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walter lippmann the good society

“In the violent conflicts which now trouble the earth the active contenders believe that since the struggle is so deadly it must be that the issues which divide them are deep.  I think they are mistaken. Because parties are bitterly opposed, it does not necessarily follow that they have radically different purposes.  The intensity of their antagonism is no measure of the divergence of their views.  There has been many a ferocious quarrel among sectarians who worship the same god.  Although the partisans who are now fighting for the mastery of the modern world wear shirts of different colors, their weapons are drawn from the same armory, their doctrines are variations of the same theme, and they go forth to battle singing the same tune with slightly different words.  Their weapons are the coercive direction of the life and labor of mankind.  Their doctrine is that disorder and misery can be overcome only by more and more compulsory organization.  Their promise is that through the power of the state men can be made happy.  Throughout the world, in the name of progress, men who call themselves communists, socialists, fascists, nationalists, progressives, and even liberals, are unanimous in holding that government with its instruments of coercion must, by commanding the people how they shall live, direct the course of civilization and fix the shape of things to come . . . .

This is the dogma which all the prevailing dogmas presuppose.  This is the mold in which are cast the thought and action of the epoch.  No other approach to the regulation of human affairs is seriously considered, or is even conceived as possible.  .  .  . Only a handful here and there, groups without influence, isolated and disregarded thinkers, continue to challenge it.  For the premises of authoritarian collectivism have become the working beliefs, the self-evident assumptions, the unquestioned axioms, not only of all the revolutionary regimes, but of nearly every effort which lays claim to being enlightened, humane, and progressive.  So universal is the dominion of this dogma over the minds of contemporary men that no one is taken seriously as a statesman or a theorist who does not come forward with proposals to magnify the power of public officials and to extend and multiply their intervention in human affairs.  Unless he is authoritarian and collectivist, he is a mossback, a reactionary, at best an amiable eccentric swimming hopelessly against the tide.  It is a strong tide. . . . No doubt there have been despotisms which were more cruel than those of Russia, Italy, and Germany.  There has been none which was more inclusive . . . . But the burden of proof is upon those who reject the oecumenical [sic] tradition of the western world.  It is for them to show that their cult of the Providential State is in truth the new revelation they think it is, and that it is not, as a few still believe the gigantic heresy of an apostate generation.” (The Good Society, 1937, pg. 4-6)

Other books by Walter Lippmann are available at  The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

We hope you will join us in The Imaginative Conservative community. The Imaginative Conservative is an on-line journal for those who seek the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, the arts and the American Republic in the tradition of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, Wilhelm Roepke, Robert Nisbet, M.E. Bradford, Eric Voegelin, Christopher Dawson and other leaders of Imaginative Conservatism (Visit our Bookstore to find books by/about these men) .

We address a wide variety of major issues including: What is the essence of conservatism? What was the role of faith in the American Founding? Is liberal learning still possible in the modern academy? Should conservatives and libertarians be allies? What is the proper role for the American Republic in spreading ordered liberty to other cultures/nations?

We have a great appreciation for the thought of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Irving Babbitt and Christopher Dawson, among other imaginative conservatives. However, some of us look at the state of Western culture and the American Republic and see a huge dark cloud which seems ready to unleash a storm that may well wash away what we most treasure of our inherited ways. Others focus on the silver lining which may be found in the next generation of traditional conservatives who have been inspired by Dr. Kirk and his like. We hope that The Imaginative Conservative answers T.S. Eliot’s call to “redeem the time, redeem the dream.”

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