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Thread: FEE: How Nationalism and Socialism Arose from the French Revolution

  1. #1

    Default FEE: How Nationalism and Socialism Arose from the French Revolution

    This was just posted at FEE today. I thought it was great. It's longish. And there are too many parts I'd love to quote. Here's a tidbit:
    Again we must ask, as Constant did two centuries ago: what went so wrong? It all goes back to the reliance of the original liberals on the people’s state. Locke’s notion of a hireling, representative government simply misunderstood the nature of the state. Legal plunder is not a “perversion” of the state, but its actual, primary function. As liberals came to discover through their pursuit of “legal plunder” theory, the state is and has always been a parasitic protection racket. It doesn’t tax in order to protect, but “protects” in order to tax. Like in the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man,” the state’s “social contract” is not a service agreement, but a cookbook. “To protect and serve,” indeed, Mr. Policeman writing me a $200 ticket.

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  3. #2


    Quote Originally Posted by Superfluous Man View Post
    This was just posted at FEE today. I thought it was great. It's longish. And there are too many parts I'd love to quote. Here's a tidbit:
    Looks like a good article, will check it out

    The French revolution was the origin of nationalism as we know it; socialism has a longer pedigree, however, going back to heretical, low-church Christian sects of the medieval period (Joachimites, Taborites, Coercive Anabaptists, etc, and then later the Fifth Monarchy Men, Diggers, etc). But the French revolution unleashed these lumpenproles on the world at large. The revolutions of 1848-49 represented their second wind (for nationalism also, and for their sibling, democracy), and then of course 1917 their triumph. Rothbard on the pre-1789 history of Communism, Karl Marx As Religious Eschatologist. The most interesting/accurate book on the French revolution you're likely to find, given the fellow-traveler scrubbing of the last two centuries, The French Revolution: A Study In Democracy.
    Last edited by r3volution 3.0; 04-19-2017 at 08:58 PM.

  4. #3


    So, I've now read the article. His treatment of nationalism and socialism is solid; his treatment of the old regime overthrown by the democratic revolutions which brought us nationalism and socialism leaves much to be desired. First, he presents the cartoon image of monarchy.

    The ideas of individual liberty and of the modern people’s state emerged in close conjunction, because the two had a common enemy: the hereditary, divine princely state. In the old order, kings claimed absolute authority over their subjects by hereditary and divine right: by inheriting his crown from his predecessor and having his rule blessed by the church on behalf of God. In 17th-century England, the proto-liberals called the Whigs challenged these pretensions, both with arms and arguments. The great manifesto of the so-called “radical Whigs” was John Locke’s 1689 work Two Treatises of Government. Against royal authoritarianism, Locke advanced the individual’s rights to life, liberty, and property.
    Royal authority was absolute in the sense that the king had ultimate decision-making power; e.g. he could not be voted out of office or vetoed. This did not mean that the king exercised "authoritarian" control over his subjects. Life, liberty, and property were not less secure in 18th century France than in 18th century England (if anything, the opposite was true; e.g. taxes in France were about half those in England). The modern view of monarchy is tainted by 20th century socialist dictatorship, which with it had absolutely nothing in common. The king was not centrally planning the economy; he was not putting millions of people in prison camps. Rather, he was governing in a dramatically more liberal fashion that does any existing democratic state. The 1789 revolution was largely a reaction against the liberalizing policies of the late Bourbons (such as implemented by A.R.J. Turgot, one of the earliest and most important liberal economists, who was a governor under Louis XV and leading Minister under Louis XVI). The Whigs did not invent liberalism; they took an existing (and already widely accepted body of thought) and attached it to democracy (a completely incompatible ideology).

    Then, after describing the horrors which followed the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy, the author takes a better tack:

    According to Constant, the liberty of the modern world was individual freedom. This was the idea of liberty that emerged from the European towns with the rise of private commerce and industry. As Constant defined it, modern liberty was the right of the individual...On the other hand, Constant explained, the liberty of the ancient world, “consisted in an active and constant participation in collective power.” This was the idea of “political liberty” in a people’s state that first arose in the ancient Greek democracies and was cherished in the Roman Republic...The liberals among them believed the objectives of collective power and individual liberty to be beautifully complementary, even identical. In practice, collective power waged war on individual liberty almost from the outset.

    And in the wake of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s invasions, over the course of a hundred years, one monarchy after another teetered or toppled, as parliaments were empowered and republics were established. Yet, in the very century that liberalism had begun emancipating humanity from servitude and poverty and filling the world with modern marvels, nationalism and socialism were laying the ideological groundwork for turning those modern marvels against humanity and inflicting upon the world unprecedented levels of oppression, mass killing, and manufactured deprivation.
    Yes, monarchies were toppled, horror unfolded.

    But then, these promising analyses made, the author concludes thusly:

    Of course this does not lead us to the foolish notion of returning to the princely state. It does not mean abandoning the new superstition to return to the old one. It simply means dispelling superstition altogether and pursuing liberty through a moral revolution of individuals, and not through state revolutions or the incremental revolutions of people’s-state activism. Such moral progress, and not the structure of government, has been the true source of the triumphs of liberalism all along. As Thomas Paine wrote, “It is wholly owing to the constitution of the people, and not to the constitution of the government that the crown is not as oppressive in England as in Turkey.” A non-state-centered revolution in minds and morals is what we need to truly shake the world and to finally shake off the chains of oppression, war, and poverty that bind us.

    So close Mr. Sanchez, so close!

    I suspect he may be someone on the fence, aware, but not quite willing to take the leap into what is still a super-fringe position.
    Last edited by r3volution 3.0; 05-03-2017 at 08:22 PM.

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