Rusty Reno on Liberalism and Cultural Nihilism

Rusty Reno:

“I find the liberalism v. illiberalism template tiresome. I am an American, which means I cherish (perhaps too much) our culture of freedom. But let’s be realistic. We’re afflicted by a liberal monoculture, not illiberalism.

For an entire generation, Democrats and Republicans have allied to pursue a double-pronged project of cultural and economic deregulation under the banner of liberalism. The left emphasizes cultural deregulation, though plenty of fusionist libertarians also endorse this agenda. The right emphasizes economic deregulation, and Clintonite neoliberals affirm its main thrusts as well.

Consider pornography. Supreme Court decisions opened the sluice gates for the raw sewage, and the Internet has vastly expanded the conduits. Meanwhile, our political establishment, left and right, has not lifted even its pinky finger. Liberal voices on right and left warn us about the slippery slope of censorship. Restrain the free speech rights of pornographers, and next thing you know the progressives will limit the free speech rights of anti-abortion counselors. But wait, they already do . . .”

Read the whole thing.

As I said in my response to Yuval Levin, the rise of the pornography industry is the ultimate proof that the market system is blind and that its incentives will reward evil unless it is restrained.

Here’s another thing I have been lately considering but haven’t written much about: free-market capitalism created the incentives that have rewarded rap artists who sell albums full of nothing but pure cultural poison to poor people in ghettos that glorifies violence and materialism in the black community. What cultural impact has that had on the black community?

Here in the Deep South, I have always observed a stark cultural difference between older blacks who live in rural areas and the younger ones who live in our cities. It is like the younger ones have been deracinated and turned into consumers of cultural garbage. I’m not even making a racist observation because I believe the same is true of White urbanites although they are wealthier and prefer to consume the latest iPhones and listen to different forms of popular music.

“Consider the sanctity of life. After a generation of activism and numerous pro-life Republican politicians elected to public office, even to the highest office, Roe remains the law of the land. Doubtless many good liberal principles were admirably sustained amid this ongoing effort, but the progress has been painfully slow.”

I don’t have any confidence in “conservative” judges to overturn the Roe decision. I believe they will seize on some excuse to sustain the scam which has gone on for over a generation now. I’ve sat here and watched the Republican-controlled Supreme Court legalize sodomy and gay marriage while sustaining affirmative action and disparate impact.

“The liberal end game is easy to formulate. Ideally, we would reach a state of affairs where people would feel no loyalty to non-economic goods such as family, community, or nation. This would free them for the liberal dream of complete autonomy (the final end of cultural deregulation). It would also make them more available as mobile, productive workers and eager consumers unhindered by disciplines or compunctions that have no utility value, thus fulfilling the liberal dream of non-coercive market coordination of all aspects of life (the final end of economic deregulation). …”

We agree with every bit of this.

“Point taken. But my aim is not to specify anyone’s position, but to illuminate a tendency. As a tradition, liberalism is and always has sought to expand and protect freedom. This has meant diminishing the public authority of older, pre-liberal traditions (expanding freedom through deregulation, cultural and economic). …”

I don’t see how anyone can deny this.

George Fitzhugh predicted all this would happen in the 1850s:


The exploitation, or unjust exactions of skill and capital in free society, excite the learned and philanthropic to devise schemes of escape, and impel the laborers to adopt those schemes, however chimerical, because they feel that their situation cannot be worsted. They are already slaves without masters, and that is the bathos of human misery. Besides, universal liberty has disintegrated and dissolved society, and placed men in isolated, selfish, and antagonistic positions – in which each man is compelled to wrong others, in order to be just himself. But man’s nature is social, not selfish, and he longs and yearns to return to parental, fraternal and associative relations. All the isms concur in promising closer and more associative relations, in establishing at least a qualified community property, and in insuring the weak and unfortunate the necessaries and comforts of life. Indeed, they all promise to establish slavery – minus, the master and the overseer.” …

