People talk about “liberalism” as if it’s just another word for capitalism, or libertarianism, or vague center-left-Democratic Clintonism. Liberalism is none of these things. Liberalism is a technology for preventing civil war. It was forged in the fires of Hell – the horrors of the endless seventeenth century religious wars. For a hundred years, Europe tore itself apart in some of the most brutal ways imaginable – until finally, from the burning wreckage, we drew forth this amazing piece of alien machinery. A machine that, when tuned just right, let people live together peacefully without doing the “kill people for being Protestant” thing. Popular historical strategies for dealing with differences have included: brutally enforced conformity, brutally efficient genocide, and making sure to keep the alien machine tuned really really carefully.
— Scott Siskind, “Against Murderism“
Living in a liberal society makes us blind to what it protected us against. Liberalism was born in the Enlightenment and we almost lost it in the nihilism and totalitarianism of the 20th century, so we really should be able to remember how important it is.
And yet, I grew up in a society where totalitarian beliefs, such as communism, were seen as good and just. We were fortunate that most of our neighbours thought they were “good and just” but only in principle and kept voting for the liberal* parties that have been the basis of Danish society since the start of the 20th century.
Scott Alexander Siskind had a really interesting blog under a simple pseudonym and is now yet another writer that has joined Substack. If you find articles in the New York Times about him you’ll understand why Substack and other alternatives to traditional media is such a success today; the New York Times is bending itself backwards to smear Siskind and, in the process, only show the world what they have become: A pet project for rich kids wanting a career in “journalism”.
*) Someone will note that I use “liberal” to cover a lot more than those political parties that use that word themselves. For instance, if you look at the Danish social democratic party during most of the 20th century, you’ll see a fundamentally liberal ideology, whereas Danish parties that call themselves liberal are using it in the libertarian sense when they do so.