has the legal and moral right to expropriate private property within its borders, whether owned by citizens or foreigners.

    No, No, and firmly no.

    10. We have a duty to mankind; that is, to men in general. 11. The United Nations, even if limited in accomplishment, is a step in the right direction.

    In my experience focusing on `men in general’ is a good way to screw individual people. So disagree.

    12. Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or juvenile corruption, is wrong.

    Depends on the circumstances. In most circumstances, I agree that it is wrong. But there are exceptions. A teacher has the authority (on the basis of their relationship to the students) to force the students to focus on the lesson, thus violating their free speech in the classroom. I can think of other counter examples. So disagree.

    13. Wealthy nations, like the United States, have a duty to aid the less privileged portions of mankind.

    Depends on what is meant by `duty’ and `aid’. Moral duty, yes. I would be reluctant to make it a legal duty. Aid, as in the giving of money, is generally unhelpful — just goes to support corrupt governments, and does nothing to help the population become self sufficient (which should be our aim). Aid as in intellectual, infrastructure and technological support delivered to the citizency (i.e. aid that would actually make such societies more productive) I would support. Probably disagree, but depends on what exactly is meant.

    14. Colonialism and imperialism are wrong.

    The European Empires had some good points and some bad points. I can’t agree to this in every case or aspect, although it was true in many or most cases. So disagree.

    15. Hotels, motels, stores and restaurants in southern United States ought to be obliged by law to allow Negroes to use all of their facilities on the same basis as whites.

    Morally, I think they should. But I can’t support `oblidged by law’. The state should ensure that everyone has access to the required good and services, but in general a private business can refuse service to anyone for any reason. Private transactions are simply no concern of government (possibly baring sales tax). So disagree.

    16. The chief sources of delinquency and crime are ignorance, discrimination, poverty and exploitation.

    Strongly disagree. Far more important is a vicious character.

    17. Communists have a right to express their opinions.

    Don’t believe in rights. So disagree,

    18. We should always be ready to negotiate with the Soviet Union and other communist nations.

    `Always’ seems a bit too strong to me. When North Korea invaded the South, negotiation wasn’t the appropriate response.

    19. Corporal punishment, except possibly for small children, is wrong.

    Again, I dislike the absolute here. Almost all the time I would say `yes’. But there might be exceptions, if used as a last resort in discipline. Proverbs 23:13, 29:15 etc. come to mind.

    20. All nations and peoples, including the nations and peoples of Asia and Africa, have a right to political independence when a majority of the population wants it.

    How do you define a `nation’ or `people’. Right down to a family? But again, disagree with the concept of `right’, so have to disagree with this one; even though I have some sympathy for it (believing that things should be decided on as local a level as possible; but that’s not the same thing as `political independence’).

    21. We always ought to respect the religious beliefs of others.

    `Always’ is too strong, so disagree. See 4.

    22. The primary goal of international policy in the nuclear age ought to be peace.

    `Primary’. Much as I favour peace, `primary’ is too strong for me. I would say the primary aim should be to encourage goodness. Promoting peace is, baring very rare exceptions, part of that, but not all of that. So disagree.

    23. Except in cases of a clear threat to national security or, possibly, to juvenile morals, censorship is wrong.

    Agree with this. Unfortunately, censorship puts too much power in the hands of censors.

    24. Congressional investigating committees are dangerous institutions, and need to be watched and curbed if they are not to become a serious threat to freedom.

    Most of the time I agree; and always agree that there should be independent checks and balances and accountability. But there might be counter-examples where such things are the lesser evil. So disagree.

    25. The money amount of school and university scholarships ought to be decided primarily by need.

    Again, I am uneasy by `primarily,’ and I’m not clear what is meant by `need.’ There are other considerations as well, so disagree.

    26. Qualified teachers, at least at the university level, are entitled to academic freedom: that is, the right to express their own beliefs and opinions, in or out of the classroom, without interference from administrators, trustees, parents or public bodies.

    Again, don’t belive in rights, so disagree. But aside from that, this makes me nervous. I strongly believe that teachers in the classroom should be able to express their own view, but only because I believe that they should present every (reasonable) view as strongly as they are able. I don’t think they ought to give priority to their own view.

