Coronavirus Gives the Illiberal Right Fever Dreams of Power

Hungary's Viktor Orbán consolidates power, Harvard's Adrian Vermeule fantasizes about wielding it, and many of those who oppose authoritarian conservativism beg Donald Trump to close the country down.


"In this time of global pandemic," Harvard law professor and anti-liberal vanguardist Adrian Vermeule writes in the third paragraph of a much-discussed new Atlantic essay, "it has become clear that a just governing order must have ample power to cope with large-scale crises of public health and well-being—reading 'health' in many senses, not only literal and physical but also metaphorical and social." This aggrandizement of executive power, Vermeule posited, should be constitutionally lubrciated by "an illiberal legalism that is not 'conservative' at all, insofar as standard conservatism is content to play defensively within the procedural rules of the liberal order."

Italics—and direct warning—his.

As viral fate would have it, Vermeule's philo-Falangist manifesto appeared just one day after the global poster-child for aspirationally illiberal conservatism, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, was gifted by a parliament he already dominates the power to rule by decree, suspend elections indefinitely, and imprison journalists for up to five years for publishing fake news about the coronavirus.

Vermeule's vision of "ensur[ing] that the ruler has the power needed to rule well" was thus effectuated by the world leader who most embodies the new nationalism that's gaining steam on the intellectual right, in the United States and elsewhere. "You are thinkers, but we are doers," Orbán told a rapt audience two months ago at the National Conservatism Conference in Rome, where conservative intellectuals such as Rod Dreher and Yoram Hazony rubbed elbows with continental nationalists such as Marion Marechal. "Politics is about making decisions, gaining and keeping the trust of the nation, and getting the power and keeping the power."

Orbán, like Vermeuele and other American integralists, is saying the loud part loud. "Liberal democracy…is over," he proclaimed in Rome, while swatting around softball how-do-you-do-it questions from former American Enterprise Institute president and Reagan administration official Chris DeMuth. "We need something new. We can call it illiberal, we can call it post-liberal, you can call it Christian democratic, whatever, but we need something new, because on that [former] basis we cannot provide good governance for the people. So we developed a new theory and a new approach: that is Christian democracy. And instead of liberal freedom we use Christian liberty."

The "liberalism" that this new right is fighting is not limited to woke progressivism, fond though they may be of detecting "cultural Marxists" in every bureaucracy, newspaper, and university. No, they mean very directly to smote "classical liberals" as well. Just as the rising left-populists of the Jeremy Corbyn or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) type despise "neoliberals," their equally rising right-wing counterparts condemn the market-fundamentalist and hyper-individualist shibboleths that for too long (in their view) held sway in the democratic West.

"The Court's jurisprudence on free speech, abortion, sexual liberties, and related matters will prove vulnerable under a regime of common-good constitutionalism," muses Vermeule, before shifting to a more pronounced Bane-like tone. "The claim, from the notorious joint opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that each individual may 'define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life' should be not only rejected but stamped as abominable, beyond the realm of the acceptable forever after. So too should the libertarian assumptions central to free-speech law and free-speech ideology—that government is forbidden to judge the quality and moral worth of public speech, that 'one man's vulgarity is another's lyric,' and so on—fall under the ax. Libertarian conceptions of property rights and economic rights will also have to go."

At some point it becomes wise to take self-declared enemies of liberalism at their word. More still when real-life politicians start acting out those power fantasies.

Sure enough, there has been no shortage this week of western news organizations sounding the alarm bell at right-wing nationalists exercising heightened powers to combat COVID-19 worldwide: Orbán in Hungary, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, Aleksandar Vučić in Serbia, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. Usually these pieces come with observation that many of these leaders maintain close relationships with President Donald Trump.

But this is where the conventional narrative about creeping global corona-fascism begins to founder. Because do you know who else gets the Friend of Trump treatment about COVID-19 policy? Politicians, at here and abroad, who take the opposite approach to coronavirus crackdowns.

"In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, Trump's Close Ally, Dangerously Downplays the Coronavirus Risk," goes the New Yorker headline this week. "How 2 Trump-loving governors are struggling amid the coronavirus crisis," runs today's offering at CNN. There are generally no such dot-connecting ideological/partisan exercises when the laissez-faire governmental responses come from populist lefties, as in Nicragua, Mexico, and (until recently) New York City.

Meanwhile, a whole commentary cottage industry has arisen over outraged non-conservatives urgently demanding that the president they despise wave the presidential wand to control the entire country's behavior. "It is time for a national lockdown," The New York Times editorialized last week. The longtime progressive website Common Dreams had a remarkable headline two days later: "As Trump Snubs Restrictions to Contain Coronavirus, New Poll Shows 3 in 4 Americans Back a National Lockdown."

