We want to bring to your attention this strange yet fascinating essay by our colleague and friend Adrian Vermeule, a professor at Harvard Law School. Among other things, his essay explores several “pathologies” of contemporary political liberalism, including the following three puzzles:
Puzzle #1: our fetish for “change”–or in the words of Professor Vermeule: “Why … is it possible to encounter people … who say patently incoherent things like ‘I’m working for change’—as though change by itself were good? By the same token, why are the heroes and canonized saints of liberalism invariably agents who have produced social or political ‘change,’ rather than those who have, say, fended off ‘change’?”
Puzzle #2: the futility of change; in other words, no matter how much progress we might make eradicating racism or sexism or homophobia or whatever, there is always more work to do, or as Professor Vermeule himself puts it: “Whatever the question, whether race relations, women’s rights, gender identity, or what have you, the good liberal says ‘we have made some progress, but there is a long way to go.’ But of course, even after more progress is made, the goal never seems to have come any closer.”
Puzzle #3: change for me but not for thee, or the selective amnesia problem–or, again, in Professor Vermeule’s own words: “why do liberal institutions and intellectuals react so much more aggressively towards Poland, Hungary, and Brexit than to Saudi Arabia or China, when the latter must be far worse on any measurable dimensions of interest to liberalism?” Latin America provides another textbook example of this liberal selective amnesia: General Pinochet in Chile is condemned by the liberal crowd, while Comandante Fidel in Cuba is considered woke and gets a pass.