“As the evils which we have described are little felt at the South, men here would as soon think of entering the lion’s cage, as going into one of their incestuous establishments. Mormonism is only a monster development of the isms. They are all essentially alike, and that the most successful, because, so far, it has been socialism – plus the overseer.” …

…“Why have you Bloomer’s and Women’s Right’s men, and strong-minded women, and Mormons, and anti-renters, and “vote myself a farm” men, Millerites, and Spiritual Rappers, and Shakers, and Widow Wakemanites, and Agrarians, and Grahamites, and a thousand other superstitious and infidel isms at the North ? Why is there faith in nothing, speculation about everything? Why is this unsettled, half demented state of the human man mind co-extensive in time and space, with free society? Why is Western Europe now starving? and why has it been fighting and starving for seventy years? Why all this, except that free society is a failure ? Slave society needs no defence till some other permanent practicable form of society has been discovered. None such has been discovered. Nobody at the North who reads my book will attempt to reply to it; for all the learned abolitionists had unconsciously discovered and proclaimed the failure of free society long before I did.” …

 But a “frequent recurrence to fundamental principles” is at war with the continued existence of all government, and is a doctrine fit to be sported only by the Isms of the North and the Red Republicans of Europe. With them no principles are considered established and sacred, nor will ever be.

When, in time of revolution, society is partially disbanded, disintegrated and dissolved, the doctrine of Human Equality may have a hearing, and may be useful in stimulating rebellion; but it is practically impossible, and directly conflicts with all government, all separate property, and all social existence. We cite these two examples, as instances, to shew how the wisest and best of men are sure to deduce, as general principles, what is only true as to themselves and their peculiar circumstances. Never were people blessed with such wise and noble Institutions as we; for they combine most that was good in those of Rome and Greece, of Judea, and of Mediaeval England. But the mischievous absurdity of our political axioms and principles quite equals the wisdom and conservatism of our political practices. The ready appreciation by the public of such doctrines as these, encourages us to persevere in writing. The silence of the North is far more encouraging, however, than the approbation of the South. Piqued and taunted for two years, by many Southern Presses of high standing, to deny the proposition that Free Society in Western Europe is a failure, and that it betrays premonitory symptoms of failure, even in America, the North is silent, and thus tacitly admits the charge. Challenged to compare and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of our domestic slavery with their slavery of the masses to capital and skill, it is mute, and neither accepts nor declines our challenge.”

We will be doing some deep dives into George Fitzhugh’s critique of Northern liberal democracy and free-market capitalism.

“We need to find our way toward the something else that’s needed in twenty-first-century America. This does not mean jettisoning everything now bundled under the heading of liberalism or its close cousin, civility. But it does mean knowing that they cannot guide us forward.”

I agree with every bit of this.

Personally, I think the goal should be to surpass the Enlightenment, not to reject everything about it. We are going to need a new social and economic paradigm fit for a 21st century society. I think it would be a mistake to reject everything about liberalism. We should also ponder why we were saddled with liberalism. This was the key mistake that was made after the Scientific Revolution when the Aristotelian tradition as a whole was rejected because of the flaws of Aristotle’s natural science.

Rusty Reno:

“The decline in life expectancy in the United States is a symptom of a failing culture. It is driven by deaths of despair: Suicide rates are up, as are drug overdoses and alcohol-related diseases. Those are hard, cruel facts. There are other signs of failure, more auspicious ones. We read about young voters who reject the status quo. On the left, they are embracing socialism. On the right, they are becoming more conservative on social issues. Surveys show support for LGBT causes rising or remaining steady in all cohorts—except for young self-identified Republicans, among whom it has declined. Left-leaning young adults think their Baby Boomer leaders have betrayed the core value of the left, which is economic solidarity. Right-leaning young adults think the same leadership class has betrayed the core value of the right, which is moral order. On both sides, there’s a rebellious temperament abroad, one that is increasingly bitter about what it sees as the failures of the ’68ers and the culture they midwifed.

