The move toward mass, direct democracy in the large nationstate derives much of its appeal from an image of direct democracy reminiscent of the Athenian Assembly, or of the New England town meeting. But such an appeal is mistaken. The social conditions for face-to-face interaction and deliberation present on a small scale are not present in the larger nationstate. In primaries, referendums, opinion polls, and “teledemocracy” (such as the “electronic town halls” with viewer call-ins advocated by Ross Perot), we get the isolated, atomized citizen, pulling a lever, casting a ballot, or dialing an 800 number based on very little reflection or interaction. His or her vote is just one of millions that will have little effect on the outcome. The citizen has little incentive for informed debate or for investment in political knowledge.

        —from James S. Fishkin, “Reforming the Invisible Primary,” November 1992

The objection that “social” justice is not a kind of justice is often countered either by urging that the world would be a better place if the distribution of income and wealth were different from what it actually is or by protesting that this objection is at best trivially verbal. It is easy to argue with the first of these contentions. In my personal ideal world, for instance, successful pop stars would not be voted to become millionaires by the purchases made by everyone’s teenage children. But this is simply irrelevant. For it is one thing to justify some sort of proceeding—that is, to show it to be desirable or excusable or in some other way preferable to the available alternatives—but it is quite another thing to justicize it, to show it to be not merely “socially” just but plain, old-fashioned just.

        —from Antony Flew, “‘Social’ justice Is Not Justice: The Mirage of John Rawls,” July 1999

The return to democracy, a political form of antiquity which had failed completely and earned the ridicule and censure of the three philosophers who are the pillars of our civilization—Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle—is one of the most amazing features of the last 200 years. My American readers should realize that democracy came to their country as a gradual alien influence. It is mentioned neither in the Declaration nor in the Constitution . . . Democracy . . . belongs to the left. . .

        —from Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, “Conservative or Rightist? A Personal Confession,” January 1999

Rationalism is philosophy in its adolescence. The adolescent seeks self-determination and certainty above all else. And what rationalism yields is certainty (we hold these truths to be self-evident); but certainty attaches only to abstractions, which are mere aspects of experience and not the whole. Nothing intellectually deep is self-evident. A political philosophy founded on truths self-evident to every adolescent is a politics fit only for adolescents.

        —from Donald Livingston, “David Hume and American Liberty,” November 1995

The appeal of the idea of national community is undiminished in our time. The symbols and impedimenta are everywhere to be seen. Community threatens to become the battleground of politics, replacing the enemy in this respect. Community is more siren-like, more seductive than economic growth and the size of budget deficits. . . .

The idea of national community is supported by an assumed inevitability of a certain theoretical scheme of progress. . . It is interesting that the same sketch of inevitable progress carries a theory of the true center of democratic government. In the beginning, the center was the colonial legislature. Stage two was the passing of the center to a national Congress, under the Constitution. But, it is argued, under the iron discipline of the march of history, democracy, true democracy, passed from Congress as center to the presidency. The president is, the script reads, the authentic center of national democracy, for he alone represents the entire people. This theory of progress was doing quite well until yet another state was introduced a few years ago, one that appears to be flourishing in certain legal circles. Not Congress, not the president, but the federal judge is the true Atlas of modern democracy. Think how long, the apologetics suggest, desegregation, apportionment, abortion legalization, and abolition of school prayers would have taken if these manifestly legislative acts had had to go through Congress and the presidency. For the federal judiciary they were the work of moments, by comparison. The federal judge, it is said, is untrammeled by the necessity of being elected, by the sweat and stench of politics, by any political obligation whatever. Properly instructed by critical legal studies, he is the reincarnation of Solon and Solomon. To bring the dreamed-of national community into existence through Congress and the presidency would take years, possibly decades. A few Supreme Court decisions, and the basic work would be done.

        —from Robert Nisbet, “The Present Age and the State of Community,” June 1988


Any effort by the black community to combat spiritual and social decay must depend upon its ability to impose considerable social discipline and to rein in antisocial elements. . . . [T]he struggle to restore a stable family life may well prove sine qua non, and, if so, the necessary measures may not comport well with the endless demands for individual rights and the arrogant pretensions to such newly invented constitutional protections as envisaged, for example, in the program of the gay and lesbian movement. Whites have no business telling black communities how to resolve these problems and would do well to keep their own preferences and prejudices to themselves. But to speak of “community” at all means to recognize as unavoidable the existence of prejudices, whether grounded in religion and historically developed sensibility or in response to an immediate threat to survival.

