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.