Nock on Radicalism

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Check out a great Albert Jay Nock piece from 1920, resurrected today on the Mises site. Here’s an excerpt:

The liberal believes that the State is essentially social and is all for improving it by political methods …. Hence, he is interested in politics, takes them seriously, goes at them hopefully, and believes in them as an instrument of social welfare and progress. He is politically minded, with an incurable interest in reform, putting good men in office, independent Albert Jay Nockadministrations, and quite frequently in third-party movements. … The radical, on the other hand, believes that the State is fundamentally antisocial and is all for improving it off the face of the earth; not by blowing up officeholders … but by the historical process of strengthening, consolidating and enlightening economic organization. The radical has no substantial interest in politics, and regards all projects of political reform as visionary. He sees, or thinks he sees, quite clearly that the routine of partisan politics is only a more or less elaborate and expensive byplay indulged in for the sake of diverting notice from the primary object of all politics and political government, namely, the economic exploitation of one class by another; and hence all candidates look about alike to him …. The liberal looks with increasing favor upon the socialization of industry …. The radical keeps pointing out that while this is all very well in its way, monopoly values will as inevitably devour socialized industry as they now devour what the liberals call capitalistic industry.

(Note: I don’t necessarily endorse Nock’s particular terminology. If we think about what the central principles of (classical) liberalism originally were, then a radical, in Nock’s sense, is just a consistent liberal. Herbert Spencer and Gustave de Molinari, for example, were surely both liberals and radicals; and the individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker described himself as an “unterrified Jeffersonian democrat” and a “consistent Manchester-man.”)

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