The notion that everybody ought to be happy, and equally happy with all the rest, is the fine flower of the philosophy which has been winning popularity for two hundred years. All the petty demands of natural rights, liberty, equality, etc., are only stepping-stones toward this philosophy, which is really what is wanted. All through human history some have had good fortune and some ill fortune. For some the ills of life have taken all the joy and strength out of existence, while the fortunate have always been there to show how glorious life might be and to furnish dreams of bliss to tantalize those who have failed and suffered. So men have constructed in philosophy theories of universal felicity. They tell us that every one has a natural right to be happy, to be comfortable, to have health, to succeed, to have knowledge, family, political power, and all the rest of the things which anybody can have. They put it all into the major premise. Then they say that we all ought to be equal. That proposition abolishes luck. In making propositions we can imply that all ought to have equally good luck, but, inasmuch as there is no way in which we can turn bad luck into good, or misfortune into
good fortune, what the proposition means is that if we can not all have good luck no one shall have it. The unlucky will pull down the lucky. That is all that equality ever can mean. The worst becomes the standard. When we talk of “changing the system,” we ought to understand that that means abolishing luck and all the ills of life. We might as well talk of abolishing storms, excessive heat and cold, tornadoes, pestilences, diseases, and other ills. Poverty belongs to the struggle for existence, and we are all born into that struggle. The human race began in utter destitution. It had no physical or metaphysical endowment whatever. The existing “system” is the outcome of the efforts of men for thousands of years to work together, so as to win in the struggle for existence.
(William Graham Sumner, “Reply to a Socialist.” In: The Challenge of Facts, and Other Essays. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1914, pp. 56–57).
There was in the Terror an element more disgraceful to France than the carnival of murder in which the members of the Mountain, maddened, let us hope, by their long draughts of what we have called intellectual absinthe, permitted themselves to indulge, and that was the astounding cowardice of those who were not mad. If there is one thing certain about the Terror it is that it was approved by a small minority, that the troops loathed it, that the respectables feared it, that even the populace, who three times moved the guillotine, at heart condemned it as ruthless and unjust. The moment a minute group in the Convention, in fear for their own necks, defied it, it was over, and could not by the most desperate efforts be re-established. Not only were the silent majority of the Convention, who were constantly voting proscription lists, opposed to them, but physical force was wholly on that side, and once appealed to, drove the true Terrorists into hiding as mere human vermin. Not a shot was fired when the Jacobin Club was closed, and the “furies of the guillotine” whipped with canes. For months, in fact, France, which was all the while rushing to battle on the frontiers, lay paralysed with nervous terror, afraid of pasteboard giants, who on the first symptom of real resistance exploded with a smell, leaving behind them a recollection which has been more fatal to true liberty than all the Kings and all the reactionary leaders who have succeeded them.
(“On the Edge of the Abyss,” The Spectator, Vol. LXXXII, February 11, 1899, p. 190).
Nations have great men only in spite of themselves — like families. They make every effort not to have them. Therefore, the great man must, in order to exist, possess an offensive force greater than the power of resistance developed by millions of individuals.
(Charles Baudelaire, Baudelaire. His Prose and Poetry. New York: The Modern Library, 1919, p. 214).
“It is inconceivable! It is absurd! It is not clear to you that what you are planning is a revolution? Absurd, because a revolution is impossible! Because our — I speak for myself and for you — our revolution was the last one. No other revolutions may occur. Everybody knows that.”
A mocking, sharp triangle of brows.
“My dear, you are a mathematician, are you not! More than that, a philosopher-mathematician. Well, then, name the last number.”
“What is… I… I cannot understand, which last?”
“The last one, the highest, the largest.”
“But I-330, that’s absurd! Since the number of numbers is infinite, how can there be a last one?”
“And why then do you think there is a last revolution… their number is infinite… The ‘last one’ is a child’s story. Children are afraid of the infinite, and it is necessary that children should not be frightened, so they may sleep through the night.”
All modes of government are failures. Despotism is unjust to everybody, including the despot, who was probably made for better things. Oligarchies are unjust to the many, and ochlocracies are unjust to the few. High hopes were once formed of democracy; but democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.
(Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man Under Socialism,” The Fortnightly Review, Vol. XLIX, 1891, p. 301).
Political correctness is about denial, usually in the weasel circumlocutory jargon which distorts and evades and seldom stands up to honest analysis.
It comes in many guises, some of them so effective that the PC can be difficult to detect. The silly euphemisms, apparently harmless, but forever dripping to wear away common sense.
(George MacDonald Fraser, “The Last Testament of Flashman’s Creator: How Britain has Destroyed Itself,” Daily Mail, January 5, 2008).
Political correctness is more than a ridiculous set of opinions; it’s also — and primarily — a tool of government coercion. Not only does it tilt any political discussion in favor of one set of arguments; it also gives the ruling class a doubt-expelling myth that provides a constant boost to morale and esprit de corps, much as class systems did in the days before democracy. People tend to snicker when the question of political correctness is raised: its practitioners because no one wants to be thought politically correct; and its targets because no one wants to admit to being coerced.
(Christopher Caldwell, “The French, Coming Apart,” City Journal, Spring 2017).