Saturday, September 20, 2014

Killer Chimps

It's agreed by all scientific researchers that chimpanzees murder members of their own species. What's in dispute about this behavior, according to a recent New York Times story, is why they do so. Some who study these animals think they're under stress from humans and that this stress somehow pushes them to violence.

A new study, however, has concluded that chimp murders are a part of their natural evolutionary development. Here's the relevant excerpt from the NYT:
The study’s authors argue that a review of all known cases of when chimpanzees or bonobos in Africa killed members of their own species shows that violence is a natural part of chimpanzee behavior and not a result of actions by humans that push chimpanzee aggression to lethal attacks. The researchers say their analysis supports the idea that warlike violence in chimpanzees is a natural behavior that evolved because it could provide more resources or territory to the killers, at little risk.
If it's true that killing is a natural behavior for chimps, and if it's true, as Darwinian evolutionists assure us, that human beings are simply hairless chimps with a bit more brainpower, then is not murder natural for humans also? And if natural then not really in any sense a violation of how we should behave?

We balk at that conclusion, of course, but if we're naturalists (i.e.atheists) and if we embrace the Darwinian view of humanity, what do we think makes humans different such that murder should have a moral dimension for us that it doesn't have for those animals most closely related to us? Researchers in the field may be repulsed by chimp violence and saddened by the deaths, but do they believe that murderous chimps have transgressed some objective moral law? If not, why are human murderers thought to transgress such a law? If there is no such law for chimps and other animals why do we think there is such a law for humans?

It seems to me that the naturalist has no good answer to this. If we're just animals then there is no objective moral law. If, however, one insists on believing that there is an objective moral law, a genuine right and wrong, then that person must also accept the idea that there must be a lawgiver, a personal transcendent moral authority (PTMA), who promulgates the moral law and holds us accountable to it. Apart from this belief in what amounts to a God our conviction that it's wrong to murder, to be cruel, to torture, to abuse children, is completely without objective foundation. When we voice that conviction we're simply doing no more than stating our personal predilections, and our personal, subjective tastes can hardly be the standard for morality.

Once again, it seems to me, the naturalist is between a rock and a hard place, metaphysically speaking. Either he can give up his belief that there is an objective moral duty not to murder and embrace a nihilistic view of morality, or he can give up his naturalism and embrace the idea that there must be a PTMA.

If he does neither, if he clings to his naturalism while at the same time clinging to his conviction that murder is objectively wrong, then he's behaving irrationally. He may hold on to his atheism, but he can't claim that it's the reasonable position, and he certainly can't claim that either the nihilist or the theist are behaving less rationally than he is.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Silence of the Media Lambs

Readers who've been following matters for a couple of years will remember how the media sought to portray the tea party as a bunch of violent extremist kooks. Try as they might, however, every attempt to pin some act of violence on them fell flat because the violence was all in the fevered imaginations of the lefty press and their political allies.

I was reminded of this when I came across a report of an attempt recently to firebomb the office of a black congressman from Missouri named Emanuel Cleaver. The Molotov cocktail was thrown through a window of his office but failed to ignite and damage was minimal. News reports of this attack were even more minimal.

Why? I wondered. The perpetrator had been apprehended, and I knew, as everyone does, that had the guy been a tea party conservative, or any kind of conservative, or even a quasi-conservative Republican the episode would have displaced even Roger Goodell's handling of spouse abuse in the NFL on the news. It would've been "all hands on deck" for the media as they wrung every drop of anti-conservative propaganda out of their reporting on the attack. Allegations of violent racism on the right would've filled the airwaves.

But there was almost nothing. The episode flew like a stealth bomber right under the radar. No one said much of anything about it. So, again, why? Even Cleaver's office downplayed the incident and said it was no big deal, but surely, if the alleged spitting incident in which Cleaver claimed in 2010 that a tea party protestor spit on him was a big deal, and it was huge even though it never happened, then surely an attempted firebombing in which he or his staff could've been killed was a big deal, so why wasn't it?