As ever, it takes libertarians to bring up rights in the midst of a national freakout. "The president doesn't have constitutional authority to issue a national stay-at-home order, so please stop urging him to do so," one of his fiercest critics, Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.), tweeted today. "He can recommend, but he doesn't get to do whatever he wants, even in a crisis. That's the law. That's our Constitution. It exists to secure our rights."

Rights, shmights, says Vermeule.

"Elaborating on the common-good principle that no constitutional right to refuse vaccination exists, constitutional law will define in broad terms the authority of the state to protect the public's health and well-being, protecting the weak from pandemics and scourges of many kinds—biological, social, and economic—even when doing so requires overriding the selfish claims of individuals to private 'rights,'" he wrote.

It was heartening to see so many commentators, including a few fellow-traveler nationalists on the right, flag Vermeuele's manifesto as at the least wrongheaded and at the most frightening. But as the great libertarian legal advocate Timothy Sandefur and others have pointed out, utilitarian, will-to-power constitutionalism is a common feature in non-integrationalist legal academia as well.

And I am perhaps most alarmed by the critique that the anti-liberals get most right: that legal frameworks cannot long survive dislocating separations from the broader culture. Put more bluntly, in response to this deadly and terrifying virus, U.S. politicians are imposing, and Americans are accepting, a series of infringements on liberty more extensive and arbitrary than any I thought I'd see in my lifetime.

In order for liberalism's enemies to be bested, there needs to be a robust liberalism left to defend. Right now, whether in politics or intellectual life or our ongoing overlapping lockdowns, there is little momentum on the side of Team Enlightenment. And we're still nowhere close to the apex of dead bodies. As Keith E. Whittington concluded in his Volokh Conspiracy essay about Vermeuele, "Winter is coming."

NEXT: How Long Can an All-Food Economy Stay Stable Under Shadow of COVID-19?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. You mean European “Right-wing” which is actually Socialism?

    Europe is all Socialist so when people like Matt Welch describe Left and Right, they still are far Left of Centrist Libertarians. Kind of like describing how Socialists are just to the right of Communists.

    1. The one word that best describes the right throughout its existence and into today is “authoritarianism.” So this comes as no surprise to any student of history.

      1. Nor is it any surprise that lc spouts off about socialism as if he has a clue.

        1. poor unreason sock troll. Nobody buying into your bullshit today?

          1. Got ya rattled. Shows in your bad punctuation.

          2. See. Alphabet sock troll comes in as a grammar Nazi.

            It’s all about Socialism with these Lefties.

            1. The fact that you think they are “lefties” shows how little perspective you have on this subject kid (I truly hope you’re a kid and not an exceptionally ignorant adult).

              1. Y’all are sock trolls so I’m lumping all you idiots and Lefties together.

                1. Aha! You admit that not all lefties are idiots.

                  1. Or that not all idiots are lefties.

                    Perhaps lefty is a subset of idiot?

        2. “spouts off about socialism as if he has a clue”

          Hey wearygit, name a government of any country that identifies as socialist that isn’t authoritarian. Just one.

      2. Of course Monarch and Theocracies on the far right of conservatism are authoritarian.

        Communism and Socialism on the far Left are authoritarian.

        Libertarianism in the Centrist of the political spectrum is the most free.

        It’s funny when unreason sends in the sock trolls so quickly because I was First.

        1. I guess it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you. And they really are out to get you as long as you clap three times and believe.

      3. The one word that best describes the left throughout its existence and into today is “authoritarianism.” So this comes as no surprise to any student of history.

        Fixed that for you.

        But I wasn’t really surprised. There isn’t a prog alive intelligent enough to tell their left from their right.

      4. Yet we are seeing lots of complaints now that Trump isn’t authoritarian enough, Biden us complaining he won’t use the fascist Defense Production act to its fullest powers, the NY Times wants him to put the entire country under house arrest.

        1. The MSM (i.e. CNN, MSNBC, NYT, WaPo) in this country have been truly abysmal.

        2. It’s no coincidence the first states with lockdowns are also the deepest blue. Belief in the benevolence of government is core to their thinking, so strong government is A-Ok.

          And centralizing it under one authority, the federal, means not having to deal with 50 pesky states, sigh, so much work to control.

          History shows belief in the benevolence of government, carried through to justifications for emergency powers, is the downfall of freedom and democracy as those in power never give them up

          Witness the clownish display of whining for three years Trump is in danger of being a dictator, and now they cry for him to seize those powers.

