You know what America needs? More mirrors for princes—the Renaissance genre of advice books directed at statesmen. On the Right, we have many books that identify, and complain about, the problems of modernity and the challenges facing us. Some of those books do offer concrete solutions, but their audience is usually either the educated masses, who cannot themselves translate those solutions into policy, or policymakers who have no actual power, or refuse to use the power they do have. Scott Yenor’s bold new book is directed at those who have the will to actually rule. He lays out what has been done to the modern family, why, and what can and should be done about it, by those who have power, now or in the future. Let’s hope the target audience pays attention.
Americans do not understand Australia. At all. If Australia is brought up, they think of a few movie and television stars. They think of a vast red desert, perhaps, with a big rock, what’s-its-name (Ayers Rock), sticking up against a bright blue sky. They think Australians eat kangaroos (they don’t; they’re vermin). Most of all, they have a vague idea that Australians are a lot like Americans, only more informal, and more rugged and self-reliant. They once were, true, and a few still are. But the Australians are in many ways more ruined than Americans today (though we are accelerating to see if we can pass them). The 2014 book Dark Emu, or rather the insane racial-religious grift of which it is a small part, is one example.
America was, for much of its existence, defined as a nation of laws, not men, in the famous phrase of John Adams. No more. Now men, but only some men, rule. They rule as they please, in arbitrary, selective, self-benefitting fashion. Thus, what we live under is a tyranny, a system without rule of law. Unlike a traditional tyranny, though, our tyrant is not one man, but rather a compound being. Think the classic picture of Hobbes’s Leviathan, one giant and powerful undying creature, whose body is composed of the hive members of our rotten ruling class. But look more closely—our Leviathan is giant and powerful, yes, but is also drooling and imbecilic.
What is a “baby boomer”? Technically, it is an American born between 1945 and 1964. More communicatively, a boomer is a member of the worst generation in American history, and perhaps the worst generation in human history. The boomers, handed a wonderful, successful, stable society, fed it into a woodchipper, starting the very instant they could have any influence on society. They cobbled together the brakeless clown car in which we now all must ride, and dumped the rest of us into it, after picking our pockets and stripping every shred of our dignity. And now the author of this excellent book, Helen Andrews, who is not a boomer, expertly analyzes this decline and ongoing fall, through profiles of six boomers, each an exemplar (but not exemplary).
What will the future look like? Not much like our stupid present, certainly, but complaining about the present is easy, while offering a coherent positive vision of the future is hard—especially given the degradation of our present. Yes, the Age of Ideology is over, though its zombie corpse may stumble through the brambles of reality for a few more years, until someone shoots it in the head. But what will replace it will be an organic thing, its exact form hard to predict. In Retrotopia, John Michael Greer narrates an optimistic vision of a renewed America, or part of America. It’s fiction, but it inspires a variety of thoughts, among them a topic of great importance to both Greer and me: is technological progress the enemy of tomorrow’s human flourishing, or its ground?
In their eternal quest to remake reality, a perennial target of the Left is the family: man, woman, and children, the bedrock of all human societies. The family, by its existence and by what it brings forth, mocks the Left project, and so the Left has tried to destroy it for 250 years. But only in the twentieth century did this effort gain real traction, when our elites became converts to the fantasy that sex roles as they existed were artefacts of oppression, not organic reality. What followed was mass indoctrination in falsehoods about men and women, in which this infamous book played a key role. If you see a sad wine aunt (they are all sad), and you see them everywhere, you see a small part of the resulting social wreckage.
A disease is going around. No, not the Wuhan Plague. This malady only affects the Right, and I name it Scrutonism. The symptoms of Scrutonism are a razor-sharp ability to identify one’s enemies and to understand their plans to destroy us, combined with a complete inability to imagine any way in which those enemies can be defeated. For a sufferer of this disease, his headspace is occupied by nostalgia and fear, in varying proportions—mostly the former in the late Roger Scruton’s case, mostly the latter in Rod Dreher’s case. Scrutonism’s harm is that it makes sufferers ignore the only question that matters for the Right today: what are you willing to do, given that your enemies are utterly committed to destroying you and yours?
Philosopher Matthew Crawford’s third book is ostensibly a book about driving, but as with all Crawford’s works, that is merely the jumping-off point. Crawford expands our minds by exploring a range of related ideas, usually through concretizing abstractions, tying them to work done by real people in the real world. Why We Drive uses this structure, as did his first two books, Shop Class as Soulcraft and The World Beyond Your Head. Such writing is not for everyone; the payoff can take some time to arrive. But it’s worth the modest effort required, and offers insights into critical modern problems, most of all the pernicious vice of safetyism.
This is a special review. It is special because it is the last of its kind. I no longer intend to spend my time, and your time, on books that I know to be completely wrong, merely to show they are completely wrong. I am keenly aware of what I call “the closing door,” embodied in the words of John 9:4—“the night cometh, when no man can work,” which Samuel Johnson had engraved on the inside cover of his pocket watch. This does not at all mean that I am stopping writing, only that I will no longer write in the vein of correcting errors of the political Left. For the hour is late, and the Right has better things to do.
Most cultures throughout history have been terrible. The natural state of so-called civilized man is somewhere between today’s Venezuela and today’s Somalia. Large-scale success, exceptions to the general rule, offering long-term stability combined with some degree of flourishing, has been limited to a handful of cultures. If you add actual accomplishment that advances the whole human race, you are left with only three, the Greeks, the Romans, and Christendom—which three, no surprise, are closely linked in history and in attributes. None of this is news, although it is denied by the malicious clowns now temporarily in charge of public discourse.