Our final glimpse into Chapter 6 of Why Liberalism Failed (2018) illuminates the sad state of affairs that liberal philosophy has produced. It’s why we need a War Chest to protect our family’s well-being. In Deneen’s words:
A society can be shaped for the benefit of most people by emphasizing mainly informal norms and customs that secure the path to flourishing for most human beings; or it can be shaped for the benefit of the extraordinary and powerful by liberating all from the constraint of custom. Our society was once shaped on the basis of the benefit for the many ordinary; today it is shaped largely for the benefit of the few strong.
America has always been permanently designed to secure economic winners. We are the fortunate few strong – an island of strength in a sea of weakness. There was a “secession of the successful”. Both political parties regard generational inequality as something that can be fixed – either by Government economic intervention (with the lifestyle liberalism of Mills) or Market economic liberalism (with the laissez-faire policies of Locke). It’s not. Generational inequality is now structural and the vast chasm separating your family from the masses of querulous and contentious, who sadly bear the cost of liberalism, grows wider every day. If this is so obvious, why do so many allegedly smart people not see it?
They are self-deluded by a veneer of social justice – a fake concern for the disadvantaged. Plato’s proposed “noble lie” has been adopted by our elites whereby people are led to believe in the legitimacy of inequality backstopped by a myth of fundamental equality. Citizens are told a tall tale about the nature of our regime and more insidiously, the ruling class also believes it. “Liberalocrats” (as Deneen calls them) are educated in deep self-deception to believe that we do not live in an aristocratic order. They are militantly arrogant and stupid; intellectual and moral enemies to be avoided, not to be engaged with directly. Thankfully, we have sufficient financial, moral and cognitive capital so there is no need to engage them.
Our Estate Planning War Chest does not confront stupidity head on. It’s a dangerous enemy that we evade, not battle. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) warned:
Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.
Bonhoeffer’s full quote is at
(It’s an interesting notion that stupid people can be mentally adroit – stupidity is a sociological not psychological phenomenon – people are “made stupid”, in Bonhoeffer’s words).