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Free Minds & Free Markets

The Tribe of Liberty

National Review's Jonah Goldberg wonders how to save civilization in his new book, Suicide of the West.

Jonah Goldberg is worried about the state of the nation. In his new book, Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy (Crown Forum), he makes the case that the liberal democratic project is not only in danger—it has become a danger to itself.

The United States, Goldberg argues, has forgotten or rejected its core values, allowing its institutions to decay. The result is a nation that no longer has a coherent self-image, a culture that no longer knows what it lives for. "I like getting rich really fast, and I want to make the world get richer really fast," he says. "But the violence that does to established institutions and customs and norms sets a lot of people adrift."

A stalwart of modern conservative political journalism, Goldberg is a longtime editor at National Review, where he helped launch the magazine's online presence. He also currently writes a column for the Los Angeles Times and serves as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. And he's the best-selling author of two previous books, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning and The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas.

Like both of those titles, Suicide of the West blends history and philosophy with pop-culture references; as always, Goldberg's deep despair is leavened with a lively wit. In June, he spoke with Reason's Nick Gillespie about how and when America lost its way, why tribalism is the culprit, what role Donald Trump plays in the death of the West—and why Goldberg has become friendlier to libertarianism over the course of his career.

Reason: In Suicide of the West, you talk about "the miracle." Describe what you mean by that.

Goldberg: When something hugely providential and wonderful happens that you can't explain, we call it a miracle. For 250,000 years, the average human being, everywhere in the world, lived on about $3 a day or less. Then, once and only once in all of human history, it starts to change. There's unbelievable consensus about this from the hard left to the hard right. Everyone sort of agrees on those numbers to one extent or another. When it comes to the question of why it happened, all consensus breaks down.

But it only happened once, at least in a sustained way. And I think what causes the miracle isn't some specific public policy or anything like that. It's words. It's language. It's the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. This is sort of the Deirdre McCloskey thesis: For thousands of years in Western Europe, innovation was considered a sin, the sin of questioning the established order. Then all of a sudden [you get] this Lockean idea that the fruits of our labors belong to us, that if you can build a better mousetrap, you should reap the rewards of that. And it has this explosive effect that spreads out across the world. It's unnatural.

If it were natural, if this were how human beings just automatically self-organize into prosperous communities of rule of law and individual autonomy, it would have occurred a little earlier in the evolutionary record than 250,000 years after we split off from Neanderthals.

What is the essential insight needed to preserve the miracle? And when you talk about the death of the West, is it really suicide, or is it being imposed on us?

The working title for the book for a couple years was The Tribe of Liberty, and the basic argument was that we need to rekindle a sort of tribal commitment to the institutions of liberty. There are institutions in the economic sense of rules, but also physical organizations, groups, traditions, that civilize us and make us respect and admire and want to preserve liberty. And those things are often taught to us in a prerational way, right? They're taught to us when we're born into any family that has a commitment to certain ideas. But we have to be taught those things.

Jonah Goldberg. Photo by Steven Biver.Jonah Goldberg. Photo by Steven Biver.It's weird we have to be taught to hold a prerational identity. But it's true. One of the reasons we were able to get rich is that [people were willing to commit] to an order where they individually may not be a winner.

Hannah Arendt says, "Every generation, Western civilization is invaded by barbarians. We call them children." We come with all sorts of factory preloaded software in us. But that software is unchanging over millennia, for the most part. A baby born in the Viking age transported to today, you raise it in a nice family in New Rochelle and it becomes an orthodontist.

One of the things that binds lots of Burkeans and libertarians is this idea that capitalism depends upon values that it cannot create and cannot restore once lost.

One huge influence on me is Friedrich Hayek's The Fatal Conceit, where he has the microcosm and the macrocosm. The microcosm is the world of intimate relationships. The world, first of all, of family, but also friendships, community. The rules there are not market rules. As I often say, in my family I'm a communist. If you have two kids and one kid is really talented and the other kid really isn't, you don't say, well, he doesn't get the operation [he needs to survive], right? Within the family it really is "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

What Hayek argues is that it's the microcosm that generates the values—the respect for human rights, the respect for human dignity, the respect for the Golden Rule—all of these sorts of yeasty cultural ideas that make the macrocosm of the extended order of liberty work. The extended order of liberty is the world of contracts, of consumers, of rule of law. It lowers the threshold to dealing with strangers. Because in the state of nature, the way you deal with a stranger is you hit them over the head with a rock, while in the modern world the way we deal with strangers is we try to sell them rocks.

