aftermath. The nations that fought this war all ieved themselvesrnas liberal and progressive constitutional monarchies orrnrepublics. For a centur)’, these would-be liberal regimes hadrnbeen concentrating power to the center. By 1914, this concentrationrnhad reached a critical mass and exploded into a war thatrnshattered the social fabric of Europe. Nazism and communismrndid not arise from a vacuum, but were the result of thernspectacular destruction carried out by progressive liberalrnregimes. Enlightened German liberals had long worked torncrush the small independent principalities and free cities ofrnGernranv’ into a German superstate. Hitler did not create thernconcentration of power he put to such bad effect; he found itrnready-made —the work of Bismarck and Weimar liberalism.rnHe simply augmented it and put it to his own purposes.rnWhv is a modern state disposed to destroy the corporaternhberty of independent social authorities and concentraternpower to the center? And why is this destruction perceivedrnas morally legitimate? The answer was given in 1651 byrnThomas Hobbes in Leviathan, which frames the first and mostrnprofound theor)’ of the modern state. Hobbes pictures mankindrnas an aggregate of egoists in a state of nature without government,rneach pursuing his own power and glory without restraint.rnSince this is a self-defeating condition of constantrnconflict, rational egoists compact with one another to form arngovernment for the sake of peace and stability. The sole end ofrnthe Hobbesian state is to maximize the individual’s autonomy.rnAll modern political theorizing takes its bearing from thernHobbesian vision of autonomy or choice-making as the end ofrnthe state. This is as true of Marxism as of liberalism. Liberalsrnhold that private property and the rule of law are sufficient tornmaximize autonomy. Marxists deny this, pointing out that liberalismrnyields inequalities in the form of class domination,rnwhich maximizes autonomy for the few at the expense of thernworkers. And Marx did Hobbes one better by declaring that, inrna clas.sless society, there would be no class conflict, and so nornneed for government at all. The elevation of autonomy wouldrncome to be known as the Enlightenment. There would, ofrncourse, be disagreements about the precise character of autononi}’rnand its conditions, quarrels about “positive” and “negative”rnliberty. Locke, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Mill, Godwin, Nietzsche,rnand Sartre would theorize it differendy, but all agreedrnthat autonomy is the purpose of the modern state. Marx wasrnright when he called Hobbes the father of us all.rnNo one can fail to feel the pull of this philosophical defensernof the individual’s autonomy. But is choice-making the highestrngood? To think so is to overlook the social nature of man —rnthe disposition of human beings to pursue some vision of thernhuman good in community with others across generations. Itrnignores the importance of culture as a framework for autonomy.rnAs T.S. Eliot said, culture is that which makes life worthrnliving. Autonomy presupposes a cultural background withoutrnwhich choice-making is meaningless. A culture links generationsrntogether and is structured not by autonomy but by involuntaryrnsubordination and deference to authority. I did notrnchoose my parents, nor my native language, nor the loyaltiesrnand duties within my culture. These forms of involuntary subordinationrnconstitute the framework, if not the whole substance,rnof what I am. Autonomy, to be sure, is a good to be pursued,rnbut it is a good constrained by the prior good of a wholernway of life binding generations.rnSince all forms of Enlightenment theorizing are hostile tornthe idea of involuntary subordination, they either ignore thernpriority of culture to autonomy or, in more radical forms, positivelyrndenv it. John Rawls teaches that the state must be neutralrnin respect to the good. Its sole task is to enforce those rights necessaryrnfor the individual’s autonomy. The corporate libertiesrnand rights of social authorities which are necessary- to protectrnand cultivate a valuable way of life are entirely eliminated. Thernresult is that any substantial morality comprehending a wholernway of life is legally disestablished from the public realm andrnplaced in the private feelings of individuals, who eventually becomernan aggregate of strangers. The moral nihilism prevalentrnin America today is not the triumph of philosophical argumentsrnsubverting moral standards, to be countered by readingrnThe Book of Virtues; it is a social condition created bv the legalrndisestablishment of moralih’ by liberalism.rnJust how firmly established this cultLiral and moral nihilismrnis can be measured by considering the popular dictum thatrnAmerica is not like other countries: It is an idea; a set of abstractrnrights; the first universal nation; or, as Lincoln put it, an associationrnof people dedicated to a “proposition.” This dictum isrnproudly but foolishly celebrated as showing the rationalist superiorityrnof an American rights-based polity over other countries.rnIt is boldlv proclaimed by leaders of both parties, and it isrntaught in the public schools as a kind of American wisdom.rnThe ideal of individual autonomy as the end of the state, ifrnconsistently pursued, drives out culture because it drives out allrnforms of involuntary- subordination and, consequently, underminesrnthe authority necessary to protect and cultivate a valuablernway of life. Eviscerating its own cultural inheritance as anrnembarrassing and oppressive tangle of prejudice and historicalrncontingencv, the modern state replaces culture with an ideologicalrnstyle of politics: liberalism, socialism, Nazism, Marxism,rnfeminism, etc. The republic of the French Revolutionrnand the former Soviet Union were also said to be regimesrngrounded in an idea, not a culture. They failed because nornpolity could be grounded in an ideology, which is nothingrnmore than an aspect of a cultural inheritance about which onernhas become obsessive. Philosophical theorizing transmutesrnthis aspect into the whole of experience: All history is the stonofrnclass struggle, or gender struggle, or race struggle, or a strugglernfor individual autonomy. In a country in the grip of anrnideological stv’le of politics, as the former Soviet Union was andrnAmerica is today, a protracted cold war is necessarily wagedrnagainst its own cultural inheritance. As an ideology eats awayrnat a polity’s moral substance, people gradually lose the knowledgernof how to behave and begin down the path to Hobbes’srnwar of all against all.rnWhat does all of this have to do with states’ rights? Hobbesrnrightly called the modern state Leviathan, and the mass of millionsrnover which it rules was the result of crushing small statesrnand consolidating them into larger units. Throughout history-,rnhuman beings have lived in small polities. Plato, Aristotle, andrnAugustine, as well as contemporary experts from a variety ofrnfields, have agreed that a polity has an optimal size beyondrnwhich it becomes dysfunctional. A city of 50,000 to 200,000rncan produce all that human culture can afford: great art, music,rnarchitecture, literature, science, etc. Below this size, somernactivities cannot emerge; beyond it, crime and coordinationrnproblems increase geometrically; moral consensus breaksrndown; public spirit withers; bureaucracy appears; more andrnmore time and energy is spent, not on cultivating the luxuriesrnof a valuable way of life, but in working on the mere instru-rnAPRIL 1999/17rnrnrn