Well, it turns out that the perp is a 28 year-old sympathizer of an organization called the "KC Fight Back Insurrectionist Collective," and a letter found in his belongings states in part that "The Missouri congress has been a willing partner in the US governments capitalist war hungry agenda." In other words, the reason not much was made of the bombing was that it was carried out, as so much political violence is, by a leftist, and leftist violence, though common, just doesn't advance the media myth that conservatives are the real villains in this country.
I don't know what punishment will be meted out to Mr. King, if any. After all, he's doubtless deranged, but maybe what courts sympathetic to the left will do is gently instruct him that Democratic congressmen are really his friends and nudge him instead in the direction of the offices of John Boehner as the proper target of his inept and futile lunacies.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Favorite Heretics

Richard Mouw, in a piece at First Things, writes about philosophical claims which, though false, are nevertheless illuminating. in the course of his post he also explains why Nietzsche and Sartre are his "favorite heretics." Here's part of what he says:
I tell my students that it is a good thing to have a couple of favorite heretics. Some false perspectives are illuminating, and it can be healthy for [people] who love ideas to be challenged regularly by perspectives that we can disagree with in productive ways.

For a while, especially when I was first learning the ropes in Anglo-American analytic philosophy, Bertrand Russell was one of my special favorite heretics. In his technical philosophical work in epistemology and logic, he changed his mind a lot, and showed no embarrassment about doing so. I admired that in him. But what I enjoyed even more were his popular writings, especially about religious matters.

Russell was boldly anti-religious. He saw no room for any substantive religious ideas in formulating an ethical perspective, or in investing oneself in social-political causes. But there were moments in his writings when he expressed a sense that to abandon religion is to lose something important—even if he was not clear exactly about what the loss amounted to.

One of my favorite Russell passages in this regard occurs in the context of some autobiographical reflections. As a gift for him on his twelfth birthday, he recounted, his grandmother gave him a Bible, which he still possessed. In the flyleaf she had written a couple of her favorite biblical texts: “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil,” and “Be strong, and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be Thou dismayed. For the Lord Thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Then Russell makes this remarkable confession: “These texts have profoundly influenced my life, and still seemed to retain some meaning after I had ceased to believe in God.”

I find something admirable in that confession. It expresses a sense of loss, along with a corresponding sense of moral loneliness. Being one’s own autonomous moral legislator can be a lonely experience.
I'm reminded in reading this of Julian Barnes' opening sentence in Nothing to Be Frightened of, his book on death and dying. Barnes says, "I don't believe in God, but I miss him." I think it's true that our modern age has been eager to dispense with God, but having done so it realizes, if only vaguely, that it has lost far more than it thought it was giving up. Modernity, it seems, is like a rebellious child who runs away from home only to get lost in a spooky forest where all sorts of scary apparitions beset her and cause her to yearn for the home she left but feels she cannot return to.

Mouw goes on:
It is for similar reasons that I have come to count as my truly favorite heretics the existentialist thinkers, especially Nietzsche and Sartre. Nietzsche, for example, expressed that sense of moral solitude with a deeper sense of loss than we see in Russell. In The Will to Power he laments that to be a person of “destiny” is to join “a whole species of heroic bearers of burdens.” It is to join a company of “men of incomprehensible loneliness.”

Part of my fondness for Nietzsche and Sartre is that together we share some common philosophical dislikes, such as the Richard Dawkins kind of “happy atheism.” My favorite existentialist heretics get directly to the heart of the matter in their depictions of the human condition. The non-existence of God, they say, means that there is no sovereign divine Will that called the universe into being.

And since an objectively ordered reality—a cosmos—would require a divine “let there be” to create and sustain it, reality is, properly understood, a chaos. With no supreme Creator available, it is up to us to make the best of it as finite creators of our worlds of meaning.
Nietzsche was an atheist but unlike many among the contemporary sort of unbelievers, he was deeply troubled by the implications of the "death of God." It was in his mind at once both liberating and catastrophic. Sartre held similar opinions. He felt the death of God, which he embraced, drained life of meaning and made it all a Sisyphean exercise in absurdity.

In any case, Mouw makes an important point, I think, when he says it's good to have a couple of favorite heretics. He's right in saying that it's good to interact with ideas that run contrary to one's own beliefs. For some reason people on both sides of the divides that characterize our public discourse - Christianity/atheism, conservative/liberal, pro-life/pro-choice, etc. - seem afraid to expose themselves to ideas presented by the other side. It's as if we fear that if we read their books and listen to their arguments we'll be seduced by them.

