“The Liberal Mind” might seem a large subject. In practice, it is not. It is defined through the words and actions of its believers, who operate within a tight compass, not quite hermetically sealed but near enough. We can re-construct a corpus of the Liberal belief-system from a few skeleton remains. Here are some bones from the living dead.
First, let me give you Mary Warnock, who died the other day. She was a celebrated philosopher, a past Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge, who sat on many committees. The most famous led to the Warnock Report on Human Fertilisation and Embryology, which had the task of deciding whether human fetuses should be used for laboratory research. For this and other notable works she was ennobled, becoming Baroness Warnock. A most distinguished career, then. But note this human sidelight.
She could not stand Margaret Thatcher. In this she was accompanied by multitudes. None of them used these words, spoken in a recorded interview. Mrs. Thatcher “epitomised the worst of the lower middle class.” Her neat, well-groomed clothes and hair “were packaged in a way that’s not exactly vulgar, just low.” Mary Warnock felt “a kind of rage” whenever she thought about Mrs. Thatcher’s “odious suburban gentility.” Thatcher had provoked a Shakespearean moment of self-revelation, the index to a class. The liberal elite is born to rule. Those who do not submit to their edicts are not only wrong, but socially inferior. (As in W.S. Gilbert‘s Iolanthe, "Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes.”) The word snobbery rises irresistibly to the mind, and in Warnock’s case is focused to that ultimate condescension: suburban. I take Chambers as my guide: “provincial, narrow in outlook; cosily traditional or unadventurous in tastes.” It is a term of rhetoric, not factual. The Mistress of Girton lives by statute within the college precincts and escapes the dread term suburban. She married Sir Geoffrey Warnock, Vice Chancellor of Oxford University. They had five children, all of them born conveniently during the university vacations, and they planned well. Through all liberals runs the golden thread of entitlement.
Are we looking at a Brahmin caste, whose “untouchables” are not far from “deplorables”? Tempting, but not to my mind accurate. High liberals manifestly believe themselves to be an aristocracy of the mind. Though they would never admit the word, they inhabit it. They are Aldous Huxley’s “alpha pluses,” born and raised to rule as of right. A genuine aristocrat, Bertrand Russell had the self-confidence of his order and stands fully representative of the type. He was the grandson of a Prime Minister, Earl Russell, of whom A.J.P. Taylor wrote “Russell himself never forgot that he was a member of one of the greatest ducal families.” He was a leader of the clique of aristocratic families that ran the country. Bertrand Russell inherited that mindset and view of his political and social leadership. He publicly advocated the nuclear bombing of Russia before they had developed their bomb, and led a number of Left-wing causes. A great mathematician and philosopher, he overrated his capacity to judge general political events but never hesitated to judge them.
Today’s liberals as a caste tend to agree with each other, with relatively modest reservations. They are the Establishment, and the Establishment does not go to war with itself. But in the past, aristocrats disagreed strenuously with each other. It is not necessary to go back to the Wars of the Roses. Two centuries ago there were Whigs and Tories, all of impeccable lineage who lived in huge social and political enmity. Lord Byron admired Napoleon, and loathed Wellington. The Reform Bill of 1832 was a hard-fought compromise between the two great factions. Later in the century the two factions of the aristocracy came much closer together, which is why they were defeated in the Peers versus People dispute of 1911. There was a single target to hit, and the Peers lost. Are today’s liberals repeating the strategic error of the British aristocracy in the nineteenth century?
The evidence is mounting. The causes that liberals espouse look like losers. Take immigration: the West is now turning to nationalist policies which may rely on walls. The old prescription, bridges good, walls bad, no longer holds. Walls are in: the latest wall-builder is Spain, which has two Moroccan enclaves to defend, in Ceuta and Mellila. The high dual fences there are plainly inadequate to stop the storm tactics of migrants, as recent newsreels show. Spain, a key entry point to Europe, must defend its African outposts. That grand liberal cause, the free movement of peoples, is sliding away from reality.
The great doctrinal dispute is between globalism, central to the liberal belief-system, and nationalism. Globalism has won many victories, but nationalism has come in from the cold. It has left the ice age of advanced thought and is clearly set to enjoy a period of global warming. The evidence rests on two linked events of 2016, the UK referendum on leaving the European Union and President Trump’s victory. Few pundits saw this double coming. And yet the signs had long been there. People were opposed to certain aspects of liberal democracy as they had evolved over the years, and had realized that they could do nothing about it with the main centrist parties. The often hysterical reaction of the liberal establishment illustrated what the people were objecting to, the divine right of the liberal elite to shape the laws and values of society. David Cameron is a direct descendant of William IV’s illegitimate family. The self-confessed “heir to Blair,” he was astonishingly nonchalant in his legislation. With very little public discussion or advance warning, he brought in fixed-term Parliaments, and gay marriage (thus moving a giant step beyond civil partnerships). He did this with a compliant Commons that did what the Leader wanted. The people had noticed these developments, and when their chance came, they struck.
