FIRST PRINCIPLES

First Principles

How We Colored Our Public Squares Red

We are our own totalitarians. We make the Puritans in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter look like free-thinkers. Who among us will be most passionate in surveillance?

Reports tell us that church attendance among Americans is falling. I am acquainted with secular professors who apparently have learned nothing from the experiences of atheistic social experiments in the last century. Social experiments, I say, and not societies, because such monstrosities as Soviet Russia and Red China were never social enough to raise the […]

First Principles

Our Republic Is Under Attack from the Admirals and Generals

James Mattis and William McRaven’s comments reveal the anti-republican nature common to the modern military officer. Freedom-loving people should take note.

Retired Admiral William McRaven’s recent opinion column in the New York Times is one of several recent indicators of how anti-republican (note the small “r”) our military leadership has become. First, as Brandon J. Weichert so ably pointed out in these pages the other day, the military’s pathetic conduct in response to a predictable and […]

First Principles

The Perils of Praetorianism

Do we really want to normalize the view that the military is the protector of republican government?

From the time of Augustus Caesar until Constantine, the Roman emperor was protected by a corps of soldiers known as the Praetorian Guard. Over time, the Praetorians became the real power in Rome, appointing and deposing emperors at will. In our time, praetorianism has come to mean despotic military rule, something associated with countries in […]

First Principles

An Open Letter to Sergey Brin

Google’s arrogance is such that a vast number of Americans worry that the major conduit of speech in the free world doesn’t care about free speech.

Dear Mr. Brin: Fifty years ago this week, when I was a 21-year-old college senior, I was in the Soviet Union, sent by the government of Israel to smuggle in Jewish religious items and smuggle out names of Jews who wanted to escape the Soviet Union and could then be issued a formal invitation to […]

First Principles

A Better Guide than Reason

Reason, wrote John Locke, is man’s “only Star and compass.” It will bring those who but consult it to the table of amity, where they will consent to create a more peaceful society. Reason is Locke’s nisus, the perfective urge and final cause of his treatises on civil government. And yet the nature of that […]

First Principles

History Both Repeats and Rhymes

When the opposition doesn’t care whether the scurrilous things he’s spreading about you are true, the odds are good that they just want you to have to deny them.

“Encore, c’est la meme chose” means “Again, it’s the same thing.” Or as the American meme puts it, “same stuff, different day.” Actually, that’s the cleaned-up version. You can guess which word to substitute for “stuff.” The point is that similar social problems occur again and again across time and space. First-World Drugs The U.S. […]

First Principles

Of NeverChumps and Magaphobes

It’s time for some new additions to our political vocabulary. Who are the “NeverChumpers” and “Magaphobes”?

Two suggested additions to our political taxonomy. We’re familiar with the “NeverTrumper.” He’s a public person on the Right whose principles are ever-so-refined. Somehow, though, in the refining process, those principles finally coalesced around blind resentment of a single individual. The NeverTrumper is a curiosity of the current moment in time. One day he’ll end […]

First Principles

A Constitution for Ambitious Men

The Constitution’s genius lies chiefly in its reliance upon a trait rarely in short supply: Ambition.

Long revered by their grateful countrymen, the Founders recently have become more ambiguous figures in American life. A central premise of the Left is that American history is a story of oppression and that the Founders are tainted, being memorable chiefly because some of them owned slaves. In opposition, the NeverTrump GOP imagines itself to […]

First Principles

How the Times’ 1619 Project Misses the Point

As Englishmen had become Americans, liberty and equality shifted from customs to rights, and slavery became a very peculiar institution indeed, a repellent anomaly in a world of freedom.

It was an ordinary event when the first black slaves arrived in the Virginia colony in 1619. Subjection and force were the way of the world. It wasn’t just that nigh all mankind practiced slavery—that the African enslaved and sold his brothers to the European, that the Arab, the Comanche, and the Melanesian all slaved, […]

First Principles

Is Our Democracy Worth It Anymore?

As our politics have become increasingly fractious, our politicians and political pundits have appealed more to the aesthetics of our country than to its ambitious and ennobling goals.

