Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Here is more of how his devoted friend and private secretary, Francis Biddle,  wrote of the imagined hero of liberals today, Justice Holmes:

He was an aristocrat and a conservative.  He did not prefer, he said, a world with a hundred million bores in it to one with ten.  The fewer people who do not contribute beauty or thought, the better.  He had little sympathy with the sufferings and failures of mankind; and no urgent desire to change their lot.  He thought that in the last analysis man rightly preferred his own interest to that of his neighbor, and did not believe in the Christian precept of love thy neighbor as thyself, which was the test of the meddling missionary:  if men thought more about their jobs and less about themselves and their neighbors, they would accomplish more in the world.  

He shared the general ideas that had been current when he was young, and he did not abandon them as he grew older.  These made him skeptical of much of the social and economic legislation adopted after he came to Washington at the beginning of the twentieth century.  He clung, for instance, to the argument of Malthus, the British curate who believed that population, unchecked by disease, war and poverty, would forever outdistance its means of subsistence, and remained pessimistic of possibilities of the future progress of mankind.  Holmes wrote to Pollock in the summer of 1914 that he had been reading the Nicomachean Ethics, Descartes, Berkeley, Ricardo and Malthus.  Malthus both pleased him immensely, and left him sad:  “ A hundred years ago he busted fallacies that politicians and labor leaders still live on . . . Exposures amount to nothing when people want to believe.”

In that last sentence, I finally find something to agree with him on, though his means at arriving there are degenerate in the extreme.

Any liberal who can read that and not question a liberalism that could hold Holmes as a great liberal hero, is no liberal.  The liberalism that hold Holmes in such high esteem is a pantomime of liberalism, libertarian but not liberal.  As can be seen in the failure of liberalism in the period after its highest point in the mid-1960s, that kind of liberalism is a political loser.

Biddle mentions Nuremberg once in the book that I've found and it and the lecture it appears in are well worth considering.  He doesn't mention the use of his mentor and hero by the Nazis on trial in so far as I've been able to find it.  I might look for that possible information later, though I now doubt it exists.

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