        —from Eugene D. Genovese, “The Southern Tradition and the Black Experience,” August 1994

The rate of violent crime can be lowered—reducing the slaughter that kills blacks and the terror that grips whites—only if it is acknowledged that blacks are responsible for most violent crime. The problem—which is not merely the problem of crime but the problem of the black community’s survival and success—can be solved. But it cannot be solved without facing the fact that a small number of irredeemably violent people are destroying the possibility of solution. The black majority alone cannot solve the problems of the black community, and a reduction of black violence is only a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the solution of its problems; the commitment and resources of the entire society are required. However, the problems cannot be solved at all unless the black majority can socialize the rest of the members of its community to meet the norms that must be met in any community that is to survive, and there is no chance whatever that members of the black majority will be able to do this while being picked off one by one on streets that a relatively small number of predators now control.

        —from Steven Goldberg, “Black Murder,” January 1995

. . . [T]he U.S. Holocaust Museum has moved the Poles, save for “some Polish intellectuals,” from the first category [victims] to the second [victimizers], while homosexuals have been raised in its literature and displays to co-victims with the Jews. One can be sure that the Brownshirts and Hermann Goering would appreciate this posthumous tribute. Some Nazi bigwigs, one may assume, might even be eligible for other victimological honors, in view of their drug-dependency and penchant for little boys. Note that the group having the most nefarious record of Nazi collaboration, the Bosnian Muslims, now gets much better press than the once-victimized Poles. The professional holocaust survivor and Hillary Clinton companion Elie Wiesel claims not to use the term lightly (and certainly not for the Nazi slaughter of Poles), but he has wailed about a new holocaust descending on the Bosnians. Such a catastrophe should be distinguished from the earlier unmentioned one that occurred in the Balkans, after the Bosnian Muslims had volunteered to form two Waffen S.S. divisions. This selective amnesia is so striking that even I, an Austrophile critic of the Serbs, note it with astonishment. Are human memories as selective as the reconstructed World War II victimology seems to suggest? This question is, of course, rhetorical.

        —from Paul Gottfried, “Polonophobia,” January 1997

Among the terms of endearment applied to Americans who worry about present immigration policy is “xenophobe.” . . .

A “xenophobe” is someone who fears foreigners. Fears them why? No dictionary is competent to say. Every xenophobe doubtless has his own reasons. . . . Xenophobia, whatever connotations the word may take on in the mouths of the liberal establishment, speaks to a reality of human existence: to wit, there are foreigners we’d damn sure better fear. Or at the very least keep an eye on. . . .

Had the Mexicans, and the Spanish before them, possessed the sense to shut out my buckskin-clad forbears, scratching themselves and smelling no doubt of bear grease, nudging their wagons through the piney forests of the Sabine region, or debarking on the sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast, Texas might be a different place today. . . .

What Spain and Mexico lacked was a critical mass of xenophobes, ready, out of cultural pride, to point out the Gringo Peril, to close their minds fast to entreaties concerning brotherhood and diversity, to utter a curt but meaningful: No—nunca, señores, nunca. They didn’t, and that’s that. Still, the sibilant si of 200 years ago, which ushered in the Gringo era, has residual resonance. And maybe more than that.

        —from William Murchison, “From Greeks to Gringos: Why Mexico Lost Texas,” July 1997

. . . [A]bout half of the Jews who live in the United States. . . define themselves in singularly ethnic terms. For them, “being Jewish” is a matter of who they are and what they are—it is something of which they are proud—but it carries no requirement to participate in public life as part of a community. Here Spinoza’s model governs: the radically isolated individual of Jewish origin and Jewish predilections and proclivities, however these may be defined, even down to a style of joke-telling. Secular Jewishness defines traits deemed ethnically characteristic, even innate. Feelings and personal preferences take over, as secular Jews elevate the importance of having the “correct” feelings. In place of faith, history, and covenantal loyalty, they invoke personal opinion, memory, and ephemera of attitudes and political sympathies, certain that the right opinion, the correct collective memory, and the accepted attitude will suffice to make this person Jewish, that one not.

More to the point, secular Jews outside the framework of community suppose themselves smart, witty, and focused. In the hands of enemies, Jewishness finds its definition in such counterpart traits as clever, nihilistic and cynical, and aggressive. Both sides appeal to what we may dismiss as either racism or cultural determinism, depending on whether we opt for the explanation of traits by reason of nature or nurture. It hardly matters. When it comes to the privatization of secular Jewishness, we enter a world without rationality, racist or cultural. Like Hermann Goering, who said he would decide who was a Jew, secular Jews decide what “being Jewish” means to the ultimate “me.” Once the individual decides to be Jewish on his own, then idiosyncratic interpretation takes over, and all larger public meanings fail.

        —from Jacob Neusner, “Jews Without Judaism,” November 1997