Is The "Age of Civil Liberties" Over?


New York Times Magazine contributing writer Christopher Caldwell apparently thinks that it may be. Caldwell builds his essay "The Post 8/10 World," around a comment made by British Prime Minister Tony Blair who claimed that global terrorism "means traditional civil liberty arguments are not so much wrong as just made for another age." Caldwell writes that Blair. . .

. . . was saying that war has shown many of our liberties to be illusory. The "civil liberties" we know do not bubble up from natural law or from something timeless and universal in the human character. They may be significant accomplishments, but they are temporal ones, bound to certain stages of technology or to certain styles of social organization.

Caldwell continues:

Blair's opponents equate today's civil liberties protections with core British values. He is saying they are no such thing—they are temporary adjustments that were useful under certain specific circumstances in part of Europe between World War II and the late 20th century.

Countries with strong civil liberties protections are not weaker because of them. After all, the countries that defended civil liberties are the ones that shoved both Fascism and Communism into the dustbin of history last century. Primitive Islamist radicals do not pose a greater threat than those earlier totalitarianisms did.

In any case, Caldwell's whole glum article is here.

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  1. Primitive Islamist radicals do not pose a greater threat than those earlier totalitarianisms did.

    That won’t matter if people believe they do.

  2. Yeah. The logic of this just escapes me. We could handle France (back when it was the superpower in the 1700s), England twice, a civil war, Nazis, Japan, and the Soviets and ChiComs. But a few dozen weirdbeards and we have to overturn everything back to the Magna Carta. Huh? Sack up losers.

  3. So long as there is one person who is willing to stand up and assert that they have natural civil liberties, they will not cease to exist.

  4. I would love to post a comment agreeing with Ron and the commenters in this thread, but I’m not sure that the server squirrels will let this through.

    Ron, how do you reconcile your techno-optimism with the indisputable fact that the H&R comment server sucks?


  5. do not bubble up from natural law or from something timeless and universal in the human character

    They got that much right. The concept of natural rights is bogus. Civil rights are a wonderful and completely artificial privilege that must be defended tooth and nail.

  6. There are no rights God can give, that man can not take away.

  7. This is such a sad commentary. Each civil liberty was a hard fought item that took centuries to develop through much spilled blood and courage. But of course, our leaders have always found the to be inconvienent. Its we the people that have to keep them alive.

  8. “The Post 8/10 World,”

    WTF? Are we doomed to labeling every terrorist attack by its month/day of occurrence? Where hath creativity gone? I heretofore declare the foiled London terrorist plot on 8/10 be remembered as “Trains Will Esplode Day”.

  9. Good idea, smacky, but how about calling 8/10 the Gatorade Treason?

  10. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”


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