    27. In determining who is to be admitted to schools and universities, quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors are wrong.

    Agree.

    28. The national government should guarantee that all adult citizens, except for criminals and the insane, should have the right to vote.

    Again, dislike the word `right’. Also don’t think that it should be the national government guaranteeing this, because if the goverment has the authority to make such a guarantee, it also has the authority to withdraw it. Elections etc. should be overseen by some politically neutral agency independent of government. So disagree, but only because of the precise wording of this.

    29. Joseph McCarthy was probably the most dangerous man in American public life during the fifteen years following the Second World War.

    Disagree. Kinsey is an obvious counter-example; no doubt there were also many others.

    30. There are no significant differences in intellectual, moral or civilizing capacity among human races and ethnic types.

    I consider this unproven, so I would have to disagree. There are too many cultural factors getting in the way of making an unbiased study highlighting specifically these issues. But the main problem with this is the over-generalisation. Even if Africans are on average less intellectual (and I am most definitely not saying this is the case), that does not mean that a particular individual African might not be a genius. Best not to make these racial generalisations, and judge each individual on their own merits.

    31. Steps toward world disarmament would be a good thing.

    Disagree. I don’t want to live in a world where only the likes of North Korea and Iran have weapons (nuclear or otherwise), which will be the case if the less bad states (such as the USA or Europe) head towards disarmament.

    32. Everyone is entitled to political and social rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

    Don’t like the concept of `rights’, do disagree.

    33. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and expression.

    See above.

    34. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

    See above.

    35. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.

    No, because this just leads to a regression. Where does the will of the people get its authority from? In any case, mobs are often stupid.

    36. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security.

    Rights again. Disagree, see above.

    37. Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work.

    Rights again. Disagree, see above.

    38. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions.

    Rights again. Disagree, see above. And I really hate the over centralisation of trade unions, which cause far more problems than they solve. So even if I weren’t opposed to the concept of `human rights’, I would not be able to support this one.

    39. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

    Rights again. Disagree, see above.

  9. Briggs

    July 16, 2015 at 11:14 am

    JMJ,

    Just for the sake of accuracy, although I think we can infer it from your response, are they any of the 39 articles with which you disagree?

  10. Your post today reminded me of this old definition of a liberal:

    “A person willing to give me the shirt off your back.”

  11. I disagreed with about all of them. Exceptions:

    #2: Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, no matter how stupid it is.
    #5: As official policy, torture and terror corrupt the doers. It’ll happen in war, though, and prosecution should be unenthusiastic
    #9: Not sure
    #27: Wouldn’t say it’s wrong, but in a high-trust society, ok that works.

  12. On a personal basis I found myself agreeing with the spirit (as I understood it) of all of these, but disagreeing with them as written.

    Number 29, for example, reads “Joseph McCarthy was probably the most dangerous man in American public life during the fifteen years following the Second World War.” This is historical nonsense and subsumes at least a half dozen completely fabricated progressive memes, but understand it in the context of the liberal/progressive view of “Senator” McCarthy (amazing how often you see that and how rarely it gets corrected) and you almost have to agree with the sentiment.

  13. Peter: I also agreed with #2 and #27, among others. It seems to me that these are correct, but people are disagreeing because the statements can be usurped by the liberals. That’s my question here–are people rejecting the statements because of what could happen, not whether the statements are actually something they believe?

  14. Several commenters point out what made deciding an answer difficult for me – what exactly is the definition of some of the terms. For example: discrimination – the plain meaning or the values-laden PC meaning? Likewise for “entitled”, “duty”, “fair”, “right”, “significant difference”, etc. Not to get all Bill Clinton about it, but definitions are crucial. Depending on shading, I might answer either way for some statements. But I tend to think about things like this so that definitely moves me away from the liberal side.

  15. These “tests” have just about zero probative value because, as you pointed out Briggs, we know or suspect the thinking behind the words. I can agree immediately with about six, disagree immediately with six or so, and the remainder become more difficult to classify the more i think about them.

  16. Loaded question … every single one of them. Please note that definitions of liberal and conservative have changed over time, with more than a little swapping of ideas.