So part of my argument is that every kind of totalitarian regime or authoritarian regime is trying to take the values of the microcosm and apply them to the macrocosm. Nazism is tribalism for one race; fascism is tribalism for one country; communism is tribalism for one class. It's trying to take those notions of social solidarity and intimacy from the microcosm and apply them to the macrocosm, and when you do that, you destroy liberty and the rule of law.

However, when you take the logic of the macrocosm and you apply it to the microcosm, you destroy the engines of value generation that make society work. If you tried to turn a family into a business, it would ruin the family. And if you tried to make a country of 310 million people operate as if the president were our father or our mother, it would ruin everything that Reason stands for.

"In the state of nature, the way you deal with a stranger is you hit them over the head with a rock. In the modern world the way we deal with strangers is we try to sell them rocks."

To when do you date the beginning of the decline? Because this is a slow-motion suicide.

Ronald Reagan said, "Every generation, we're only one generation away from tyranny," because we don't have an inherent love for liberty in our blood. We have to be taught it. So we've had these struggles many times in our past.

One of the things I focus on—and it's most acute in higher education, but watch virtually any frickin' award show from out of Hollywood and you find it there too, and you find it in mainstream journalism—is this desire to define all of American history by its sins. And I absolutely want to teach that stuff. About slavery, about the bad things that came with Christopher Columbus, about what we did to the Indians.

You're not saying we have to teach that Christopher Columbus was the greatest guy in the world.

No. Absolutely not. But a thing that drives me absolutely crazy is our tendency to compare events in the past against an ideal in the future. The American Founding has all sorts of problems with it, but it was better than anything that came before it. Yet we want to hold up the gold standard of, not even today, but an ideal sometime in the Utopian future against what they were talking about in 1776.

Let's remember that the ideas that emerged from the miracle worked. This bourgeois, mercantile, merchant-class ideology made poor people richer. It also made rich people richer, but if you're of a progressive mindset that says the thing you should be concerned about is the status of poor people, this is the only economic system that has actually made poor people richer. We should recognize that.

But one of the great and glorious things about the American Revolution and the Constitutional Convention is that they wrote this shit down and locked us into it. And because of the cultural stock of the population at the American Founding and throughout much of the 19th century, it got instantiated and strengthened in our institutions.

I would say that this starts to unravel not in the 1960s, not in the 1950s, but really with the rise of the Progressive Era, where you get all of these major intellectuals who were taught from the historicist school in Germany that come to the United States, and they think everything is relative. They completely reject the views of the Austrian school and all that stuff.

Those sorts of ideas percolate along and start taking over the universities, and then the materialist [critique] comes in after World War II, when we get really rich really fast.

I like getting rich really fast, and I want to make the world get richer really fast. But the violence that does to established institutions and customs and norms sets a lot of people adrift, and you get a mass affluent class of people, or what Schumpeter calls the "new class," who are incentivized to pee on America from a great height and to pee on capitalism from a great height. They're the priests who want to use the only weapons they have, which are words and concepts, to undermine the system and argue for something that empowers them. So you get robber barons who have lawyers for kids, and the lawyers have spoken-word poets for kids.

In a way, the suicide of the West is a luxury good, right? We don't have to worry about food. We don't have to worry about next week's budget. We're fat and happy, and we start taking for granted the institutions that got us here.

What we're witnessing because of this level of mass affluence is the ruling classes of the world uniting. Literally, that's what cosmopolitanism means. You get these people, the globalist class, who have more sense of social connection with somebody across the Atlantic who shares their status than they do with the person who cleans their yard.

How did we get to a world where rich people are saying that former factory workers in upper Wisconsin are being sold a bill of goods by globalists? What's going on that the elites are the most tribal now?