          “So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.” — Princess Amidala, as written by a guy who understood grand historical trends taught by an even greater mentor.

          1. Bad Orange Man can’t even Hitler right!

            Thank Gaia and Greta Thunberg that the various Peoples’ Republics of Blue States are there to show him how authoritarianism should be done!

    2. No, because “left” and “right” mean different things in Europe. It’s not about the name of the party. It’s about actual ideology. To be a conservative in Europe is to be in favor of the old institutions. The Ancien Régime. To be a European conservative is to be an old school authoritarian.

      European liberals (as opposed to leftists) are far more individualist in nature. It’s why the Liberal Party is not the same as the Labour Party.

      There are two political axis in Europe. Left versus Right, and Liberal versus Conservative. They are not orthogonal, and highly correlate, but they are still distinct axis.

      The US differs because our two party system promotes a kind of political Manicheanism. Liberals are the polar opposite of Conservative, just as Democrats are the polar opposite of Republicans. In truth both US parties are liberal parties. It’s just that the Democrats have a strong streak of Progressivism (leftism) slowly displacing its liberal roots.

      1. As I said, Europe call their Socialists “Left or Right” but they are all still Socialists. Unless they are Monarchists which would make them Conservatives.

        Calling a Socialist a “Conservative” is a lie. Conservative already has a definition and it sure as shit does not mean spending like crazy and changing policy for every new Commie fad.

        The Labor Party and Liberal Party are the same political lean- They are Socialists. They both want government to control the means of production. It just matters to what degree.

      2. It all comes down to statists vs individualists. Whether left or right, all authoritarians believe in the State, and all statists are authoritarians.

        Everything else is just quibbling. Were National Socialists socialists? Is Bernie a socialist or a democratic socialist? Is Lizzie a socialist, or Biden, and any Green New Deal sycophant? Is Trump a socialist for signing the $2.3T bailout?

        Doesn’t matter. They all believe in The State, and all believe in Top Men having the Authority over everybody else.

        1. “Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.” – Robert Heinlein

      3. Democrats are not Liberal. The fact that you say that means you have no idea what you are talking about.

        Name one single Democrat agenda item that is pro-freedom. One. It’s all government force.

        When there used to be Classical Liberals such as the Founding Fathers, they represented the Centrist spectrum of the Political Spectrum. Almost Libertarians in fact. Libertarians are never okay with slavery, which would be the difference.

        1. How long will Reason allow this violent ignorance to go on? Start banning people. This is like the non-articulate Ken. But LoveDick doesn’t know how to frame it in a passive aggressive way.

          1. Someone’s true colors are showing….”ban all dissenting opinions! It’s VIOLENCE!….”

            1. Just an FYI, you’re responding to a raving lunatic.

        2. Newsflash: The Founders did not represent the middle of the political spectrum. They were Radicals for their time. And we are better for it.

        3. Libertarians are never okay with slavery, which would be the difference.

          Except for the draft, right?

            1. Just trying to clear up some confusion. Lovecon is a the final arbiter of who is and isn’t a libertarian, but also supports the draft. Seems weird to me, is all.

    3. Christian National Socialism is lately re-garbled as the meaningless “right wing”. The Ladies’ Home Journal article, “Homemaking under Hitler,” described the Hitler movement Herb Hoover helped to power as “Inexorably this movement swings to the Left.” (October 1933) Altruist looter dictatorships are dubbed “left wing” unless they love Jesus. If they rob, enslave and murder to please Jesus or the Pope, that makes them “right wing.” Never confuse those two variants of communo-fascist socialism.

      1. It’s almost like a left-right, axis is an incomplete theory that lacks full explanatory and predictive power, and a control-freedom axis is much more accurate, with astounding and flawless explanatory, and, more importantly for a theory, predictive power.

        Nah. That theory is wayyyyy too parsimonious and accurate to be true.

    1. Now would be a good time to throw a big cocktail party in New York or Washington, and invite every single conservative writer you know. #RedWedding2

      That’s a long trip for most conservatives. Or he’s trying to trick DeBlasio into sealing off the city.

      1. Says a lot about Welsh as a human being. He is loathesome filth.

    2. good lord, Welch … he put that on the forever machine?

      1. No time like the present to completely destroy one’s reputation, I guess.

        1. Wait, that was from March of last year?!

          1. oh yeah. or his phone doesn’t know what year it is? wonder why he was all mad in 2019

    3. It’s from last year.

      Just a reminder of who the author of an article calling others “illiberal” is.

