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The Road to Regression

        "Every step forward is made at the cost of mental and physical pain to someone."
—Friedrich Nietzsche

Most Americans, whether they know it or not, are already well acquainted with lost causes; as for the rest, they have only to wait, perhaps for just a little while. T.S. Eliot thought no good cause was ever lost—an opinion on which, as with so many other things, the reactionary poet parted company with the political and economic "conservatives" of the past 30 years, who have insisted on "common sense" against "naivete," "constructive" criticism over the "negative" variety, and "practicality" in favor of "sentimentality." "They never fail who die / In a great cause," Byron wrote—a maxim totally lost on the Republican Party, which believes, rather, "They never fail who live / To wimp another day." If cowardice may have its principles, the honorable assumption here is that "constructive" criticism only can be effectively embodied in "conservative" policy—a question-begging notion if there ever was one. (What is "negative," Miguel de Unamuno wondered, and what is "positive," and how does one tell the difference between them?) More often than not, what people mean by "constructive" is really only "popular"—denoting...

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