Part of the reason I think we're in the shitty position that we're in is that our elites will not preach what they practice. Rich people tend to live pretty bourgeois lives. Most successful people in this country wait till they get as much education as they can, then they get married, then they have kids, and it turns out if you follow that basic bourgeois kind of lifestyle, you're going to be OK. The economic gains from marriage are in some cases greater than and often equal to the gains from going to college, but it's part of the gestalt of the new elite class not to tell people to get married. They love talking about going to college, but they feel like it's too judgy to say maybe you should get married. I think this is one of the best examples of how our elites are contemptuous of the values that got them rich. They're terrified of preaching them to other people.

National Review came out against Trump during the campaign, despite the fact that he was advocating some policies the magazine has been preaching for decades. He won anyway. Is Trump actually what we've been asking for all along?

My position has long been that Trump is not the author of all of our problems—he's a symptom of our problems—but he's making a lot of those problems much worse.

I think what Trump has done is break the blood-brain barrier between politics and entertainment in a way that will not be repaired for a very long time. I was saying in 2016 as late as July that if Tom Hanks or Oprah or one of those guys parachuted in, they could have probably won the election, because everyone hated Hillary and everyone hated Trump. Both parties managed to nominate the one candidate that had a chance of losing to the other. It was a choice between two different crap sandwiches on different kinds of bread.

What Trump has proved is that you can have a completely thumbless grasp on the Constitution, you can encourage members at your rallies to commit violence against people, you can say the most despicable things, so long as you're entertaining.

"My position has long been that Trump is not the author of all our problems—he's a symptom of our problems—but he's making a lot of those problems much worse."

How do we revive our institutions or create new ones that are actually worthy of our trust and confidence? If you start from 1968, the government has only been lying to us more and more: Vietnam, surveillance, etc. Or else it's incompetent. How do we reinvest these institutions with something like trust and confidence?

There's not a lot of policy prescription in the book, but one of the things I think screams out from it is just simply this idea of pushing as much power as possible down to the most local level. I think some of the paranoia about globalists is bullshit; I think some of it is totally fair; and I think some of it is wrong but understandable. You have to take the complaints on a case-by-case basis. But one thing that's indisputable is there's a widespread view that either Washington or some other powers that be are making too many decisions about our lives. If one community wants to ban stinky cheese, let them. Why does the [Food and Drug Administration] have to do it?

Jonah Goldberg. Photo by Steven Biver.Jonah Goldberg. Photo by Steven Biver.If you push power down to the most local level possible, one of the benefits you get is that people know who the powers that be are. They know their names.…You're still gonna have culture war fights, but the winners have to look the losers in the eye the next day. That breeds a certain sense of humility; it breeds a certain sense of live to fight another day. Instead, what we have is these idiotic national coalitions that want to impose one way of living on the entire country.

But does the average Trump voter want to take responsibility for his own life?

Look, I have no problem giving the people their fair share of blame. The Democrats are very good at this, and they've been doing it for far longer—this promise that the government is there to love and take care of you. That's the "Life of Julia" bullshit. That's the opening sentence from the Democratic convention in 2012, which said, "The government is the one thing we all belong to," which is creepy. That's the "politics of meaning" stuff that Hillary Clinton used to talk about.

What happens when you feel powerless, on your own, alienated in a corner of suburban America or in the inner city, where you don't have many social connections? You start looking to Washington. That "government is the one thing we all belong to" line, I'm sure, was focus-grouped to death. There are an enormous number of people who feel like they want to belong to something.

Say we push power down to the lowest level possible. That's all well and good. But how does that play out in a way that doesn't immediately turn to the worst kinds of tribal instincts that you document in the book and that you say are destroying America? What is the positive vision where people have local belonging but also understand that they're part of something larger and more diverse?

One of the great things about the miracle of liberal democratic capitalism is it allows us to have a multitude of identities. We have allegiances to different institutions, but they don't wholly define us, and they allow us to exit one and go into another, try on one, leave that one.