      1. I bet he was totes serious in that tweet too.

        1. Poor thing. I’ve hurt your feelings.

          1. Yep, that must be it. I mean, I’m not the one dredging up joke-tweets from a year ago to prove that Welch is a crypto-Stalinist. But hey, ya caught me!

            1. Poor thing.

  2. From the Vermicelli article:

    “Constraints on power are good only derivatively, insofar as they contribute to the common good…”

    Or you could turn it around, like the Founders, and suggest that the powers of a just government are what contribute to the common good – and that the common good *also* requires a “jealousy” (which Vermicelli would probably call paranoia) abut the rulers’ intentions.

    “Finally, unlike legal liberalism, common-good constitutionalism does not suffer from a horror of political domination and hierarchy, because it sees that law is parental, a wise teacher and an inculcator of good habits. Just authority in rulers can be exercised for the good of subjects, if necessary even against the subjects’ own perceptions of what is best for them—perceptions that may change over time anyway, as the law teaches, habituates, and re-forms them. Subjects will come to thank the ruler whose legal strictures, possibly experienced at first as coercive, encourage subjects to form more authentic desires for the individual and common goods, better habits, and beliefs that better track and promote communal well-being.”

    No wonder he wants to get rid of skepticism toward the government, because nobody who was skeptical about government authority would have penned this ivory-tower masturbation fantasy about an ideal government. And it’s always a bait and switch, because they talk about how a loving paternalistic government of philosopher-kings could act, and then in reality give power to a government which – surprise! – turns out not to be so loving and parental after all.

    1. +100000

      1. ^that’s the highest number lovecon89 knows.

        (everyone know 24 is the highest number)

        1. poor unreason.

    2. that law is parental, a wise teacher and an inculcator of good habits.

      Really who can look at human history, or even the world today, and conclude this with a straight face?

      1. Boiled down, old politicians are using law to force young adults and kids to stay home so old people dont get sick and die.

        Old politicians are stealing from young Americans and future babies trillions of dollars of wealth just so old people can go on cruises, get knee replacements at 78 years old, and get a COLA increase to Social Security.

        I’m not saying old people who didnt save for retirement need to eat cat food from a can but are thousands of dollars in taxpayer money really what we want to give to lazy and stupid Boomers who didnt save for retirement?

        1. More violence, god, you’re so ignorant

        2. What you are saying is that young people are not politically well connected enough to use the brute force of government to steal money from others.

          Getting rid of the brute force seems like a better answer than demonizing old people. Sadly, young people seem to be overwhelmingly willing to give government more force, not less.

          Oh well – as an old person I can remember PT Barnum, so hahahaha young people…

      2. Really who can look at human history, or even the world today, and conclude this with a straight face?

        Only a complete moron.

      3. that law is parental, a wise teacher and an inculcator of good habits.

        Really who can look at human history, or even the world today, and conclude this with a straight face?

        That is also a meme because it causes behaviors, supporting those holding the expanding power, who want it to expand for the exact opposite reasons: lining their pockets and maintaining that power.

        Note all these things coming out of peoples’ mouths in these times. Witness those who don’t understand history and are just collapse vectors for freedom and democracy, astonishingly becoming this generation’s authorizers for emergency powers of the type historical dictators never give up.

  3. “In a globalized world that relates to the natural and biological environment in a deeply disordered way, a just state is a state that has ample authority to protect the vulnerable from the ravages of pandemics, natural disasters, and climate change,”

    OK, so far as it goes…

    “and from the underlying structures of corporate power that contribute to these events.”

    Have I wandered into a Nation magazine editorial by mistake?

    1. It’s Matt Welch. He’s a far left demagogue who actually wants to kill people just for being conservative.

      1. It’s Vermicelli or whoever, the article cited by Welch.

    2. People are trying to use covid-19 to implement fascism or communism depending on their outlook. And everyone is going along with it except one locomotive engineer in San Pedro.

  4. “As for the structure and distribution of authority within government, common-good constitutionalism will favor a powerful presidency ruling over a powerful bureaucracy, the latter acting through principles of administrative law’s inner morality with a view to promoting solidarity and subsidiarity. The bureaucracy will be seen not as an enemy, but as the strong hand of legitimate rule.”

    Again, I can only appeal to experience to answer the question: Would a powerful President and bureaucracy behave in this idealized ivory-tower way in real life?

    1. meesa propose that the senate give immediately emergency powers to the supreme chancellor.

