The Liberal Has No Character

19 June — The day of the liberal and the constitutionalist seems to be over, and it is high time. The war made hay of liberalism, and our Constitution has been so consistently clapperclawed into the service of base purposes that popular superstition about its sanctity has evaporated. The political liberal is the most dangerous person in the world to be entrusted with power, for no one knows what he will do with it; and the worst of him is, that whatever he does, he will persuade himself that it was the divinely-appointed thing to be done, e.g., Mr. Wilson at the Peace Conference. The old-style, hard-baked Tory had character; you knew where he was; also you knew there were some things he would not do and could not be persuaded to do. The liberal has no character, only stubbornness; and there is nothing he will not do. Of all the crew of crooks that were herded at Versailles, the only one I had a grain of respect for was old Clémenceau. You could do business with Clémenceau; he was out for everything in sight, and made no bones of saying so. He also seemed to take a grim delight in showing up the shuffling piosities of his accomplices. I have known many political liberals in my lifetime, some very highly placed, and there is none of them whom I would willingly see again, either in this world or in the next.”

20 June — I spent an hour yesterday in the Sunday crowd on Narragansett Pier beach, formerly a resort of the social elect, in the days when transportation was slow and costly. Now it is a sort of Coney Island for all of Providence, Pawtucket, etc., who can coax a decrepit automobile to carry them that far. On principle, I am glad of the change; the old régime had little to recommend it but its amenities, which were mostly superficial enough, but agreeable to share. The crowd that descends on Narragansett now is dreadful. Of all the masses of mankind, I think, the most ignoble and repulsive is the mass of the small bourgeois. In their progress from the proletariat they have left its solid virtues behind them, and carried with them nothing but its rapacity and hideousness; nor have they taken on anything from the upper bourgeois but his narrowness, timidity, and an exaggeration of his petty conventions. Mr. Jefferson says that some of his diplomatic colleagues ‘had learned nothing of diplomacy but its suspicions’. These people are like that, and they are almost all the people we have. More completely now than when Matthew Arnold said it, we are like England ‘with the Barbarians left out, and the Populace nearly so’.” (Albert Jay Nock, A Journal of These Days, 1934)