  17. I guess I’m the closet liberal here–who wooda thunk it!
    AGREE: 1-4, 6,10,12,15,17,19-21,23,26-28, 32-34, 39 (total: 20)
    DISAGREE:8,9,11,13,14,16,18,24,25,29,30,35,36,39 (total:15)
    ? OR REQUIRES CONTEXT: 5,22,31,38 (4)

    I’m taking the statements as they’re stated and not using a meaning perverted by current usage.

  18. Bob: That is kind of what I suspected (not that you’re a liberal but that reading the questions as written might change the outcome!). I came out with 28 no and 11 yes, which puts me under the 85% level quite a ways, though, as with you, I doubt anyone here would call either of us anywhere close to liberal in our beliefs. I’m certain at least 3 readers would vehemently disagree with the characterization.

  19. Cui Pertinebit

    July 16, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    My tally:
    Agree – 2; Agree w/Qualification – 2; Disagree – 30; Disagree w/Especially Righteous Indignation – 5.

    This is the key difference between a partisan of the Revolution, and a Reactionary: the partisans of the Revolution believe in rights irrespective of what is Right (i.e., you have “rights” to do things that may in many cases be morally wrong or irrational), whereas a Reactionary holds to the true tradition of Christian and Classically virtuous mankind (and the only reasonable view), which believes that “error has no rights” (Pope Pius XII), because a right is a claim based on justice, and there is no just claim for a blanket permission to engage in behaviours irrespective of their reasonability and moral rectitude.

    As Pius XII also added, it will in many cases still be right to tolerate things that fall short of perfect justice, because this is often more at the service of the greater good than an attempt to ferret out all imperfection in society would be. This is not only common sense, but is the teaching of all the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. But once you enshrine the idea that people have a right or entitlement to engage in behaviours that should at most be tolerated in some instances, you have exposed every good and decent thing to the corrosive influence of Modernist, Liberal thought. Nobody is entitled to think or say, let alone do, whatever they please; they only have a *right* to think, do and say what is Right. We can tolerate a bit of failure on this point, obviously; we can even say that on many issues, we Anglo-Saxons have a strong tradition of preferring that everyone has his say (I won’t say “her say”). But if it is true that nobody has the right to express wrong ideas even when the error is mild and committed in good faith, strictly speaking, it is all the more true when faggots start expressing their “opinions” about the beauty of rectal abuse in public, or socialists start expressing their “opinions” that you should be robbed and disinherited by the state. They certainly have no right to speak so; indeed, it is we who would have the right, on our side, to compel their silence with violence… though we may do better to choose to tolerate them (increasingly big emphasis on “may”).

    Thus, I agreed with the proposition that torture is wrong (though I have to admit that I think of “torture” as a more deliberate and calculated affair; beating the crap out of a detainee because you need the code to disarm the nuke that’s about to go off is not “torture,” it’s the only morally decent thing to do). I also agreed that, at present, Congressional Investigative Committees are likely to be dangerous, and require oversight.

    I expressed qualified agreement with the notion (#6) that folk may revolt against tyranny – provided that the tyranny is actually immoral, and provided that one abides by the guidelines of the Church (esp. as articulated by St. Thomas), which discourage pointless bloodshed if there is little chance that armed conflict will succeed in its aims of abolishing the tyranny. I also feel a qualified agreement with #13 (that wealthy nations have a duty to the less fortunate), provided we understand that “the nation” is the people (not the government), and that the duty is one of charity, not one of strict, legal obligation.

    I disagreed with the rest. My “hell no” answers were to notions #15 (compulsory desegregation) #28 (the state must ensure universal suffrage) #29 (allowing teachers to overrule even parents in the name of “academic freedom”) #35 (the will of the people shall be the source of the state’s authority) and #39 (people are owed a living). It seems to me that the common factor in my especially righteous indignation at these notions, is due to the fact that, in addition to having no rational basis (as with most of the other notions), they also go on to call for proactive violence against the reasonable view. I.e., it is already irrational to assert a “right” to free speech and “academic freedom” irrespective of objective morality; but it goes a step further to actually use these erroneous concepts as a weapon against parental rights, which actually do exist and are morally sound. I used to think I was opposed to segregation, though the more time I spent around blacks, the more I realized that business owners absolutely have an interest in keeping them the hell away from their property. But, regardless of what one thinks of the desirability of segregation, property rights and the right to free association are rationally and morally sound rights, so proactively overturning them in the name of a moral ideal is unjust. Justice isn’t about utopian ideals; it is about what is actually right in practice, in our present, less than utopian circumstances. Or, as to #35, it should be obvious that all authority is from above, and that all authority must accord with right reason and the natural end of man; so, to place the genesis of authority in those who are subject to authority, is itself the essence of stupidity and self-contradiction. Y’all get the idea…

  20. I’m kinda afraid to honestly evaluate myself – I’m probably somewhere between Bob and JMJ (4 out of 5 works for marketing and polling – but I’m guessing 66%).

