Friday, March 30, 2007

Cato Podcasts: On the State of Conservatism

A few days ago I discovered the Cato Institute's daily podcast interviews and have been browsing through the archives. Here are a few of them that I've grouped by theme. These four deal with the state of the conservative movement/republican party. I didn't time them, but they seemed to run about 7-10 minutes.

David Brooks "Wither Conservatism"

Dick Armey "The Unraveling of the Republican Revolution"

Tucker Carlson "Is the Right on the Ropes?"

Michael Tanner "Leviathan on the Right"

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Currently Reading

Over the past few months I've been reading Roy Porter's The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment and I'm just about finished. It is an excellent book and I would recommend it highly.

I've just started reading two books:

The first is Trevor Colbourn's The Lamp of Experience: Whig History and the Intellectual Origins of the American Revolution;

The second is The Psychology of Buddhist Tantra by Rob Preece.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Paz on Sartre

This is from an essay on Jean-Paul Sartre by the Mexican poet, essayist, and diplomat Octavio Paz from his book On Poets and Others:

Our last conversation was almost entirely about politics. Commenting on discussions at the United Nations about Russian concentration camps, he told me: "The British and the French have no right to criticize the Russians on account of their camps, since they've got their colonies. In fact, colonies are the concentration camps of the bourgeoisie." His sweeping moral judgment overlooked specific differences--historic, social, political--between the two systems. In equating Western colonialism with the repressive Soviet system, Sartre fudged the issue, the only one that could and should interest an intellectual of the left such as he was: what was the true social and historic nature of the Soviet regime? By evading the basic theme, he helped indirectly those who wanted to perpetuate the lies with which, up to that time, Soviet reality had been masked. This was a serious equivocation, if one can so describe an intellectual and moral fault.

True, in those days imperialism exploited the colonial populations as the Soviet system exploited the prisoners in the camps. The difference was that the colonies were not a part of the repressive system of bourgeois states (there were no French workers condemned to forced labor in Algeria, nor were there British dissidents deported to India), while the population of the camps consisted of the Soviet people themselves: farmers, workers, intellectuals, and whole social categories (ethnic, religious, and professional). The camps, that is to say, repression, were (are) an integral part of the Soviet system. In those years, moreover, the colonies achieved independence, while the system of concentration camps has spread, like an infection, into all the countries in which Communist regimes rule. And there is something more: is it even thinkable that in the Russian, Cuban, and Vietnamese camps movements of emancipation should arise and develop, movements like those in Asia and Africa? Sartre was not insensible to these arguments, but it was hard to convince him: he thought that we bourgeois intellectuals had no right to criticize the vices of the Soviet system while in our own countries oppression and exploitation survived. When the Hungarian Revolution broke out, he attributed the uprising in part to Khrushchev's imprudent declarations revealing the crimes of Stalin: one ought not to upset the workers.

Sartre's case is exemplary but not unique. A sort of moralizing masochism, inspired by the best principles, has paralyzed a large number of European and Latin American intellectuals for more than thirty years. We have been educated in the double heritage of Christianity and the Enlightenment; both currents, religious and secular, in their highest development were critical. Our models have been those men who, like a Las Casas or a Rousseau, had the courage to tell and condemn the horrors and injustices of their own societies. I would not wish to betray that tradition; without it, our societies would cease to be that dialogue with themselves without which there is no real civilization and they would become a monologue of power, at once barbarous and monotonous. Criticism served Kant and Hume, Voltaire and Diderot, to establish the modern world. Their criticism and that of their heirs in the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth was creative. We have perverted criticism: we have put it at the service of the hatred of ourselves and of the world. We have not built anything with it, except prisons of concepts. Worst of all: with criticism we have justified tyrannies. In Sartre this intellectual sickness turned into an historical myopia: for him the sun of reality never shone. That sun is cruel but also, in some moments, it is a sun of plenitude and fortune. Plenitude, fortune: two words that do not appear in his vocabulary. . . . Our conversation ended abruptly: Simone de Beauvoir arrived and, rather impatiently, made him swallow down his coffee and depart.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Principles of Socratic Questioning

So I'm over at Zenpundit really enjoying this post and there I find a link to this, which links me to this and there I discover a link to the Principles of Socratic Questioning. This is exactly why I like the internet. One thing leads to another and that to another and so on. Below are the basic principles, but there is a lot more worth reading at the link. It is presented as a guide for teachers and thus should serve as a useful tool in countering PC's stifling of free inquiry. This should be a cornerstone of education in this country.

Respond to all answers with a further question (that calls upon the respondent to develop his/her thinking in a fuller and deeper way).

