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Romance and Socialism in J. S. Mill

John Stuart Mill had the worst personal life of any libertarian philosopher, a competitive category for bad personal lives. Marriage in particular has a record of making libertarian philosophers behave discreditably—that is, in a way that brings discredit not just on their character but on their ideas. Bertrand Russell famously divorced the first of his four wives after a bicycle trip: “suddenly, as I was…

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What Is Conservatism?

The year 2016 marked a dramatic change of political course for the English-speaking world, with Britain voting for independence from Europe and the United States electing a president promising a revived American nationalism. Critics see both events as representing a dangerous turn toward “illiberalism” and deplore the apparent departure from “liberal principles” or “liberal democracy,”…

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Populist Demagogy and the Fanaticism of the Center

Why has the use of the term “populism” been imposed when we already had at our disposal the term “demagogy,” which seems to designate the same thing? Or are we to think that the new term refers to a new phenomenon, and that the new populism is something different from the old demagogy? To broach the issue, and as a provisional hypothesis, I offer the following…

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Reforming Elites the Confucian Way

Meritocracy has become a theme of great interest in contemporary politics, both in Western and Eastern societies. But attitudes toward meritocracy in the two regions differ sharply. In the West, the concept of an elite constituted by its most intellectually gifted and energetic members came into its own in the later nineteenth century with the adoption by the British government of civil service…

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Putting Work in Its Place

That working-class anger and resentment helped propel Donald Trump to the presidency is well known. This discontent points to important questions omitted in current political debates, beyond discussions about job loss to foreign competitors and technology: What is the place of work in a good life? And how should a…

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James Burnham’s Managerial Elite

Conservative polemicists have long presented a caricature of a decadent liberal elite, and liberals have offered a competing caricature of a conservative plutocracy. But few have attempted to understand how these ostensible opponents function as elements of the same elite, or how they have participated in maintaining the broader intellectual, political, and economic status quo.…

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A Renewed Republican Party

“However sudden and momentous be events that have just taken place so swiftly, the author can claim that they have not taken him by surprise.” So wrote Tocqueville in the Author’s Preface to the Twelfth Edition of Democracy in America, on the occasion, in 1848, of the final political repudiation of the effort to restore…

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