    If it turns out that Atticus is a klansman, it won’t spoil Mockingbird for me.

  21. There are no questions about same-sex gmarriage or transgenderism on Burnham’s list. In the 1950’s when he made it no one — probably not even those who answered “yes” to all — imagined that the same principles that compelled their agreement to the list items would logically lead one day to same-sex gmarriage and transgenderism. And yet that’s where those principles logically lead and so here we are, where nobody even thought to go. Who knows what further “progress” will develop as the evil seed blooms? Only the shadow knows. But we can make entirely logical leaps to polygamy, cannibalism, and the prohibition of Christianity.

  22. Cui Pertinebit

    July 16, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    A quote from Pope Leo XIII, distilling the essence of the Revolution vs. Reaction:

    “The all-provident God Himself, although He is infinitely good and can do all things, yet allows many evils in the world, in part lest greater goods should be obstructed, in part lest greater evils should arise. In ruling societies, it is right to imitate the Ruler of the world: and since the authority of men cannot prevent every evil, it must ‘admit and leave unpunished many things which yet will rightly be avenged by divine providence.’ Nevertheless, in such circumstances, if by reason of the common good, and for this reason alone, the law of men can or must patiently tolerate evil, nevertheless it neither can nor must approve it or will it per se: for evil, since it is a privation of good, is opposed per se to the common good, which the law-giver must desire and watch over as best he may.” – Libertas Humana

    The Revolutionary wishes to make of a toleration an approbation – a “right.” The Reactionary will, in the name of the Right, tolerate what cannot be per se approved… but, only to a point, and certainly not to the point of according “rights” to what can only be offered temporal forbearance.

  23. Semiotic Animal

    July 16, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    The sentences are difficult to agree or disagree with because they lack distinction. Many in a qualified sense could go either way. One could write a series of Scholastic Disputations refining in what sense they are to be agreed and disagreed to. Such words as “rights”, “duty”, “discrimination” and such, given modern (non)understanding, are poorly defined at best and make such statements impossible even to respond to. What exactly am I agreeing or disagreeing to? Everyone has the right to X (even over and against the common good and reality)?

  24. I wonder, reading all these extrapolations from the good to the insane, whether we are now coming on end-times. Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson has written a fine book about this–science-fiction without being acknowledged as science-fiction–“The Lord of the World”, the apocalypse to come. Guess who the anti-Christ figure resembles.
    See
    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/14021
    and
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_of_the_World

  25. Semiotic Animal — Don’t overthink it. These are general propositions to help distinguish liberal from non-liberal.

  26. Cui Pertinebit — well said, sir.

  27. swordfishtrombone

    July 16, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    I counted fifteen “agrees” but many of the questions are questionable. I’m particularly confused by this:

    “27. In determining who is to be admitted to schools and universities, quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors are wrong.”

    Surely the liberal answer to this is “false”?

  28. La Longue Carabine

    July 16, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Disagree, except for two and two halves.

    EX: 10 was half because it needs to define the extent and nature of duty. Without limits it’s a no.

  29. As Eugene Rose pointed out liberalism inevitably leads to nihilism. You can see that today. Nihilism was defined by Nietzsche . “That there is no truth; that there is no absolute state of affairs-no ‘thing-in-itself.’ This alone is Nihilism, and of the most extreme kind .”

  30. So, Mr Briggs, you have indeed gone full reactionary? Welcome to the Dark Side.

  31. The thing about Nietzsche is that his thinking is so attractive when one is fifteen, and hasn’t experienced much of the world, and he is hard to leave behind when one is older and knows better.