The young are right to rebel. Our body politic is badly diseased. Economic solidarity has broken down—but it can be repaired. Our shredded moral order poses a more intractable problem. In “The Three Necessary Societies” (June/July 2017), Russell Hittinger suggests the proper framework for thinking about what afflicts us. We are living amid the decline of the marital covenant, the dissolution of political community, and an aversion to religious life. Without these three necessary societies, an individual’s life becomes a lonely struggle for financial security and social status. …”

Who is this guy?

Read the whole article and bookmark First Things.

Rusty Reno doesn’t sound like David French. As I was just saying the other day, young people are already nihilistic when they are recruited into the Alt-Right. They already have a host of grievances. It’s just that … the 2.0 movement doesn’t have a solid moral foundation because it isn’t focused on providing solutions to the big issues like morality and economics. It is incomplete.

If you look at it in the broad sweep of American history, we have been creating this world since around the Second World War. It is a world of deracinated, hyper individualistic consumers who are being educated in the dogmas of political correctness now that traditional morality has been tossed out the window. In particular, everyone else in our society is taught to resent White Christian men who are blamed for all their problems while White Christian men are expected to be guilt-ridden, deracinated individualists.

What is the cause of the nihilism on the youthful Right and the wokeness on the youthful Left? If you are taught to believe that morality is synonymous with political correctness, then two paths lay before you. You can agree with your education and become a SJW. Alternatively, you can reject your education and fall into the trap of rejecting morality itself.

About Hunter Wallace 12366 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent


  1. Just like Democracy, Free Speech will be used against Whites in their own destruction. Our Republic was set up for and by White landowning males(which actually made it akin to Benevolent Despotism) – once those parameters were eliminated the downfall of the Republic became inevitable.

  2. “I’ve sat here and watched the Republican-controlled Supreme Court legalize sodomy and gay marriage while sustaining affirmative action and disparate impact.”

    The SSM decision was thanks to one man; Justice Kennedy. Hopefully Kavanaugh can improve here. Trump’s horrendous stupidity has been an asset in this regard: he does not cherry-pick his justices to be pliable the way other presidents (notably George W. Bush) did. Kennedy was Reagan’s last-ditch attempt at strengthening his political capital after the Bork collapse. Luckily Souter awakened every conservative as to the necessity of some discipline in Supreme Court picks.

    Also, a new phenomenon (dating from c. 2014) -no longer can one expect the opposite party’s Senate to confirm the president’s party’s justice. That should put a damper re: compromise picks like Kennedy (and that realization also resulted in the GOP pickups of MO, IN, ND).

    I don’t buy the idea conservative court picks have conserved nothing. Look e.g., at Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Town of Greece v. Galloway, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., Shelby County v. Holder, Berghuis v. Thompkins, Trump v. Hawaii, etc. All of this has been highly historically contingent. E.g., if Thurgood Marshall or Sandra Day O’Connor had chosen to retire a little bit later, we wouldn’t be talking about the conservative majority on the SC.

  3. First Things, which I discovered through a link Hunter provided a while back, is a pretty decent website. Some interesting stuff.

  4. Also I neglected to mention Nielsen v. Preap and the gun rights cases. Certainly, Supreme Court conservatives have not done a fantastic job. But they have done a much better job than Supreme Court liberals. Overall, if I had to rate things, partisan control of courts matter most, then Senate, then presidency, then (distantly) House. State offices are about as important as the presidency.

  5. Margaret Thatcher once said that the British body politic was so inflamed with disease that no matter where you touched it it oozed pus. That is certainly a correct description of contemporary America, Liberalism,whether right or left, has so infected our society that all our institutions and practices need healing and recovery. That is true of the economy as everything else.

    Fortunately for us, some have already begun to address the Leninist question, “what is to be done?” John Horvath is one such person. He has written an excellent work to start with in recovering a healthy America: ” Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society–Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go.” It provides the initial understandings for a successful American restoration.

  6. “You can agree with your education”

    I did. That’s why I’m a Southern Nationalist. I was educated to be one by teachers who taught us the ways of the Olde South and Texas, as they were, before the Leftist revolution of the 1960s.

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