Albert Jay Nock

A nice, but flawed article on Nock by Mr Goldberg. First the good:

Nock was born in 1870, which he believed was as good a year as any to mark the beginning of the end of civilization. . . .

He took pride in the fact that he was merely reminding those willing to be reminded that whatever is fashionable and new in the ideas of men is little more than a rebranding effort. We may change the wardrobe of humanity, but not its nature. And yet, to Nock’s exasperation, humanity’s innate folly is the belief that the clothes will somehow remake the man.

And the bad:

And that is why the Right is in so much better shape than it was during Nock’s time, even as liberals are mounting a statist revival. Yes, statism is on the march again, but anti-statism isn’t an amusing pursuit for cape-wearing exotics like Nock anymore; it is the animating spirit of institutions launched and nourished by lovers of liberty. Retreating into the Nockian cocoon of the good life may be appealing, but it is morally defensible only if creeping collectivism is impervious to resistance.

Really? The Right is in better shape, by what measure? The size of government has increased dramatically. Failures of government intervention are still seen as failures of freedom even as society becomes ever less free. Even when the Right manages to temporarily roll-back creeping statism, its victories are temporary – changes are never such that government’s form is changed or its powers are lessened.

Mr Goldberg concludes that Nock was incorrect in his assessments. I don’t see how Nock could have been more correct. I don’t think anything about today’s society or form of government would surprise him.

I look forward to reading the other essays mentioned in the article (here and here).

Update: I have one more quibble. Mr Goldberg says Nock is not an anarchist. I’m not sure he’s easy to classify (a good place to start might be here). If he’s not an anarchist, he’s close:

What completely vitiates Mr. Hayek’s work, Mr. Eric Johnston’s, and a whole shoal of others, is that they concede a small and strictly limited measure of State intervention — a sort of five-percent Statism. Apparently, like Mr. Shaw, these writers never heard of the Law of Parsimony, and have no idea of what it can do. If they had even considered the history of this country’s twenty-five years’ experience under the Income Tax Amendment, they would begin to see the reason why their notion is as absurd as the notion of a small and strictly limited implantation of tuberculosis, syphilis, or cancer.


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