American Consequences - January 2021

From Editor in Chief P.J. O’Rourke

AMERICA’S TEET TOTTERING DEMO “A fool’s tongue is long enough to cut his throat.” 17th-century proverb

S torming the Capitol Building was an attack on libertarian conservatism. To be a libertarian is to believe in the sanctity of individual liberty and the duty of individual responsibility. To be a conservative is to believe in the primacy of moral values and the continuity of civilized institutions. To be a mob is to surrender individual liberty to the madness of crowds, to shed responsibility like a pair of dirty socks, to put moral values out with the trash, and to piss on the walls (or break the windows and litter the floors) of civilized institutions. Given that America has the institution of democracy (and nothing, to date, has proven more civilized), our political construct is always going to be imperfect. It is, after all, the work of a committee. Our committee is the electorate, with all the frustrations and failings to which committees are prone. What gets constructed is sometimes an ugly building (though the Capitol is not). The building may be poorly made with floors that aren’t level and plumbing that backs up. The building may need to be repaired... or even replaced. But things are going to be worse if

the building collapses while we’re inside it. And a mob can do that... A mob can be the earthquake, the tornado, the flood, or the fire. As mob violence goes, the attack on the Capitol didn’t go far. The disturbance was quelled in a few hours. We have seen much worse in dozens of American cities over the past eight months – broader mayhem, greater bloodshed, prolonged anarchic occupations, threats, intimidations, vandalism, and looting on a massive scale. Much of that was played down as “mostly peaceful protests” or given tacit approval or even explicit encouragement by people in a position to influence public opinion. What makes storming the Capitol so significant? (Other than that it seemed to trigger a sudden awakening of the entire news media and political establishment to the fact that mob violence is wrong – even if their message continued to be, “especially when it comes from people who oppose the news media and political establishment.”) And why should storming the Capitol be a particular affront to libertarian conservatives? Because I’m afraid there were people in that


January 2021

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