The problem with the identity politics mindset is it says, "I can reduce someone to a singular thing." And when you do that, you sort of flip the switch of the tribal mind to "anybody who isn't me is the enemy." One of the reasons I think this identity politics mindset, which breaks my heart, is getting more and more popular on the right and has been instantiated on the left for a very long time is that we are teaching people that they can't assimilate, that they can't break out of the iron cage of their identity.

Are you going to come out as a libertarian right now? Because what you're saying is so fundamentally libertarian: You now are talking about overlapping identities, a movement toward freedom and self-definition, and mongrelization vs. purity.

I will not. Not right now. Look, William F. Buckley wrote a book subtitled Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist. There are many things which I am a libertarian on, and there are some things which I am a conservative on. I've argued for 25 years that no meeting of policy makers should ever gather or consider a question without a libertarian in the room. Libertarians will often be wrong. But the libertarian will always ask as the first question, "Should we do anything at all?" You get so much groupthink in policy making shops where they just assume that of course we've got to do something. The libertarian says, "Wait a second. Maybe the system itself can fix this." That's also a very conservative position. I've always thought fusionist conservatism was a cousin of the libertarians.

I wrote a piece for National Review, "Who Lost the Libertarians?" As I started thinking about it and reading about it, I decided the [prevailing] frames are completely wrong. In reality, the libertarians are a much older tradition than the conservatives, and modern American conservatism is arguably the youngest significant ideological phenomenon in American politics. Socialism is much older, obviously. Libertarianism goes back to Spencer. Meanwhile, modern American conservatism basically begins after World War II. Even the Old Right doesn't look a lot like modern conservatism or even modern libertarianism.

I feel like we've made some real headway. Libertarians always used to be considered the punk younger brother of conservatives, and now we're the cousin, and maybe even the forefather.

Yeah. Maybe.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and style. For a video version, visit reason.com.

Photo Credit: Steven Biver

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  • Rockabilly||

    Cut the size of the federal government by 95%.

  • DiegoF||

    I want a Viking orthodontist.

  • Cy||

    Ban all federal grants and loans to universities/schools & students.

    Ban Government Unions.

    Any entity receiving government funds and their employees/contractors are exempt from voting or in anyway participating in elections until 2 years after they're employment is terminated.

    Cap total personal taxes at 9% of income.

    Fix immigration through enforcement of the border and streamlining the immigration process for those we need/want here. Get rid of the green card crap.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Ending student loans programs would allow kids to go back to working summers in low-experience and manual labor jobs to save money for college.

    Its a win-win-win. Kids dont leave college in debt up tot their ass and farmers get help harvesting crops.

  • Cy||

    "Its a win-win-win. Kids dont leave college in debt up tot their ass and farmers get help harvesting crops."

    They can't do that, they might not have cell service or they might drop their tablet in the mud! Besides, we don't want to hurt the illegal invaders need jobs narrative.

  • U. R. Huyulov||

    College in 2018 is a scam, other than for STEM fields and teachers, and even there it can be scaled back. The whole system needs to be upheavaled.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The first year of college is an expensive lesson in what you should have learned in high school. Probably two years.

    By the time you get into a few good classes of medium academia, college is over. Colleges load kids down with soft 'sciences' and you need to then get a masters or Phd for real education in STEM fields.

    There is not good reason to have kids get a 4 year degree for sales. People used to sell stuff with some high school.

  • TLBD||

    The first two years of college are what junior college should be. I was so fucking bored my first two years.

  • Cy||

    ugh... *their

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    Re: Cy,

    Fix immigration through enforcement of the border and streamlining the immigration process for those we need/want here.


    Who is 'we' and how can you presume to know what people who are NOT you, need? Immigration is a Market phenomenon. Markets don't 'need' streamlined government impositions. The only thing that needs streamlining to the point of nothingness is the conceit that some people (bureaucrats and their authoritarian enablers) 'know' what everyone else 'needs'.

    As for who you 'want' here, who cares what you want? You're no one.

  • Cy||

    Take your third world shit hole back to where it came from. If your view is that a country isn't allowed to choose who does or doesn't get to cross it's borders, than you can take your anarchist bull shit, that's convenient for you and yours at the time and shove it up your ass.

