Books and Code · A Miscellany

Suicide of the West, by James Burnham (A Review)


Burnham’s dissection of liberal ideology is spot-on. However, his analysis of particular foreign and domestic policy is not so great, though this only constitutes maybe a third of the book and is not particularly important to his description of liberal ideology. The latter often makes good points in regard to liberal failings, but then asserts common conservative talking points on specific issues without the same level of rigor as applied to liberalism. This is much to his detriment and gives his would-be critics easy ammunition. I rather wish he had refrained, but 14 chapters in he clearly felt himself on a roll. So it goes.

On the whole, I think Burnham gives liberalism a little too much credit insofar as (I believe) it is more a symptom of the decline of Western hegemony than its primary cause. The Fourth Turning and Dalio’s Principles For Dealing With the Changing World Order fill in more of this picture from different perspectives. Nevertheless, a society can decline slowly or quickly. Burnham identifies and accurately characterizes a key component which, at its worst, has accelerated decline.

(For what it’s worth, I am neither a liberal nor a conservative; I am a crazy anarchist.)