This is an empty fear, however. If what people who hold opinions at odds with our own say is true then by listening to them we benefit from the exposure to the truth, even if it makes us uncomfortable, and if what they say is false, then we are confirmed in the truth of our own opinion by pointing out their errors to ourselves and others. Both of these outcomes are good. The only bad outcome would be if what our antagonists say is false, but we are nevertheless seduced into accepting it.

The remedy for this, though, is not to avoid contact with those ideas, but rather to make sure that we know as much as we can about the things we believe so that we're better able to discern the difference between good and bad arguments, true and false claims. That, in fact, is one thing we should get from a college education.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

De Grasse Tyson, Serial Fabricator

There's an attitude among some of the left-leaning intelligentsia that they are just so smart that telling the truth is beneath them. Honesty is for the common people. For many post moderns, I suppose, there really is no objective truth, so whatever you say, as long as it coheres with your worldview, it's true "for you."

Physicist Neil de Grasse Tyson appears to be such a man. Ensconced on the Olympian heights of modern science, like a Nietzschean superman unconstrained by bourgeois moral values like truth-telling, he apparently feels free to just make stuff up whenever it'll make him look good to do so and make people he disdains look bad. Since his fabrications reinforce the prejudices of many in the media, and because he himself is a media darling, he's given a pass. Truth is not so big a deal for many journalists anyway, and besides, who are they to judge someone else, unless, of course, it's Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, or Ted Cruz?

Anyway, de Grasse Tyson's recent television series titled Cosmos was replete with historical errors, particularly on the topic of the relationship of the church and science, but that's not the only topic on which this prodigy of prevarication hones his yarn-spinning skills.

Sean Davis at The Federalist catalogues some of de Grasse Tyson's sundry dissimulations for us. He writes: Neil deGrasse Tyson may be a fabulous scientist, and a consummate showman, but he’s downright terrible at accurately quoting people. Or, if you’re a “glass half full” kind of person, you might say that Neil deGrasse Tyson is pretty amazing at needlessly fabricating quotes and scenarios to showcase his own brilliance.

After citing several examples of de Grasse Tyson's allegedly creative manipulation of facts Davis closes with this:
At this point, I’m legitimately curious if any quotes or anecdotes peddled by Neil deGrasse Tyson are true....These are normally the types of errors that would be uncovered by peer review. Blatant data fabrication, after all, is the cardinal sin of scientific publishing. In journalism, this would get you fired. In Tyson’s world, it got him his own television show. Where are Tyson’s peers, and why is no one reviewing his assertions?

Somebody seriously needs to stage an intervention for Neil deGrasse Tyson. This type of behavior is not acceptable. It is indicative of sheer laziness, born of arrogance. Please, somebody, help him before he fabricates again.
And while we're at it, maybe someone should check out his Ph.D dissertation. Who knows how much of that is just made up.

In any event, this is yet another illustration of a recurring theme here on VP. Suppose it is indeed the case that de Grasse Tyson is deliberately fabricating quotes, stories, and historical "facts." Why shouldn't he do this if it will promote himself and his agenda, whatever it may be? Most of us would probably reply that it's morally wrong to lie to people and those who do it are despicable, but that response must confront a critical fact. If, as philosopher Michael Ruse claims, our moral values are simply "an illusion foisted on us by our genes," if there's no objective basis for those values as moderns like Ruse often claim, then the yarns of de Grasse Tyson, our politicians, and our friends, are not really "wrong" at all. They're just unfortunate behaviors that some people, maybe an increasing number of people, engage in that perhaps we wish they wouldn't. We don't like it when they lie, we find it irritating, just as we find the behavior of the guy in the next booth in a restaurant who insists on talking loudly into his cell phone irritating, but lies transgress no moral law. How can they if there is no moral law to be transgressed?

Modernity, by dispensing with God, has taken down all the speed limit signs, turned off the street lights, pulled the cops off the job, and left everyone on the road of life to fend for themselves. Little wonder it's so hard to find someone you can trust.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The NFL's Hypocrisy

Until the video was released showing Ray Rice landing a left hook to his girl friend's jaw in an elevator he was given a two game suspension. Everyone knew even before seeing the video what happened in the elevator but the NFL evidently thought a two game suspension was a just punishment for an offense that didn't go to court and which the couple apparently resolved between themselves since they subsequently married.