  32. The new version is much shorter:

    Here is a short list of the required elements of the PC-Prog (Democrat) belief system:

    1. Normal-America is irredeemably racist. Blacks and other minorities live a life of constant harassment and hopeless repression by Normal-Americans.
    2. Normal-America is virulently sexist. Women live lives of desperate hopelessness. They are forced by the patriarchy to accept social and professional roles that demean and diminish them. Normal-Americans aggressively try to restrict women’s rights to kill fetuses.
    3. Normal-America is homophobic. Christian haters thump Bibles in their quest to locate, persecute, prosecute and lynch fun-loving homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals, and bi-sexuals.
    4. Normal-America is stunningly xenophobic. Normal-Americans loathe foreigners. Normal-American society rejects all foreigners and views them as vile, dirty, stinking beasts with unintelligible accents.
    5. Normal-America is graspingly imperialist. Normal-Americans seek to conquer, destroy and subjugate peace-loving native cultures in Africa, the Middle East, South America and Asia. America is built on a legacy of imperialist destruction of Native American and Hispanic cultures.
    6. Normal-America is greedily capitalist. The American economy destroys poor people with angry demands that they must work. The economy is systematically manipulated by the 1% in order to subjugate the 99%. Capitalism rewards only the lucky few, while the masses suffer. The American economy is boiling Gaia’s atmosphere–causing horrible things to happen.

    These tenets are the core of the PC-Prog politics. The beliefs are nearly religious. To be a member, one must never contradict these tenets (in public, or in privately recorded conversations.)

    The corollary to the tenets of PC-Progressivism is the “Action Requirement.” It is simple: Normal-America must be changed.

    This is it. That is the entire belief system, and the action plan of our political opponents.

    http://intelctweekly.blogspot.com/2014/07/politically-correct-progressive-belief.html

  33. I think that Cui Pertinebit brings up some good points vis à vis the difference between a reactionary’s “disagree” answers and a revolutionary’s. They might as well not even be thinking in the same mental language.

  34. Bob: End of Days questions are extremely risky. Are we more evil than many other periods in the past? I’m not great with history, but I think there were periods of far more evil behaviour than now. The Romans just killed their leaders to replace them. They threw Christians to the lions. Rulers slept with anyone’s wives during dinner parties. Siblings married.
    The anti-Christ is described as very popular and unites the world. Currently, I can’t see a likely candidate. (I can’t see a resemblance to anyone, to be honest.)

    Ray: Agreed. The logical outcome, and the only possible outcome, of liberalism is nihilism. We are well on our way. How many times have you heard “Don’t judge”. Translation: Everything is both moral and immoral and you cannot label either.

    Katie: Well said. (Did anyone find it odd when they turned Nietzsche’s “whatever doesn’t kill you” into a victory song?)

    Kent: I like your new version.

  35. Sheri,

    The 6 tenets cover the core beliefs of our opponents.

    To be one of them, you must subscribe to that system of beliefs. If you disagree with any, or if you make it known that you do, you will be immediately excommunicated from the cult.

    It’s high time that “conservatives” solidify a similar set of beliefs. It provides a clear rallying point for us.

    It’s a very powerful approach to politics.

  36. Here in Virginia we do. The Virginian Republican Creed

    We believe

    That the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice.

    That all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and opportunities, and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a free society.

    That fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints must be exercised at all levels of government.

    That the federal government must preserve individual liberty by observing constitutional limitations.

    That peace is best preserved through a strong national defense.

    That faith in God, as recognized by our founding fathers, is essential to the moral fiber of the nation.

  37. I agree with all of it, Briggs, but that’s with the assumption that we’re talking about the same things. I see from your observations as well as those from he commenters, that the wording of this list lends to various conservative interpretations. At least it’s good to see not much of it is taken head on.

    JMJ

  38. Since the test of a good theory is how accurately it makes predictions, we’ll review the many predictions Burnham made half a century ago and see how well his theory stands up.

    I seem to have missed the predictions part unless it’s about the Agree/Disagree counts. To see if those hold one really needs to know just where a person’s political beliefs lie in the spectrum. How would you measure that? You could use the scoring on the list of questions but then you are trying to see if such a score is correct.

    BB,

    2. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion. … I am opposed to murder, and would quite happily try to make murders conform to my opposition. So disagree.

