Dangers to Liberty

On October 26, 2009, in Culture, History, by marc

From Roland Hill’s Lord Acton:

Virtually alone among the liberals of his age, Acton saw where its obsessions with class, race, and nationality would lead in the twentieth century and what would happen to humanity when it lost sight “of the concept of man as created in the image of God and sharing in the salvation offered it by Christ.” As an historian he found the racial idea a convenient tool, while rejecting the racialist philosophy that was developed then by contemporaries like Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855-1927) and Comte Arthur Gobineau (1816-1882). Their racialist theories, which ultimately inspired Hitler, were, to Acton, “one of the many schemes to deny free will, responsibility, and guilt, and to supplant moral by physical forces.

Lord Acton by Roland Hill

Lord Acton by Roland Hill

But the theory of nationality is a retrograde step in history. Making the state and the nation commensurate with each other in theory practically reduces to a subject condition all other nationalities within the frontiers. “It is in general a necessary condition of free institutions, that the boundaries of governments should coincide in the main with those of nationalities,” Acton quoted John Stuart Mill. This very idea was realized fifty-seven years later in Woodrow Wilson’s peace settlement of 1919, with the disastrous results remembered by the generation that witnessed Hitler’s occupation of Austria and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. German reunification, the collapse of the Soviet empire, and war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1980s and 1990s only underlined the significance and accuracy of Acton’s insight. “What he said was always interesting, but sometimes strange,” wrote G. M. Trevelyan. “I remember, for instance, his saying to me that States based on the unity of a single race, like modern Italy and Germany, would prove a danger to liberty; I did not see what he meant at the time, but I do now!”

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Hi all, and welcome to yet another blog.  Not that I really need another new blog, or that I even have anything particularly interesting to say.  As with all of my blogging and tweeting endeavours, this is more for my benefit than anyone elses.

For lack of a better explanation, Ex Libris is going to be my attempt to glean something from my reading.  Over the last year or so, I’ve been digging into a lot of books, often many at once.  And while I’ve enjoyed the process of doing so, I’ve developed a tendency to bite off a bit more than I can chew – in that I have multiple books going at once.  I’m almost positive that I have at least 20 books started, many of which cycle in and out of my range of interest over a period of many months.  The result of this, of course, is that my concentration is divided and I tend to forget where I was when I pick up the book again next time.

I generally catch on pretty quickly once I get back into the flow of a book that I’ve put aside for a while, but I have to admit that reading multiple books at once doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a careful and deep treatment of each text.  So part of what I hope to accomplish here is to note, for myself, passages that catch my interest and perhaps peel back the layers a bit and explore why they grab my imagination.

We’ll see how this goes.  There’s a lot of books covering a pretty wide range of subjects.  For instance, tonight I read a chapter from Roland Hill’s biography of Lord Acton, and then picked up Human Acton by Ludwig von Mises and plowed through a portion.  I’ve also been moving through Lester DeKoster’s Liberation Theology: The Church’s Future Shock and (of course) U2 by U2, among others.  Like I said, a pretty wide range of subjects.  It remains to be seen exactly how well I’ll do at reflecting and writing about all of the books I’m reading, or if I’ll do it at all.  But I suppose it might just be worth the effort.  Again, we’ll see.

So – here goes.  Wish me luck.

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