      1. So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause

  5. COVID-19 also exposes fake libertarians like most of the Reason staff for what you actually are, and it’s not pretty.

  6. Basically every country that wants to shut its borders at least for a while to keep transmission of a disease is the illiberal right – because it’s all about the open borders regardless of whether it’s really a good idea or not. I get it they receive their orders from RF, and we know who runs it. And while many libertarian ideas are intriguing or at least worthy of discussion, sometimes it’s better for a nation state to take care of its own for a while. America is strong, resilient, and will survive this- as long as this stupid experiment of laying off people ends.

    1. unreason will NEVER admit this but had the USA been able to block all non-American passengers coming from Asia and quarantined all American passengers, there is chance that we would have never had Wuhanvirus outbreak.

      We would have to do the same thing from Europe sooner or later but our first cases were passengers directly from Asia.

      Imagine if the USA and Canada cut off all airline traffic outside flights between us and Canada and secured the Mexican border? No pandemic for USA or Canada.

      1. Oh well, America will be stronger because most of us were exposed to KungFlu and many of the Boomer tyrants will be dead.

  7. “This is not the occasion to offer a bill of particulars about how constitutional law might change under this approach,”

    …you’ll have to adopt this policy to find out what’s in it…

    “but a few broad strokes can be sketched. The Court’s jurisprudence on free speech, abortion, sexual liberties, and related matters will prove vulnerable under a regime of common-good constitutionalism.”

    The abortion and sexual-liberty jurisprudence wouldn’t fare very well under originalism, either, so it’s irrelevant to your argument that originalism has to be replaced with something brand new and shiny.

    As for free speech, that’s kind of a wash because originalism must confront the division among the Founders themselves over, say, the Sedition Act. I would apply common-good principles to allow a broad free expression, since I don’t want the government deciding how much it’s OK to criticize the government.

    1. Eddy is Perfesser of Creation Science at Landover Baptist College of Eugenics, and knows by Revelation what the Frowning Fathers were really thinking about race suicide and letting Jezebels run wild.

      1. Woh – ho! Lookout! Hank goes out of his comfort zone to sling arrows at other posters! This could get interesting!

        And rambling. Haha.

  8. Christian Liberty

    As a graduate of Christian Liberty Academy Satellite School (I was homeschooled through high school), I can assure you that “Christian liberty” is anything but. The last thing I want to live in is a theocracy, but Christian dominionists, like Islamic fundamentalists, dream of imposing just that.

    1. You’re so utterly full of shit.

      1. If that is what you think, then you quite simply have no idea what Christian dominionism is. I was raised in this school of thought. Steeped in it. It infused every aspect of my lifestyle and worldview for years. Christian dominionists are are overt and explicit about their desire to establish a Christian theocracy in this country. They use those very words to describe their agenda, and they’re damn proud of it. They are fired with eschatological fervor. They view the attainment of theocracy as a fulfillment of the Great Commission, the realization of the kingdom of God on earth.

        Do some reading on the subject before you spout off and make yourself look ignorant.

        1. Do most of those dumbasses genuinely believe that fairy tales are true, or are they faking it?

          They’re entirely full of shit either way.

        2. I don’t know what their stated, or unstated goals are, but clearly none of that is going to happen. If you worry about that stuff you might have too much time on your hands.

          At least they’re not flying planes into buildings.

          1. Let’s not forget . . . or excuse . . . or respect the rattlesnake-juggling, the dumbass homeschooling, the faith healing, the defiance of close-your-business orders during a pandemic, the anti-vaccination kookiness, the longstanding and systematic facilitation and concealment of sexual abuse of children, the defiance of no-large-gathering orders during a pandemic, and the other forms of superstition-laced stupidity and recklessness regularly exhibited by America’s superstitious slack-jaws.

            1. The Human Hemorrhoid speaks. Oh joy…

            2. Pretty sure most of the country is homeschooling right now, ass hat. Also, the anti-vaccination is really big in progressive hell holes like Seattle and Portland. Oh and are you saying that the government should have the order to suspend religion and religious practices at their say-so?

  9. Let me go back to his references to “hierarchy” and the cliche about atomistic individualism.

    Look, Vermicelli, do you think that originalism doesn’t allow hierarchy? The Founders talked about the inequality which existed under a system of property rights, and feared a takeover of the government by an untrammelled majority, because that could lead to a “levelling” government which took from the minority with property to give the the majority without. Maybe in the name of fighting “structures of corporate power.”

    1. Under “atomistic individualism,” you have to respect your boss until you can find a different job. That’s not as hierarchical as feudalism, but it’s not mindlessly egalitarian, either.

      Under paternalist philosopher-king government, you can wield the whip hand over your boss by threatening to run to daddy government to protect yourself from getting fired. Levelling!