    As people often do,especially the superliberals, you are confusing actions with speech.

    Again, don’t believe in natural rights

    So life, liberty and pursuit of happiness exist only though grants by the state?

    Far too many posts to address and too little time. Was the purpose of posting the list just to get comments on its content?

  39. 86% liberal
    “I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write” (voltaire)
    Well, not my life, but you get the idea…

  40. JMJ: Actually your agreeing with most of it just confirms what your comments do–you are a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. The wording is ambiguous and leads to whomever is reading it interpreting a slant. There is no actual slant–it’s an idea your mind plants. It is dated, which some progressives think conservatives are dated, so maybe that’s what filter you read it through?

  41. I doubt it’s helpful to try to break the entire population down into two camps: i.e., crazy liberals versus reactionary conservatives.

    The minimum number of flavours to consider if you wanted to simplify this:

    1. Religious/social conservatives
    2. Libertarians
    3. Traditional Liberals
    4. Progressives (Leftists/Socialists/Communists)

    The main problem at the moment is there is a social struggle for the Progressives to “capture” the center position. Although what’s to the left of that position, I’m not sure. Stalinism? (Although it would start off, at least at the beginning, as a very cuddly sort of Stalinism.)

    And at what point does a traditional liberal stop becoming a traditional liberal and start moving into the progressive camp?

    Or for that matter, very few social conservatives, liberals or progressives would argue that public education should not be free and mandatory. Only perhaps libertarians hold that view, and that is not the same position of a ‘reactionary’. Most of us, including dyed in the wool capitalists, would like to leave their houses without being mugged or murdered. That is going to require some sort of public education system and minimum social safety net. Unless one is advocating shipping the lower classes back off to Australia, perhaps.

  42. swordfishtrombone

    July 18, 2015 at 10:41 am

    @Cui Pertinebit:

    “Nobody is entitled to think or say, let alone do, whatever they please; they only have a *right* to think, do and say what is Right.”

    “it is we who would have the right, on our side, to compel their silence with violence”

    After reading your comment I can say only that I feel very fortunate indeed to be living in liberal Europe and not in the sort of religiously-inspired nightmare world which apparently exists in (what passes for) your ‘imagination’ (and I use the term exceedingly loosely) and which closely resembles a Christian version of Islamic State, complete with 100% moral certainties.

    Do you have, or are planning to have, children? What would you do if they turned out to be gay? Would you call them “faggots” to their face or only in private?

    Y’all get the idea…

  43. Swordfishtrombone: You have hit upon one of the major reasons society is lacking in morals at this point–children now determine parents morals. If your child is a “faggot” you can’t say so without hurting the darling’s feelings, so you become pro-gay. If you were the mother of a terrorist who is killing infidels in the US, should mom tell you how proud she is or tell you you’re evil? I fear most mother’s now would be proud. Parents kiss the behind of their kids for fear of losing the kid’s love. They are NOT parents at all, but sycophants letting their children determine morality. That’s ALWAYS a bad outcome.

  44. The changes (including a few reversals) in the list show that the only reason Cthulhu can always swim Left is that the direction of Left changes every few years.

  45. swordfishtrombone

    July 19, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    @Sheri:

    You say that society is “lacking in morals at this point” – I don’t accept that at all. Allowing gay people (who are harming no one) to marry is more “moral” than imprisoning them, as used to happen within living memory. Things are getting better in general, not worse and for quite clearly-defined and uncontroversial reasons such as having more free time and energy at our disposal. How much time did Victorians have to worry about fine details of morality if they were working 14 hours a day, 6 days a week down a coalmine and dying by 40?

    With regard to becoming pro-gay to avoid hurting your children’s feelings, what’s wrong with that? It’s called “life”. Blood is thicker than water and quite rightly so (except for extreme examples like terrorism). Learning from your children might very well be a better idea than imposing on them a morality determined 2000 years before they were born.

  46. Swordfish: And outright killing someone is better than torturing them, right??? What’s with this garbage about “it’s so much better to just do A than B”, even though both are wrong. It’s either right or wrong and I don’t give a flip whether anyone did anything bad anywhere else than can be compared to this or somehow used to declare the childish chant “Well he did too.” or “He started it” or whatever. It’s either right or wrong. Period.

