James Kalb

James Kalb

James Kalb is a lawyer and writer who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He recently came out with his first book, The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command. His online home is jimkalb.com.


Is Social Conservatism Necessary?

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Is Social Conservatism Necessary?

The voices of conventional wisdom are telling us once again that the Right should reinvent itself, or rather return to its true principles, by abandoning the social issues. Dwight Eisenhower and Barry Goldwater got along without them, so why can’t we do the same today? Instead of worrying about how people live their lives, we should concentrate on trimming government and getting its basic functions right. Let’s create a “€œconservatism that can win again!”€ The argument sounds appealing, in a go-with-the-flow sort of way. It’s nice to think we can make messy issues vanish by ignoring them. The problem, though, is that the argument has no connection to politics as it is now.

The Tyranny of Tolerance

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The Tyranny of Tolerance

Contemporary liberalism claims open-ended tolerance as its guiding principle. The claim is an odd one, since every social order accepts some patterns of conduct but not others. Otherwise it would not be a social order at all. It should not be surprising that on examination the claim turns out to be false. In theory, of course, values can be freely chosen in liberal society. In practice, however, some are disfavored. Sometimes the favoritism seems arbitrary, as in the case of the suppression of tobacco but not alcohol. In general, though, it comes about because some values are at odds with a regime that needs all values to be treated as interchangeable. It is thought a pathology to take love, loyalty, integrity, religion, or community affiliation seriously as standards that trump the right to choose. To do so casts doubt on the principles of tolerance and equal freedom, because it suggests that some person, group, status, relationship, or goal has a special position that trumps immediate personal preference.

Design for Living

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Design for Living

Architecture is not politics, but it’s relevant to politics because we create our physical environment in the image of what we believe about the world generally. We need to make sense of our surroundings. If they’re too much at odds with the world we believe in, they seem stupid, phony and aside the point. A divine-right monarch would seem bizarre to Ronald Dworkin, a purely secular state to Joseph de Maistre. If they were on a city planning commission together, their disagreements would lead to disagreements on the work of the commission”€”for example, on the appearance of the cathedral and town hall and where they should be in relation to each other. City and building provide the physical setting for public life. The political goal implicit in the tendencies of thought now generally dominant is to replace the familial, civic and religious core of public life with technologically rational processes embodied in world markets and neutral transnational bureaucracies. That goal helps explain why the arch-modernist Le Corbusier said, “The core of our old cities, with their domes and cathedrals, must be broken up and skyscrapers put in their place.”


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