    2. “Atomistic individualism” is a farce of a term anyway. The fact that you aren’t forced into some structure or hierarchy doesn’t mean you don’t voluntarily cooperate and join one anyway–quite the opposite. It’s like saying that someone who’d rather go over his neighbor’s house when invited instead of breaking down the door in the middle of the night is “unfriendly.”

  10. Coronavirus creates the environment for propaganda. Right?

    Propaganda requires an environment of emotion, fear is best.

    In this environment, to the susceptible, facts don’t matter and surreptitious agendas flourish.

    Add herd mentality and the numbers of brainwashed grow.

    Got an agenda Reason? Fill your boots.

  11. Meanwhile in left wing Pritzgerland residents finally got a taste of spring after a long cold dreary winter. Kids can’t go to school and mom and dad are out of work so some decided to get some fresh air.

    “It’s really been district-wide. Our police have been inundated with stopping and talking to folks, and politely asking them to disperse,” said Jacobson.
    Now Johnson says the park district has to take things a step further to discourage these groups from meeting up. Starting Thursday, it’s taking down basketball rims and backboards, as well as soccer nets at its parks. And if people still congregate, it may have to take harsher steps.
    “We have made the decision thus far not to issue any citations or notices to appear, but I guess if things get worse locally here in the Rockford area, then we may be in a situation where we begin to do that,” he said.

    1. Did I call it or what? I said more and more Americans would say fuck you gubmint and get out this weekend.

      1. This will not end well.

        1. Nope. Evidently Georgia is moving to Martial Law soon.

          Started tuning up my APCs and getting extra 55 gallon drums of diesel. I invited over family and friends to shoot off rounds and hone in their shooting skills.

          This is not going to work out the way Lefties want it to.

        2. The spread of disease is inversely proportional to I.Q.

          1. Oh Really Mr. Misek, Have not the big blue cities been claiming intellectual and educational superiority over the hinterlands for years? Yet, where are the spiking death and infection rates?

            1. I.Q. may not be the best descriptor of an uncaring, narcissistic lack of common sense.

              And there are smart people being infected by the stupid actions of others.

              1. Spoken like someone who is stupid enough to believe that because you think you’re smart it means that if you get sick, it’s only because of other “stupid” people.

                Here’s a newsflash for you…if you left your house for any reason at all during the pandemic, especially if you went to the grocery store, you got sick because you exposed yourself. And that is nobody’s fault but yours. Nobody else is obligated to change their behavior to feed your delusion that you’re above getting sick.

  12. had to goto Europe bc the American tyrants are (D)

    1. +1000

  13. “it has become clear that a just governing order must have ample power to cope with large-scale crises of public health and well-being—reading “health” in many senses, not only literal and physical but also metaphorical and social.”

    Unless Vermicelli can show what a metaphorical health crisis is, and how it should be treated like a pandemic, then he’s just engaging in bait-and-switch tactics.

    With people like him around, it’s no wonder libertarians are skeptical even of bona fide public health measures, given that so many people want to use such measures as a precedent for an ever-growing variety of “crises.”

  14. So that thing wasn’t a parody?

  15. So what’s the difference between “just governing order” and fascist National Socialism? And what, pray, is lubrciated?

    1. “So what’s the difference between “just governing order” and fascist National Socialism?”

      There is no difference.

      “And what, pray, is lubrciated?”

      Your ass. You have the “right” to bend over and smile.

  16. protecting the weak from pandemics and scourges of many kinds—biological, social, and economic—even when doing so requires overriding the selfish claims of individuals to private ‘rights,’

    In the first place a pandemic only applies to contagious disease. As such in only one of his three examples, and only a subset of that example, infectious biological scourge, does government have the moral authority to do anything. In the second place, anyone who puts rights in scare quotes should be dismissed as an authoritarian thug out of hand. Why does this no-talent ass clown even have a voice in the discussion?

  17. Great Article.

    It’s really Shocking that so many want more Government Control even when the current Global Pandemic was caused by a Controlling Government

  18. “Coronavirus Gives the Illiberal Fever Dreams of Power”


  19. > There are generally no such dot-connecting ideological/partisan exercises when the laissez-faire governmental responses come from populist lefties, as in Nicragua, Mexico, and (until recently) New York City.

    Where is the evidence that Cuomo has been palin’ around with Maduro or AMLO the way Trump rubs… elbows with Desantis, Kemp and Bolsonaro?

  20. How about a virus that kills anyone who wants to tell others what to do?

  21. Imagine thinking that a Harvard professor in good standing who writes papers with Sunstein and shit is the “illiberal right.”