    We live in a democratic republic, WE, just like EVERY single other country, can choose who is or isn't allowed into our country club whether you like it or not.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    How does a country choose such a thing? Majority vote, I suppose? Ok, then you believe in pure majority rule. Fine. But then don't complain when the "country" chooses to take your guns or raise your taxes.

  • Cy||

    Trying making sense and then typing.

  • Baron Von Weinermobile||

    sorry dickbag. they are right. You are a statist pretending to support liberty.

  • Cy||

    Apparently a Democratic Republic setting standards for who they allow into their country is oppression. GO GO One World Government!

    Jesus are you really that stupid or naive?

  • Ed Grinberg||

    You said: "How does a country choose [who does or doesn't get to cross it's borders]? Majority vote, I suppose? Ok, then you believe in pure majority rule. Fine. But then don't complain when the 'country' chooses to take your guns..."
    1. You don't have to suppose. We have federal statutes regarding this question.
    2. Our Constitution expressly protects citizens' right to keep and bear arms. It does nothing of the kind for foreigners.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Well, the income tax is in the Constitution, so I suppose you are perfectly happy with your taxes being raised by majority vote. Or any other liberal agenda item that becomes law by majority vote. So I don't want to hear any more complaining from you.

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    modern American conservatism basically begins after World War II

    It began with Reagan when the Bible-Beaters joined forces with the Big Government Nation Builders.

  • TLBD||

    It began with Burke and his debate with Paine.

    Though in reality Burke would probably be considered a libertarian today. We certainly learned more from him than modern conservatives have.

    Leftists, on the other hand, have never learned anything.

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    Nazism is tribalism for one race; fascism is tribalism for one country

    Our resident idiot, LovesTrumpsNuts1789, says that Nazis don't see race - they want the same stuff for everyone!

  • Cy||

    You calling someone else a Nazi? Tasty, tasty irony.

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    Yes, as a liberal ACLU type Nazis and other conservative authoritarian types would kill me fairly quickly.

    Who the fuck are you anyway?

    Another conservative Trump-stain who wandered in here from Bratfart?

    Is Andrew still dead, by the way?

  • Cy||

    More, give me MORE!

  • TLBD||

    I find it funny that you think nazism is the only authoritarian ideology that would murder you pretty quickly.

    I suppose you have to think that to justify your own blood thirsty ideology.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Goldberg's an idiot. Nationalism, great men, 'save us from creative destruction'.
    Historically selective, if not outright ignorant.
    This kind of pseudo-profound nonsense is a waste of paper, electrons, and time and attention.

  • U. R. Huyulov||

    Creative destruction doesn't pay clever writers very well.

  • Shirley Knott||

    If they're not creative, destroy them.

  • Overt||

    What the hell are you criticizing? Certainly nothing he said in the article. Maybe your decoder ring is broken?

  • TLBD||

    Goldberg is a really smart man with a very bad case of TDS. He cannot get past his visceral reaction to Trump. It is sad because he could go the Rand Paul route and work with the man. Instead he insists on making himself irrelevent.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    National Socialist German Workers Party- NDSAP- Nazi

    Our resident troll, Buttpugger, knows how Nazis were Socialists and loves Socialists anyway. There is always someone to silence and murder in Tony's World.

  • DiegoF||

    Our resident troll, Buttpugger

    I think it is you who is the Nazi, because your antipug rhetoric is similar to those who want to use national laws to rid brachycephalic breeds from the face of the earth.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    'Cause deportations are the same thing as Socialists gassing Jews.

  • Baron Von Weinermobile||

    No, but the impulse comes from the same authoritarian, boot licking, sycophantic place.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That is why Lefties like yourself hate Rule of Law under a Constitution.

  • DiegoF||

    What on earth does anything I joked about have to do with deportations?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Lefties would rather send the undesirables straight to the ovens.

  • U. R. Huyulov||

    And of course he blames Trump, while doublespeaking that he's not.

    The problems he discusses are real, and are inherent to a free and prosperous society; it always contains the seeds of its own destruction. As the old saying goes:

    Hard times bring strong men,
    Strong men bring good times,
    Good times bring weak men,
    Weak men bring hard times.