Other features of today’s liberal discourse are disquieting. The subjects liberals do not want to talk about tell their own story. Paul Morland’s recent (2019) The Human Tide: How Population Shaped the Modern World has nothing to say on the effects of sub-Saharan birthrates on migration to the Western world. Nor does it consider the significance of Muslim birthrates in societies with an already settled number of Muslims. Morland ignores totally Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam (published May 2017), widely seen as the book of the year. Instead, he gives us one side of the big picture: the migrant tide that in the 19th and early 20th centuries flowed West from Europe, and is now reversed. This version of Whig history has been admiringly reviewed: the subtext is, now the Third World is getting a return match against their imperialist invaders, and a good thing too. Pangloss, the tutelary deity of liberals, is happy at the distant prospect of the ‘demographic momentum’ slowing in the years to come, so that Third World birth rates resemble First World. Reviewers do not want to tackle the awkward question: What next? What comes before that “consummation devoutly to be wished,” the global stabilization of birth rates?
In fact, the mere raising of the awkward question with its adjacent issues incurs the high displeasure of the authorities. The current case is striking: Sir Roger Scruton, a right-wing philosopher of great repute, was instantly dismissed from his unpaid position as adviser to the Minister of Housing. His offense? He had said, in an interview with the New Statesman, that “Islamophobia was a propaganda word invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue.” This perfectly reasonable view would be assented to by many. The Cabinet Minister for Housing, Communities, and Local Government, James Brokenshire, had no doubt that this line on Islamophobia was unacceptable, and Sir Roger was sacked at once. The Government’s policy of appeasement to Islam brooks no challenge from within its own ranks.
Since its ranks cover the horizon, the implications are enormous. No serious careerist (“time-pleaser” is Maria’s term for Malvolio) can hope to get on if he runs foul of that hierarchic dismissal: “not sound.” Nobody on a journey to the sunny uplands of quangodom, or the BBC, or the Church of England, will make the progress he feels he deserves. A brief footnote here: Richard Chartres, then Bishop of London, came third in the decision to appoint the Archbishop of Canterbury. (The choice between the final two is left to the Prime Minister, following the advice given him by the Church.) He is a traditionalist, and the evidence comes in a single pronoun. Chartres speaks the Lord’s Prayer “Our Father, which art in heaven” in the words of the King James version (St. Luke 11). The New English Bible and others of that kin prefer “who art in heaven.” Chartres, whose public prayers have great clarity, never fails to give full emphasis to “which art.” He is the spiritual adviser to the Prince of Wales, but he didn’t make it to the top. The Anglican auto da fe can dispense with the fire, but its methods of ensuring compliance with the institution’s faith are just as effective.
The structural feature of high liberalism is that it is metropolitan, based on the relations between like-minded members who dwell within a few miles of each other, often a few hundred yards. They are disconnected from the mass of the population that lives in the provinces and rural areas. A single instance suffices. When the Leave March in Whitehall and Westminster occurred lately (March 29, the supposed date of the UK exit from the European Union), Jon Snow, the very left presenter of the leftist TV Channel Four, gasped: “I have never seen so many white people in one place, it’s an extraordinary story.” He should get out more. But liberals now conform to a single position on the political spectrum. For the present Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, violence is a “disease” to be cured, not a crime to be punished. It is safe to say that he is not at one with the mass of the electorate. He is nonetheless safe in his office, as is London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan. London, as I pointed out in my September 2018 article (“The Ethnic Partitioning of England”), is gripped by the triple lock of Establishment status quo, the Labour Party, and immigration, much of it Islamic. It will continue so. When Sir Roger Scruton raised his voice against Government policy, he was at once shown the door. Others less eminent will take note.
Those are the facts of life, the world as it really is. But the world is now in a phase of re-shaping itself, and the misconceptions of the liberal elite—“the sleep of reason” shall we say—are now reaching front and centre. The deepest failing of the liberal mind was diagnosed by Maynard Keynes a century ago. He knew Bertrand Russell well at King’s, and wrote of him in his Two Memoirs:
Bertie in particular sustained simultaneously a pair of opinions ludicrously
incompatible. He held that in fact human affairs were carried on after a
most irrational fashion, but that the remedy was quite simple and easy, since
all we had to do was to carry them on rationally.
And Russell could never see what was wrong in this analysis.