    1. Well, he’s illiberal, but so are most Harvard faculty. The question is whether he is “the right”.

  22. It is, of course, the right to free speech that gives enemies of that right, like Vermeule, the ability to express their views. I wonder if he has reflected on that irony. I wonder how long he can continue being a Harvard Law professor while expressing views so contrary to those that lie at the foundations of American law. And I wonder if more people will now start to realize that libertarians and conservatives are not always natural allies, but can sometimes be very directly opposed to each other.

    1. I wonder how long he can continue being a Harvard Law professor while expressing views so contrary to those that lie at the foundations of American law.

      literal LOL

      And I wonder if more people will now start to realize that libertarians and conservatives are not always natural allies, but can sometimes be very directly opposed to each other.

      Vermeule isn’t a conservative or really even a man of the broader right. His philosophy is basically the globalist system we already have except replacing The International Community with the Vatican.

    2. “libertarians and conservatives are not always natural allies, but can sometimes be very directly opposed to each other.”


      I would call it more of an overlapping Venn diagram, where large numbers of libertarians largely agree with large numbers of conservatives.

      There are still people outside the overlapping circles: Conservatives who hate libertarianism and vice versa.

      1. Even on a Political Spectrum where Communism is on the Far-Left, Monarchy is on the Far-Right, and Libertarianism in Centrist there is some overlap between Libertarianism and Conservatism of the Right. Depends on how Conservative you are.

    3. I wonder how long he can continue being a Harvard Law professor while expressing views so contrary to those that lie at the foundations of American law.

      Harvard law professors have promoted eugenics, internment camps, and torture; I doubt he’ll have have any problem.

      if more people will now start to realize that libertarians and conservatives are not always natural allies

      Whatever he is, he’s not a conservative. And US Catholics lean Democrat and tend to be progressive.

  23. Every once and a while, a Reason article can still put a smile on my face.

  24. Vermeule is an authoritarian, superstitious, stale-thinking clinger, albeit the rare wingnut one with a couple of solid degrees and the privilege of being a token hire at Harvard to flatter Republican donors. I doubt mainstream members of that faculty would piss on him if he were set afire by the sacred bleeding heart of Jesus located somewhere in Los Angeles, California.

    1. Wikipedia informs us that Vermicelli joined the Harvard law faculty in 2006, and announced his Catholicism in 2016. In between, I would imagine that he got tenure, so Harvard can truly say it’s not their fault.

      Wikipedia notes that soon after his appointment, when Vermicelli still have that Harvard new-car smell, he was talking like an early-twentieth-century legal progressive, which would hardly be unprecedented for Harvard:

      “In 2007, Vermeule said about the United States Supreme Court that it should stay away from controversial political matters, such as abortion laws and anti-sodomy statutes and defer to Congress, as the elected representatives of the people, except in extremely obvious cases. This would require both liberals and conservative to step back and realize that the benefits of such a court would outweigh the drawbacks for both. Vermeule was thus suggesting “a kind of arms-control agreement, a tacit deal.””

      This was the sort of thing the rich Republican donors got – donors who in spite of being bitter clingers seem to have made enough money to be worthy of courtship by Harvard.

      In short, they got someone who would have been considered, several decades before, as a standard-issue legal liberal.

      I guess his later conversion to Catholic integralism was just an unexpected bonus for all those donors.

      1. And what a thrill it must be for those donors, to see the guy who was appointed as a sop to them writing such things as these in the *Atlantic.*

        “a just state is a state that has ample authority to protect the vulnerable from the ravages of pandemics, natural disasters, and climate change, and from the underlying structures of corporate power that contribute to these events.”

        All those rich moneybags must have swooned in delight that instead of a some leftist professor, they got a reliable right-winger who babbled about “structures of corporate power.”

        1. (It would of course be utterly inconceivable that any of the “mainstream” Harvard faculty would write a sentence like the one I quoted)

        2. Sounds pretty progressive for a bitter clinger.

          Mmmm-hmmm. Interesting. Haha.

          1. I’m not saying he’s a leftist, but I *am* saying that he’s not the kind of rightist whose views make the average rich Republican want to subsidize him.

            Good thing the greedy Republican donors who apparently influence Harvard’s hiring decisions acted before they (the donors) knew this guy would become the particular kind of rightist he became!

    2. Vermeule is an authoritarian, superstitious, stale-thinking clinger

      So just like the rest of the Harvard progressive faculty then. Progressives are “authoritarian, superstitious, stale-thinking clingers”. Just look at yourself.