Okay, I guess, but as Charles Gasparino asks at NRO, where is the fairness in Rice's relatively mild punishment when Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito was effectively banished from the league for doing nothing more than talking mean to another teammate, who, like Incognito, is a 300 lb. lineman? Gasparino supplies some background:
Richie Incognito, an All-Pro offensive lineman, was branded a thug, faced countless hours of interrogation by league officials and their lawyers, and now can’t get a job in the NFL because he was found guilty of “bullying” a fellow lineman of equal size and strength.

Ray Rice, an All-Pro running back, was suspended for a mere two games, faced no similar league inquisition, and was heralded by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as a decent guy who made a simple “mistake” when he was caught on video dragging his unconscious fiancée out of the elevator after what appeared to be a physical altercation.

Welcome to political correctness, Goodell-style.
Incognito is banned from the league for saying mean things. Ray Rice was initially given the NFL equivalent of giving a child a timeout. Does the NFL really think that bullying and name calling are worse than assault and battery? Here's more from Gasparino:
Why did Goodell initially throw his support behind Rice after an obvious physical altercation with a woman but throw the book at Incognito for name-calling a 300-pound fellow lineman?

None of this is to excuse Richie Incognito’s conduct, which led to an unofficial banishment from football that continues to this day. But consider his actions and the response by the NFL. When e-mails and voicemails surfaced indicating that Incognito had, among other alleged improprieties, forced his Miami Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin to attend team meetings at strip clubs, and used the n-word in one conversation with Martin (Incognito is white and Martin black), Goodell immediately launched a league investigation.

He even hired one of the country’s toughest attorneys, superlitigator Ted Wells, to conduct a probe into Incognito’s actions. The so-called Wells report called Incognito the ring leader of a gang of abusers who forced Jonathan Martin to flee the Dolphins mid-season last year through “a pattern of harassment.”

Incognito through a spokesman claimed that his actions and even the inexcusable racial language were more complicated than what the press had reported, saying he and Martin were friends. Martin through a spokeswoman said he played along with some of Incognito’s antics (including strip-club visits) to fit in with his teammates since Martin was a rookie and Incognito a seasoned veteran.

Goodell’s response: a massive report that made Incognito an untouchable in the NFL to this day for “bullying, taunting and constant insults.”

And his response to Ray Rice’s battery: Even after the second video has emerged, Goodell is leaving the door open for Rice’s eventual return to the league.
I'm just wondering here, but could the disparity between the treatment administered to Incognito, who must be something of a lout, and the treatment administered to Rice, who must be something worse, have anything to do with race? Is the NFL (i.e. Roger Goodell) so consumed by political correctness that he's eager to come down harder on a white player who bullies a black player than he is on a black player who bullies his wife? Maybe race has nothing to do with it, but the only other explanation, barring the existence of circumstances not made public about the two cases, is that Goodell is pretty much a capricious simpleton.

Monday, September 15, 2014

So What Is the Answer?

Jim Wallis at Sojourners writes that war in the Middle East is not the answer to the problem of radical Islamic barbarism. I wish he was right, but ironically, not even he thinks he's right. Here's Wallis:
I have always believed that any alternative to war must still address the very real problems at hand — just in a more effective way. To say that “war is not the answer” is not only a moral statement but also is a serious critique of what doesn’t work; wars often fail to solve the problems and ultimately make them worse. War has to answer to metrics, just as more peaceful alternatives do. The war in Iraq was a complete failure with enormous human and financial costs; ISIS is now one of the consequences.
Actually the war wasn't a failure. It didn't fail until President Obama decided to wash his hands of it, and, contrary to what we did after WWII and Korea, remove all of our troops from that country. That left a vacuum that ISIL predictably (George Bush predicted it) rushed in to fill.

Anyway, Wallis goes on to say that he thinks it's proper, sort of, to stop ISIL:
I agree with Pope Francis when he said it is legitimate to stop an unjust aggressor: "I underscore the verb 'to stop'. I am not saying 'bomb' or 'make war', but 'stop him.' The means by which he can be stopped must be evaluated. Stopping the unjust aggressor is legitimate."
This is sophistry. How does one stop ISIL if not by force? Does Mr. Wallis tell us how to stop them without using military force? Not really. Instead he just throws up a cloud of verbal octopus ink:
That the world, including the United States, needs to respond decisively to the real threats of ISIS is beyond dispute, but the practical and moral question is — how? Let’s remember the principle that alternatives to war must answer the questions that war promises to answer — but in a better way.

