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July 19, 2003

What would Voltaire do?

I don't agree with Christopher Hitchens on many issues, but this line from a profile in Frontpage Magazine hooked me:

Because of September 11, his mission now is “to defend the enlightenment, to defend and extend the benefits of rationalism. By all and any means necessary”. [my emphasis -R]

The interpretation of this line, the actualization of the intent, is problematic & disputatious, but there are those on the Feudal Right and Relativist Left who would would hestiate or dissent from advocating the values of the Enlightenment. Those of us who draw inspiration from the Enlightenment project, its intent if not execution in all the details, often lack the zest and zeal that neo-Feudalists and hard-Leftists bring to their revolutions & reactions. Perhaps we can never equal the irrational rage and fury on the margins of the political spectrum, but we can name them, and we can brand them, and we can know them to better battle them. They are the enemy, of that I have no doubt.

Posted by razib at 01:50 AM

I'm a big fan of Hitchens. It takes greater courage than you would think to defend classical liberal values, as they inevitably clash with the trendy social engineering ideas of the times. For most people equal treatment before the law, or limitations on the state's power, are obstacles to a better world, not realizing that most often their vision is an impossible pipe dream while the liberties they crush involve real people. Prudent incrementalism is the better, and one must actively rebut the do-gooders who are blinded by their idealism.

As Machiavelli said, "The world has always been the same; and there is always as much good fortune as bad in it." So fight on Hitch, we need you.


Posted by: eric at July 20, 2003 01:24 PM

I have always been a big fan of Hitchens. He is not afraid to speak his mind, no mattter who it upsets.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge at July 20, 2003 07:55 PM