Started Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, often cited as one of the philosophical bases of modern conservatism, and hoo boy, it certainly is A Document.

I can't help but wonder how much of the modern conservative's mental association of radicalism with Jewish ethnicity can be traced back to the fact that Richard Price preached self-rule in a meeting-house in the Jewish quarter of London, and Burke used Old Jewry as a synecdoche for French-influenced London radicalism.

Here's a howler: Inheritance "leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires."

How is a secure possession free to acquire?

"We know that the British house of commons, without shutting its doors to any merit in any class, is, by the sure operation of adequate causes, filled with every thing illustrious in rank, in descent, in hereditary and in acquired opulence, in cultivated talents, in military, civil, naval, and politic distinction, that the country can afford." Well, that goes without saying.

Burke: "One of the first motives to civil society, and which becomes one of its fundamental rules, is *that no man should be judge in his own cause.* By this each person has at once divested himself of the first fundamental right of uncovenanted man, that is, to judge for himself, and to assert his own cause. He abdicated all right to be his own governor. […] That he may obtain justice he gives up his right of determining what it is in the points most essential to him."

This book is wild.

Bear in mind, Burke's not just saying there should be some third party to judge in legal disputes between people. He's using that as a general principle to argue against democracy, on grounds that it lets people put forward their own interests. They gave up that right, he argues — or, rather, their ancestors have it up on their behalf.

In some ways, Burke is a killer argument against Rousseau, in that he inadvertently shows how untenable social contract theory becomes once you start putting it in practical terms.

One aim I had in reading this book was to start building a sense of how modern conservatism had strayed so far into corruption from its ideological roots, but no, most of what's happening now wasn't even implicit in Burke — it was explicit.

There's only a short step separating the leftist fixation with people "voting against their own [class] interests" and Burke's deeply conservative assertion that "Men have no right to what is not reasonable, and to what is not for their benefit."


Hoo boy, hitting some unmasked racism now. Burke compares the Revolution Society's jubilance over the French Revolution to the post-raid celebrations of "American savages" in terms lurid enough for Jacksonian propaganda.

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