    Which would be a hunky dory cycle if this time around, we hadn't depleted all the planet's resources.

  • Cy||

    "we hadn't depleted all the planet's resources."

    What planet are you living on? Get out more. There are vast swathes of land on this planet that remain very untouched by humanity.

  • U. R. Huyulov||

    Dude. We're drilling for oil miles below the ocean, blasting water and chemicals miles below ground to try to release some gas, and poisoning the rivers with fertilizer runoff to keep crops growing in eroded and used-up soil. We need advanced technology to have any technology at all. This is the last civilization. Maybe it goes on forever, but if it doesn't, there ain't no more coming down the road.

    The parts of the planet that are untouched are untouched because they don't have anything we can use in an energy-positive way.

  • Cy||

    It must be hard going through life so pessimistically. I used to be like that. We're less than a grain of sand bouncing around in an ocean of matter, resources aren't really going to be an issue much longer for us. I see VR pretty much removing the need for business travel in the next 15 years. VR will also heavily affect the luxury markets, that and the death of the boomers. Oil companies stopped drilling for almost 3 years. The OPEC nations are less powerful than they've ever been. We're knocking on the door to the heavens with recent solar system probe goals being met. Cheer up man. The only real losers in the last 50 years are the poor people who constantly bet against human ingenuity.

  • Baron Von Weinermobile||

    100% chance that Cy is into VR porn heavily.

  • Cy||

    I'm too cheap... But I've heard some REALLY good things....

  • DiegoF||

    I always thought Maude brought Good Times.

  • Libertymike||

    No, she got Sue Ann Nivens and Vivian Harmon to trade places.

  • Paloma||

    That was Jimmy Walker.

  • Overt||

    "And of course he blames Trump, while doublespeaking that he's not."

    No he doesn't.

    "we hadn't depleted all the planet's resources."

    We have not done any such thing.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Huh? Don't you remember? We totally ran out of oil back in the 70's, man!

  • sarcasmic||

    So part of my argument is that every kind of totalitarian regime or authoritarian regime is trying to take the values of the microcosm and apply them to the macrocosm. Nazism is tribalism for one race; fascism is tribalism for one country; communism is tribalism for one class. It's trying to take those notions of social solidarity and intimacy from the microcosm and apply them to the macrocosm, and when you do that, you destroy liberty and the rule of law.

    That's what social justice and economic justice are all about.

  • John||

    Goldberg is the near perfect example of a sophist. Golberg's sophistry consists of one type. Goldberg defines some positive term, usually "classical liberal" as being perfectly in line with all of his views. Then he defines some pajorative term like "tribalist" or "nationalist" or "populist" of "fascist" as encompassing all of the views of his opponents thus rendering his opponents' position morally illegitimate and unworthy of debate.

    His current book is just a new example of this. Classical liberalism is a broad philosophy that embraces a lot of different and even contradictory policy positions. It is a philosophy not a policy guidebook. As such, Classical Liberalism recornizes and embraces multiple values in society and government. We have in our country maybe the greatest classical liberal political document ever made in the Constitution. And what does the preamble tell us about the purpose of government? It tells us that government has multiple purposes; including ensureing a common defense, domestic tranquility, justice, as well as ensure liberty.

  • John||

    It is not a Libertarian document in that it recognizes other competing governmental values beyond liberty. You can be a classical liberal and believe in nationalism or think that immigration ought to be controlled or that international trade is not always and forever the end of economic policy. You can oppose those things as well and be a classical liberal. But Goldberg is too lazy and dishonest to admit that. So, he decares classical liberalism as being inclusive of any policy or thought he doesn't like.

    Meanwhile, he calls policies that have been around since the founding of the country "populist" and "tribalist" as a way to avoid having an honest debate about them. This is what he does. It is what he did in Liberal Fascism. That entire book was just a long slander. Did Progressives agree with the fascists on a lot of things? Sure. That doesn't make them fascists. The thing that Goldberg ignores in that book is that people in the 1920s and 1930s didn't know that fascism would end up murdering millions. Yes, they should have known because the Fascists made no secret of their desire to do so. They were certainly guilty of moral naivity and confirmation bias. But, they were not fascists. They were fools. And to call them fascists is just a slander and a perfect example of Goldberg's sophistry.