The more civilized and cultured we humans get, the more we tend to conflate means with ends. For instance—the First Amendment was meant to as a means to ensure the ability for citizens to openly criticize other citizens and the government so that we could identify and address potential problems impairing the security and happiness […]

First Principles

Why Libertarians Are Unwitting Enablers of Socialism

Libertarians have become pawns of the progressive Left in America, and in an ironic twist, both of them have been co-opted by globalist corporate interests. When everything is privatized, rationed and metered, corporate rent seekers gain new revenue streams.

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves […]

First Principles

Living in a Post-Truth World

Post-truth people in the media were taught that the concept of truth is obsolete. Postmodernism rules on American campuses today, and a core idea of the postmodernists is that claims to truth are meaningless.

Have you heard the news? You and I are now living in a “post-truth” world. The Oxford Dictionaries proclaimed the official beginning of the new era in 2016 by selecting “post-truth” as the Word of the Year. According to our betters in academia, in the ruling elite, and in the punditocracy, the very concept of […]

First Principles

Forgetting Our Story

The decades-long leftist project to undermine the story we Americans tell about ourselves literally destroys and replaces our culture with something vastly more dangerous.

Each week on the Sabbath, Jews read a section of the Five Books of Moses, completing the entire cycle each year. Recently, the portion included the “Bringing of the First Fruits.” When the Temple was standing, Jews from all over Israel brought the first produce of the year as an offering to God. Jonathan Sacks, […]

First Principles

Big Conservatism and the Moment of Decision

Will we have politics-as-conversation or politics-as-war? Those are the only choices.

The arena of contemporary American politics is a confused place. And so-called conservatives—Republican politicians, yes, but, particularly, those in the mainstream “conservative media” or Big Conservatism—are especially confused. Historically, within the West, there can be discerned two rival ideal political types between which discourse and practice have oscillated.  On the one hand, politics has been […]

First Principles

Overhauling Libel Laws Will Only Hurt Conservatives

Love it or hate it, New York Times v. Sullivan benefits the Right.

The mainstream media besmirches conservative public figures on a regular basis. Look no further than Donald Trump and Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Some conservatives believe the best way to answer media smears is to change the libel laws. That’s a well-intentioned idea, but it would end hurting conservatives the most. Say goodbye to conservative media if […]

First Principles

Defining ‘Keep and Bear Arms’ in the 21st Century

Robert Francis O’Rourke did us a favor; he made it very clear what the Left has in mind.

Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman and longshot candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, said the one thing at the September 12 primary debate that Democrats insist they do not believe when it comes to gun control. “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” Coming from a native son of Texas, […]

First Principles

If Not the Hand of Providence, Then Timeless Political Principles

In defense of the U.S. Constitution.

Should our 232-year-old United States Constitution still be binding? For the last few years, progressives increasingly have begun to answer with an emphatic “No!” The most visible such criticism of our fundamental law is the attack on the Electoral College, which provides for indirect election of the president by electors who, if the truth be […]

First Principles

Rhetoric and Aesthetic in American Politics

If we can reorient our abstract and denuded politics toward the deep human desire for the sublime, we might actually create something worth conserving. Only then will we make our words meaningful again.

Recently in the American Conservative, Rod Dreher shared a bit of compelling candor from an anonymous reader, a middle-aged man whose suburban lifestyle has rendered him unable to find intimacy and meaning in just about every area of his life. Four friends sent it to me separately, with the tagline “try not to cry when […]

First Principles

The Case Against Universal Background Checks

Spoiler alert: They don’t work and they’re an invitation to abuse.

On Capitol Hill this week, lawmakers got a visit from Attorney General Bill Barr and White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland, looking to sell them on a gun control proposal. The proposal, an outline of which was released by the Daily Caller’s Amber Athey, parallels legislation proposed by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Joe […]

First Principles

Slandering the American Founding

Well, it’s settled. Everything we thought we knew about the American Founding is wrong. The real Founding is not the Declaration of Independence in 1776 or even the drafting of the Constitution in 1787. Instead, it is 1619 when the first slaves arrived in the settlement of Jamestown. Thus sayeth the 1619 Project of the […]