I give President Obama credit for wanting to respond in a “different way” than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His strategy will focus on air strikes but also relies on supporting and training Middle East partners on the ground, which will be necessary to defeat a force already as powerful as ISIS.
Well, this is disappointing. According to Mr. Wallis "the better way" than war is, in fact, to wage war by using other countries' soldiers. It seems Mr. Wallis' real objection is not that a military strategy might be employed, but rather he objects to a unilateral military effort. In other words, his objection is not moral after all, but rather tactical:
To forge solutions to conflict that are an alternative to the endless and failed habits of war demands a much stronger set of other strategies — which the White House has yet to fully understand or embrace. I applaud the president for seeking a multi-national coalition and a more international approach. But that could have begun with the United Nations, where the U.S. will chair the Security Council in just two weeks — rather than taking the American plan to the U.N. for support. Strong U.N. leadership could both recruit more Middle East partners and help take the United States out of the role of the most hated target of Islamic fundamentalism.
So war is the answer for Wallis, at least in the present circumstance, it's just that war fought under American auspices is, for some reason, not the best way to conduct it.

But what if no coalition could be formed? Would war against ISIL then be immoral or unwise? If ISIL is a threat to the U.S. shouldn't we stop them whether other countries join us or not? Moreover, Mr. Wallis' concern about incurring the hatred of Islamic fundamentalists seems naive. Islamic fundamentalists will hate us as long as we stand in the way of their dream of destroying Israel and creating a world under the boot of Sharia law. Pretending this isn't so won't make it less so.

Wallis then does what so many on the left do when discussing this question, he elides the whole question of what should be done in the short term and focuses instead on what should be done long term. He recommends cutting off cash flow to ISIL, an obvious measure which everyone has already said needs to be done, but then Wallis calls for a more draconian move:
Ultimately, we won’t see an end to our “war on terrorism” without dealing with the underlying causes, and not just targeting the consequences of growing terrorism. We must address the world of oil that the West has created, that has literally defined nations, changed geography, and institutionalized the injustices and hypocrisies that breeds the grievances of terrorism. Having justified the unjust structure of that oil world to accommodate our addiction to fossil fuels has produced both a profound threat to our planet and the rise of an angry terrorism that threatens our own children.
It would be helpful if Wallis backed up the claims of this last sentence with a few facts. It's not at all clear, for example, despite what the global warming people have alleged, that our use of fossil fuels is a "profound threat to our planet" nor is it clear that it has anything at all to do with "the rise of angry terrorism." Wallis just asserts these claims as if they're obvious, but they're not, at least not to anyone not already seduced by leftist rhetoric. He closes with this:
We must address the fact that 60 percent of the Middle East population is under 30 years of age, and many of them are unemployed, uneducated, aggrieved, and angry young men — too easily drawn to the rhetoric of revenge. To overcome terrorism we must address the grievances that give rise to it and are exploited by hateful extremists.
Wallis says something here most people can agree with, but it has nothing to do with the question whether we should go to war with ISIL now, nor does he offer any suggestions as to how we might address those grievances he talks about or even what those grievances are. His essay is just not very helpful.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Twilight of Progressivism

In the wake of the 2012 election many in the media were quick to pronounce a renascent conservatism dead in the crib. The young had rejected it in favor of the progressive and charismatic Barack Obama and conservatism may not recover for generations. The thing about the youth vote, though, is that unlike older generations, the young haven't had time to actually develop ideological allegiances. Young people are politically malleable and their support, given today, can be rescinded tomorrow if their own life experience causes them to grow disenchanted with those upon whom they once bestowed their favor.