  • Overt||

    I would recommend re-reading the article then.

    1) No real time is spent explaining "What I'm for".
    2) His entire thesis is that tribalism is a good thing at the microcosm, and a bad thing at the macrocosm. That the "suicide" is peoples' attempts to make the macrocosm (government/nation) into father/mother/family. He isn't saying that tribalism is bad- in fact he says it is absolutely necessary to have your tribe in order to create the values and social structure that the macrocosm depends on for markets to work.

  • John||

    I suggest you think a bit harder abotu what he is saying. Yes, he pays lipservice to "tribalism being okay in the microcosm", whatever the hell that means. But it ends up being a null set and just a more sophisticated slander of his opponents. Saying that the US is a special country, the "city on the Hill" as Goldberg's idol Reagan was fond of calling it and saying that the government of the United States owes its loyalty to the people who elected it and fund it, is not "tribalism" saying the state is father of morality. It is nothign of the sort. And it is absolutely consistent with classical liberalism and the founding principles of this country. Yet, Goldberg turns right around and claims that Trump, who has done nothing except affirm those values is a "tribalist' and a "nationalist" in the pajoritive sense you uses the terms.

    He is doing exactly what he always does. He hates Trump but really can't explain why Trump is a bad President or why his policies are bad or somehow counter to Goldberg's vaues. So, he just defines Trump as encompassing "tribalism" and declares his positions morally illegitimate.

  • sarcasmic||

    Yes, he pays lipservice to "tribalism being okay in the microcosm", whatever the hell that means.

    Well if you don't understand his premise, naturally you won't understand anything that follows from it.
    .

  • John||

    If I can think of people tribally in my private life, what reason is there to not do so in my public life? Goldberg is just once again poorly defining a word for his own purposes. Tribalism is not thinking a lot of your mother or wife. Tribalism is thinking that someone's value is determined by their membership in your tribe. To equate the nuclear family as some kind of small version of the kind of nationalistic tribalism Goldberg is condemning is absurd. One is nothign like the other. And Goldberg knows it. He is just doing what he always does and defining terms to suit his purposes and not in any consistent way.

  • StackOfCoins||

    If I can think of people tribally in my private life, what reason is there to not do so in my public life?

    "So part of my argument is that every kind of totalitarian regime or authoritarian regime is trying to take the values of the microcosm and apply them to the macrocosm. Nazism is tribalism for one race; fascism is tribalism for one country; communism is tribalism for one class. It's trying to take those notions of social solidarity and intimacy from the microcosm and apply them to the macrocosm, and when you do that, you destroy liberty and the rule of law."

    That's why.

  • sarcasmic||

    Are you saying that when you force the values of the microcosm onto the macrocosm, you don't destroy liberty and rule of law?

  • John||

    I am saying that believing in the country and thinking that the government owes a duty to the people it is charged with representing and governing over and above anyone else is not "tribalism" or "nationalism" in the blood and soil sense that Goldberg is using those terms.

  • sarcasmic||

    You don't understand what he is saying. And I'm not going to try to explain because when you are in defense mode, as you are now, you become willfully obtuse.

  • John||

    I totally understand what he is saying or at least trying to say. What he is saying is nonsense.

  • sarcasmic||

    From each according to ability, to each according to need. It works for families. It does not work for nations. That's the point. And it's not nonsense. You are taking personal offense because it is being used to describe nationalism, which you identify with, and that puts you into reflexive defense mode.

  • Brandybuck||

    I'm sort of in agreement with John above. It's not that Jonah is wrong in his facts, it's that he sees them, and presents them to us, through a lens of pessimism, with conclusion that we are going to hell in a handbasket because the powers that be aren't of Jonah's tribe.

    This is still the greatest decade in history to be alive in. Trump and social media filtering are not the tip of an iceberg threatening to sink the ship of enlightenment. We'll get past them. Despite the doom and gloom of tribalism, we are still the least tribalistic society in history.