    NO NO NO NO. Blood is not thicker than water. That is how manipulative people get people to do things they would never do for a complete stranger. Like buy a gun for their sibling and then the sibling shoots up the mall. Or let their drunk sibling drive their car because the breathalyzer on the sibling’s car won’t let it start and the sibling kills a family in a drunk driving accident. DNA is the most cruel and common form of tyranny out there. You, sir, are an advocate of tyranny and immoral behaviour based on a molecule.

    Learning from your children to become sycophants that kiss up to get attention is idiotic and damaging to society. It is frightening that people actual advocate such destructive behaviour.

  47. Cui Pertinebit

    July 20, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    @Swordfishtrombone

    You allow your emotional reaction to impede your reading comprehension and powers of logical extrapolation. It should have been obvious from what I said that there is room for substantial tolerance in a pious, glorious and God-fearing Catholic theocracy (unlike in the Islamist nightmare you imagine); only the “squeaky wheel” – i.e., the loud and shameless advocates and public practitioners of horrific social evils – would need to get the vat of boiling oil.

    Marriage is the foundation of healthy life and society; equating it to piracy of the posterior is literally deleterious of society (both in itself, and for the official abandonment of reason by the state, which it entails). Thus, agreeing to pretend that persons of the same sex are “married” is far worse – for them, for us, for all society – than imprisoning the lot of them would be. But, in a sane and compassionate Catholic theocracy, we would do neither. We would tolerate persons who struggled with the passion privately, and only take action against the public advocates and flaunters of perversity.

    As to your question about my hypothetical response to an hypothetical gay son: I would hope my hypothetical fathering would prevent that dysfunction from developing in the first place; but many contributing factors are beyond my control. If it happened despite my best efforts, I would hope that I raised him with enough faith, piety, humility, scientific and historical knowledge, etc., to cope with the dysfunctional experience correctly, perhaps even taking steps to heal and amend it. But if, despite all his advantages, he decided to identify with gay culture, disgraced his masculinity, abandoned all reason and forsook all of his most solemn and sacred bonds, becoming the embodiment of the word “faggot” (for not all who experience homosexual attractions are deserving of this term of opprobrium) then, yes: I would tell him he should be ashamed of himself for having chosen to become such a perfidious and narcissistic faggot, and I would inform him that he was no son of mine until he repented. Authentic love demands that I make the seriousness of his situation known to him. “Love and acceptance” divorced from the truth, is indicative of either ignorance or pusillanimity. Blood is thicker than water, but piety (in both the Classical and Medieval sense) is more solid than both.

    As to “black and white,” your own moral views seem to have made a fairly sharp distinction in my case. The sane man knows that right and wrong is absolutely a matter of black and white; but he has personal experience of his own failings, and he also knows that it can be complicated to determine the right course of action in some cases. But to confuse complexity with “shades of gray” is to be ignorant of moral philosophy/theology. The “gray area” lies in the element of human failure and motive, not in the objective nature of right and wrong. We should forbear with human failure, but refuse to fudge the truth.

    You think I’m wrong and morally wicked, just as surely as I believe you are wrong. So, put down the phony tolerance and see yourself for the moral scold you so clearly are! To stand over there and judge me for judging… it’s comically stupid.

  48. swordfishtrombone

    July 22, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    @Sheri:

    “[…] What’s with this garbage about “it’s so much better to just do A than B”, even though both are wrong. It’s either right or wrong […] It’s either right or wrong. Period.”

    So having a coffee is just as wrong as injecting heroin as they’re both drugs. Got it. Obviously, (or maybe not, apparently) I *don’t* think that gay marriage is wrong but I *do* think that imprisoning gay people is wrong. So A *is* better than B.

    “NO NO NO NO. Blood is not thicker than water. That is how manipulative people get people to do things they would never do for a complete stranger. Like buy a gun for their sibling […] You, sir, are an advocate of tyranny and immoral behaviour based on a molecule.”

    You say blood isn’t thicker than water then give a list of examples showing that it is – unless you mean it *shouldn’t* be true? – I’m really not sure what point you’re making here. Do you think it “wrong” that parents love their own children more than those of strangers? It’s neither wrong nor right, just a fact.

