Liberty vs. Leviathan

Chronicling Liberty's battle against Leviathan

“Mentality of war”

I’m nearly finished reading The March of Freedom which has better acquainted me with some people I already knew of (Friedman, Mises, Röpke) and introduced me to people I’ve never heard of before (Robert Nisbet, Frank Meyer, Midge Decter).  The editor has compiled a list of 15 “conservatives” (in quotes because some of the subjects are not usually considered conservative) and written a short biography of each.  Along with the bio the editor has included an essay authored by the featured individual.  Which brings me to one of those names I had not heard of before: Richard M. Weaver.

Weaver’s “Up From Liberalism“, his featured essay in the book, is his own account of his journey from socialism to conservativism.  Near the end of his chronicle he discusses some of the dangers of technology and offers these prescient remarks:

The deadly trap into which the pride of the modern world in technology and invention has led us is not often described in its real nature. It has produced a world condition of unheard-of instability. The only way in which this instability can be overcome even temporarily is through rigid, centralized control of the national life. And the only way that a rigid, centralized control can be maintained is to keep the people living in a mentality of war. One can do this by filling them with desire of conquest, or one can do it by keeping them fearful of a real or imaginary enemy. Then one has a trump card to play on every occasion. If there is any relaxing or any resentment of controls, one has only to invoke “the national security” to silence opposition and even render it disreputable. We in the United States are living under the second of these policies now. The choice appears to lie between chaos and perpetual preparation for war, and the trouble with preparation for war is that it always issues in war.

Penned in 1965, Weaver was not advocating this rigid control but was concerned with the prospects of nuclear conflict.  Even with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain almost twenty years ago we still seem to be living in an era of perpetual war for perpetual peace, whether it be in “fighting them over there” or preventing others from developing the types of weapons we have.  The Western Confucian provides a recent example of this mentality in Neocons More Dangerous Than Nork Nukes.


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