  • John||

    Yes we are. And we continue to be. Most people don't care about social media. Jonah thinks that because he and everyone he knows is triabalist, everyone else must be as well. Goldberg is a pathetic elitest as much as anything.

  • Magnitogorsk||

    "The United States, Goldberg argues, has forgotten or rejected its core values, allowing its institutions to decay"

    I've found recently that mentioning "values" and "institutions" is a strong indicator that someone is completely full of shit

  • John||

    I tend to agree. It is basically a nonanswer of someone trying to look smart but who has nothing to say. Institutions and "values" necessarily conflict in some cases. Indeed, if affirming the institution never came into conflict with supporting the institution, there would never be a problem and our institutions would likely be in perfect shape. The problem arises when supporting the institution requires you doing something against your values. On the one hand, if you go against the institution for your values, why can't everyone else? On the other hand, if you just mindlessly support the institution at the expense of your values, you can end up being a party to great evil if those institutions are ever co-opted for bad purposes. One of the many reasons why life is so hard is that it requires you to figure out when you should compromise your values for the sake of getting along or some greater good and when your values cannot be comrpomised. Goldberg being a third rate mind and a sophist can't see that and thinks supporting your "values" whatever they are is always the answer.

  • Dillinger||

    word.

  • sarcasmic||

    Lady Justice wears a blindfold for a reason.

    When people rip that blindfold off in the name of nationalism, tribalism, egalitarianism, or whateverism, they destroy justice and rule of law.

    At least that's the message I got from this piece.

    Then the comment section becomes predictible principals over principles.
    Because I'm sure most nationalists and tribalists can see in principle how justice and rule of law are destroyed when egalitarians are the ones taking off that blindfold.
    But when they do it it's somehow different, and if you don't like it's because you hate Trump.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Trump's cleaning out the closet. A very corrupt closet full of bureaucrats who take a paycheck from taxpayers and meticulously attempt to destroy the USA.

  • M.L.||

    Goldberg is such a dull, tiresome Never Trumper.

    The most obvious practical step we could take now to reverse the suicide of the West and protect the tribe of liberty is to stop importing millions of immigrants who overwhelmingly vote against liberty. That Goldberg will never acknowledge this puts him more in the suicidal camp, it seems to me.

    Push power local -- why, of course! But how? Try to imagine doing that, it's virtually impossible, barring a cataclysmic deconstruction of the federal government. That's why a lot of people decided to throw a brick through the window of the federal government by electing Trump.

    Ultimately, though, there are no easy answers in policy or politicians. As John Adams said, our Constitution is designed for a moral and religious people, and is wholly inadequate for the government of any other. Unfortunately, widespread repentance and revival does not tend to happen until times of profound catastrophe and deprivation.

  • JFree||

    this starts to unravel not in the 1960s, not in the 1950s, but really with the rise of the Progressive Era, where you get all of these major intellectuals who were taught from the historicist school in Germany that come to the United States, and they think everything is relative. They completely reject the views of the Austrian school and all that stuff.

    Oh fergawdsake. Even if the Era is the right era, invoking the obtuse methodenstreit between Germans and Austrians is COMPLETELY irrelevant to why something unraveled IN THE US.

    Personally I date the unravelling to industrialization. That certainly becomes much more pervasive in the late 19th cent. The impact was a massive depersonalization of markets/politics/ 'macrocosm' stuff. Cog in the machine stuff. Marxism was able to create substitute explanations of what was happening. Classical liberalism failed utterly to respond beyond a FYTW of social darwinism and an establishment worship.

    'Prog Era' is imo nothing more than the industrialization of politics/macrocosm - unconstrained by competition or free markets (which classical liberals abandoned with classical economics), technocrats and 'efficiency advocates' types take over politics just as the same types in biz (eg Morgan and Rockefeller) were taking over markets.

    Invoking 'Austrian school' is just more perpetual stuck on stupid. Pretending that the sole issue in the world STILL is some socialist calculation argument from the 1920's.

  • Dillinger||

    >>>Jonah Goldberg is worried about the state of the nation.

    Jonah Goldberg jumped el tiburon 3 years ago and is terrible at owning dogs. ZZZZZZZZZZ