    “Learning from your children to become sycophants that kiss up to get attention is idiotic and damaging to society. It is frightening that people actual advocate such destructive behaviour.”

    You’ve *really* lost me here – I literally have no idea what you mean. I merely pointed out that parenting is a two-way process, Which it is.

  49. swordfish: No, drinking coffee is not the same as taking heroin because they are both drugs. Each is an individual question of right or wrong—right/wrong doesn’t blanket cover large classes of item thus allowing you to make fun of this. Sorry–does not work that way.

    Your statement: “I *don’t* think that gay marriage is wrong but I *do* think that imprisoning gay people is wrong. So A *is* better than B.” That has nothing to do with what we are discussing. Your example is that of someone believing one thing is right and another wrong. You originally implied/stated that we should not oppose gay marriage because gays were persecuted in the past–imprisoned. That has no bearing on whether or not gay marriage is right or wrong. Past treatment is irrelevant anyway.

    I meant that blood is not thicker than water. The use of the term is a way to bully relatives into doing things for someone that would not be done for a non-DNA linked person. Whether or not people act in a fashion that is in line with reality is a separate question. As for parents loving their own children more than those of strangers, yes, it is wrong. How one expresses that love will be different in each case. All children are valuable persons, not chattel.

    Parenting is not a two-way process. Parents are in charge of their children and are responsible for raising a functioning, well-adjusted adult. They owe their children limits and rules as well as support for success. Do parents learn from their children? Of course, Should parents suddenly toss out all morals because little Johnny failed to learn the rules, no. Johnny is wrong, Mom and Dad are right (or Johnny is right and Mom and Dad are wrong and Johnny keeps the rule—the parent child relationship does not determine right and wrong). Sudden rule changes are usually emotionally based on fear of rejection by the child. It is not the job of the parent to be “enlightened” by the child. That’s backwards.

  50. swordfishtrombone

    July 24, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    @Cui Pertinebit:

    If I annoyed you, I can only say that it was my intention. I didn’t want future Internet historians reading through these comments and thinking badly of me for failing to speak out against your offensive comment.

    I have no interest in responding to your theological arguments other than to note that theology isn’t a subject.

  51. swordfishtrombone

    July 25, 2015 at 7:10 am

    @Sheri:

    “No, drinking coffee is not the same as taking heroin because they are both drugs. Each is an individual question of right or wrong—right/wrong doesn’t blanket cover large classes of item thus allowing you to make fun of this. Sorry–does not work that way.”

    Lumping together two behaviours because they’re both “wrong” is equally invalid. This reminds me of that Star Trek TNG story where Wesley is sentenced to death on an alien world for accidentally trampling some flowers.

    “You originally implied/stated that we should not oppose gay marriage because gays were persecuted in the past–imprisoned. That has no bearing on whether or not gay marriage is right or wrong. Past treatment is irrelevant anyway.”

    Not so. I didn’t say (or imply) that we “should not oppose gay marriage because gays were persecuted in the past”. I said that allowing gay people to marry is better than imprisoning them. I have asperger’s and usually state things literally. You appear to have misinterpreted my comment.

    “I meant that blood is not thicker than water. The use of the term is a way to bully relatives into doing things for someone that would not be done for a non-DNA linked person. Whether or not people act in a fashion that is in line with reality is a separate question. As for parents loving their own children more than those of strangers, yes, it is wrong. How one expresses that love will be different in each case. All children are valuable persons, not chattel.”

    It is a fact that parents love their children more than those of strangers. It’s a basic observation of all humans that we favour those closer to us (Allthough some people prefer me when I’m a long way away!) more than those who are more distant, in terms of genetics, geography, culture or even age. I don’t really get why you’re obsessed with sorting reality into boxes marked “right” and “wrong”. (metaphorical boxes, not real ones.) Also, your statement that “All children are valuable persons” goes without saying but doesn’t contradict the above.

    Generally, religious morality is too binary – everything is either “right” or “wrong” but reality isn’t arranged that way. Your idea that it’s “wrong” for people to love those close to them more than strangers is a case in point – you’re basically labelling reality as “wrong”. It would be pointless, confusing and inefficient for us to care equally about distant strangers than we do our close family.

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