      NB: US Catholics lean Democrat and progressive; don’t put this on Republicans.

  25. Not much to be done when our nation is populated by cowardly, groveling sheep:

  26. Is Vermeule a man of the Right? Just asking, because I do not think I have ever heard of him before this article.

    On the other hand, when five years ago (?) the Senate Democrats voted to amend the Constitution to restrict the free speech/press clauses of the First Amendment because they got pissy about the Citizens United ruling it was brushed off as a stunt that was not an existential threat to civil liberties. Because the Left are good on civil liberties, it is known.

    1. Yeah, they’re really good on civil liberties. Except freedom of speech. Or freedom of religion. Or the right to bear arms. But otherwise, just great!

  27. I’m no fan of authoritarianism, but imprisoning “journalists” who knowingly spread fake news is sounding better and better every day. They get away with too much libel and slander and ruin too many lives and careers, as it is. Not to mention they are the cause of most of the hoarding and hysteria right now. People die because of lies they print all the time.

    1. Most of the MSM are purposely inciting panic. That is a crime in some jurisdictions.

      I dont want to give the MSM a way out. They dug this cesspit and they will reap the whirlwind of pitchforks.

    2. “I’m no fan of authoritarianism, but”

      You could’ve just stopped there.

    3. “I’m no fan of authoritarianism, but imprisoning “journalists” who knowingly spread fake news is sounding better and better every day…”

      One of those clauses is a lie.

  28. “Rule by decree”, “Suspend Elections”? Sounds like what Cuomo is doing. Now he has the National Guard seizing the property of others for NYC!

    1. And the rest of NY which has been terrorized by woke/socialists from NYC for decades again gets the short end of the stick. Cuomo is going into our hospitals in central and western NY and taking our medical devices..when he should have shut NYC down three weeks ago. NYC the “woke” kingdom spread the virus in South FLA, rural NY where they fled to their cabins and heck even as far away as Israel and New Zealand.

  29. Crystal Edwards I earned $5000 ultimate month by using operating online only for 5 to 8 hours on my computer and this was so smooth that i personally couldn’t accept as true with before working on this website. if you too need to earn this sort of huge cash then come and be part of us. do this internet-website online… Details Here

  30. Winter is coming Mr Welch? I’d say it has been here gaining steam for about 100 years since the progressive era. The idea of a small Federal Govt with very limited powers, strong States Rights (oh my god you mean I don’t), NO central bank, no federal social net, no foreign interventionism, sound money (gold standard), no deficits by govt of any level, no public sector unions…served this nation well and were the bedrock of liberty. But the early “wokes’ staring with the degenerate New Dealers and they Eastern Europe/Russian socialism/troytskyism started the downfall. Post WWII, instead of listening to Robert Taft we listed to the eastern elites and their obsession with empire. Korea, Vietnam, Great Society, Nixon taking us off the gold standard (or what was left of it), woke social institution distructions(ending the social compact with birth control, no fault divorce and abortion), running massive deficits and wars wars wars…that created the current loss of faith in so called democracy. How many times have we seen the well connected bailed out? How many times have we seen “govt” elites become filthy rich by their connections on Wall Street and Govt. How many times have we seen “govt” elites with spouses in the media or at Goldman Sachs making millions.

    I’m not surprised people have lost faith in our institutions..they are corrupt and by nature distructive of our republic. I realize Reason is represents the “woke” cosmo wing but sorry Ron Paul was right when he said we need sound money, free markets, limited govt, and peace..and although he didn’t say this..a common culture. Not multiculturalism which is just cultural marxism.

    Maybe the Hungarian model is necessary for them for a short time until the wokes are finally banished from our shores then we can return to a small humble republic with men of public virtue. I would rather go straight to a humble republic but I fear the America of liberty is on the way out.

  31. A short list of tinpot Stalinist wannabes here in the United States. How much more evidence does ‘reason’ need that the “anti-liberals” are in fact the liberals?

    Gretchen Witmer, Governor, Michigan. Democrat.
    Andrew Cuomo, Governor, New York. Democrat.
    Phil Murphy, Governor, New Jersey. Democrat.
    Steve Sisolak, Governor, Nevada. Democrat.
    Michelle Lujan Grisham, Governor, New Mexico. Democrat.
    Andy Beshear, Governor, Kentucky. Democrat.
    Greg Fischer, Mayor, Louisville. Democrat.
    Lori Lightfoot, Mayor, Chicago. Democrat.
    Errick Simmons, Mayor, Greenville. Democrat.
    Erick Garcetti, Mayor, Los Angeles. Democrat.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.