James W. Ceaser, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, thinks something like that is happening today, and not just among the young. A lot of Americans are coming to see that the liberal progressive leaders in whom they invested their hopes are, in a word, frauds. Ceaser writes in a piece for The Federalist that liberalism is facing the distinct possibility of collapse. The bad news for conservatives is that this doesn't necessarily translate into an increase in support for them.
Liberalism’s demise was unexpected. Healthy and vigorous until just recently, liberals were confident their cherished arc of History was at last bending in their favor. They imagined they would be dancing today on their opponents’ graves. Instead, they find themselves haunted by the prospect that the dry bones of their enemies might be reassembling. Liberals are at risk of incurring not just the usual electoral setback for the president’s party in a midterm election (which is traditionally more pronounced in an incumbent’s sixth year), but also a wound that touches the heart of the Progressive project.
For those unfamiliar with ideological taxonomy, a progressive is what a liberal calls himself when the word "liberal" falls into disfavor.

Progressives have ridden the horse of social justice for a hundred years and have managed to portray opposition as opposition to justice. It's a tactic which could only fool the uninformed, but there are plenty of uninformed folks out there who vote. Younger voters are still very concerned about social justice, of course, but the reason they're growing disillusioned with progressives is the failure of progressives to fulfill their promises:
Where liberalism has crossed a threshold, however, is in its repeated incapacity to achieve, by its own favored means, its highest priorities. From the farce of “shovel-ready” projects, to the disaster of the health care roll out, to the disgrace of mismanaging the socialized medical system for veterans, all but the most ideologically blinkered of liberals—which includes most in the media and academy—must have begun to experience doubts. If the smartest president ever, in consultation with the best experts ever, endowed with the most lavish resources ever, cannot get programs to operate, then, Washington, we have a problem.

Even among millennials, one of the progressives’ core constituencies, faith in the efficacy of government to manage complex affairs has plummeted. No wonder, then, that the idea of government administration no longer fires the imagination of today’s youth. Who among the talented next generation yearns to become a GS 15 in the Department of Health and Human Services?
It was the promise of intellectual brilliance and competent, efficient, honest governance that drew the young to Barack Obama - that plus the prospect of making history by voting for the first black president. Now a lot of people are asking themselves, like the guy awakening with a headache the morning after an alcohol-fueled binge, "what was I thinking?" Film-maker Michael Moore succinctly expressed the disillusionment many on the left are feeling when he said the other day: "A hundred years from now Mr. Obama will be remembered only for being the first black president."

Actually, I'm afraid he'll be remembered for far more than that, but that'll be the one good thing he's remembered for.

Ceaser continues:
Yet the greatest problem liberalism faces today does not result from doubts about government competence, but from a slowly dawning realization that liberals are increasingly disposed to sacrifice means to ends and impartiality to social justice. The result is repressive progressivism. Progressivism was born in a spirit of creating “good government,” which preached scrupulous fidelity to law, honesty, transparency, and separation of politicking from governing.

This concern was cast aside as naïve by Franklin Roosevelt and ignored by Bill Clinton, from whom no one ever expected more. Current liberalism, however, was supposed to return to its Progressive roots, and the public took Barack Obama at his word in his promise to do so. On every count, liberalism now disregards these procedures, whether in its routine presentation of erroneous or misleading facts, its outright lies, or its suppression of information. To see how certain agencies of government, beginning with the Department of Justice, treat whistleblowers, average citizens, or members of the media reminds one ever more of the behavior of authoritarian government.
Even worse is the tolerance, even coverup, of corruption and scandal. From Fast and Furious, to Benghazi, to the IRS, to the NSA, to the VA, to the lies and deceptions surrounding Obamacare and its implementation, as well as numerous lesser crimes, this White House has been the least transparent, most scandal-plagued administration in modern memory. Domestically, it has done little to improve the economy and much to thwart job growth. Abroad, after spending much of his career criticizing George Bush's foreign policy, Mr. Obama is adopting measures which look much like those Mr. Bush employed, and he's doing so on the basis of the same authorizations he criticized Mr. Bush for relying upon.

Ceaser ends with this: For the most part, accusations of abuse and irregularity are met with denials, which almost no one believes. Far more disturbing, however, is that these excesses are now tacitly justified by the argument that such measures now operate in the service of a higher cause and are excused by the existence of an emergency. “Emergency” is not used here in the usual sense of a threat of an imminent attack or of an impending economic crisis. It refers instead to the dangerous character of the opposition and to the possibility that the opposition might win power. Whether such ideas are limited to those who lead us today or have seeped down to become part of liberalism’s core is difficult to say. Either way, the prospect is frightening. The death we should fear most is not that of an ideology but of free government itself.