Seek to understand, where possible, the ultimate foundations for what is said or believed.

Treat all assertions as a connecting point to further thoughts.

Treat all thoughts as in need of development.

Recognize that a thought can only exist fully in a network of connected thoughts. Stimulate students, by your questions, to pursue those connections.

Recognize that all questions presuppose prior questions and all thinking presupposes prior thinking. When raising questions, be open to the questions they presuppose.

One of the areas of inquiry that complexity theorists are exploring is how "very simple rules...generate patterns of startling dynamism and complexity." I would suggest that these principles of Socratic questioning are an example of simple rules that over the course of Western civilization's development have indeed generated "patterns of startling dynamism and complexity."

If there is anything that characterizes the uniqueness of Western civilization since the 18th century it is the relentless and uncompromising questioning of everything. Many of the great cultural conflicts within the West have been about whether people would be permitted to question religious belief, custom and tradition, political power, conventional morality, ideology and so on. Today there are two movements that seek to stifle this kind of questioning. One is radical Islam and its ongoing effort to intimidate anyone who would question their religious beliefs and the other is the global warming movement which is seeking to squelch any deviation from the "consensus" they are promoting. We are in need of the principles of Socratic questioning more than ever today.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Today's Quote: On Art and Zen

An entry from Mircea Eliade's Journal III 1970-1978:

In his book Zen in Japanese Art, Hasumi writes that in Japan art is the royal path that leads to the Absolute. However, numerous scholars, and even some Japanese, do not consider the tea ceremony to be, strictly speaking, an "art," and rather see in it an "aesthetic diversion." Such an attitude seems groundless to me. Do, which comes from the Chinese tao, means "path." The tea ceremony--like all other "paths" (do): painting, poetry, floral art, calligraphy, archery, etc.--also constitutes a spiritual technique, for it places he who practices it in a "nirvanic" state in his everyday life. It is fascinating to follow the process by which artistic pastimes are gradually transformed into spiritual techniques. According to pre-Buddhist Japanese tradition, thus prior to 550 A.D., Nature is fundamentally "good and beautiful." In other words, Nature also participates in sacrality. In Shintoism, no rupture exists between the Cosmos, Man, and the Divine, which is manifest by millions of kami. Then, under the influence of the Buddhism that came from China, and in particular of the fundamental idea of the Mahayana, one came to consider all of reality as inscribed in the "Body of the Law", the Dharmakaya. This means that men are themselves expected to become Buddhas, or more exactly, they must become conscious that they are indeed Buddhas.

Kukay (774-835), the founder of the Tendai school, asserts that all that is "beautiful" shares the essence of Buddha. In this way, therefore, art and religion constitute a unique and same reality. Thanks to Kukay, the traditional Japanese conception of the "sacrality" of Nature takes on a new dimension, and gradually the idea was formed that the entire phenomenal world participates in absolute reality, and thus in the essence of Buddha. It is thus that Nature, from being simply "sacred" as it was previously considered to be, now becomes "soterial." In fact, whereas Buddhist art of southern Asia and China concentrates on the representation of Buddha, Japanese artists, influenced by Shintoist tradition, continue to represent images of Nature almost exclusively.

Under the circumstances, this is another interpretation of Buddhism. Nirvanic "illumination" is declared to be superior to Buddhist doctrine, superior to the Buddha himself. Suddenly "illumination" is demythologized and ceases to project the one who experiences it onto a superior level of reality. It involves something else, apparently much simpler: The understanding of the world and of human existence is radically modified following the intuitive experience of the true essence of Buddha. Illumination is obtained spontaneously, without particular effort: "Spiritual culture cannot be cultivated." Artistic activities, such as dance or the tea ceremony, are spontaneous creations of that "nirvanic reality." Life, in its best-known and most commonplace aspects, can thus become an Art.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

On Patriotism

Dan at tdaxp has posted a comment on patriotism from one of his commenters that has spawned an interesting discussion:

I'm afraid I don't find patriotism some quality to aspire to. It's racism minus the pigmentary convenience.

The error in this statement is one of reductionism: reducing the definition of patriotism to something very narrow and then projecting that meaning onto anyone who self-identifies as a patriot regardless of what they actually mean by patriotism. It is certainly true that some manifestations of patriotism are forms of bigotry. But there are many others that have nothing to do with any form of bigotry. Lexicographers gather evidence of how words are used and then put together the dictionary definitions, updating them as usage changes. I suggest that this is probably the best method to use in this case.

The kinds of patriotism that are forms of bigotry should be unacceptable in a free society. But what kinds of patriotism are appropriate, even necessary, for a free society? Here are some excerpts from Maurizio Viroli's short but very interesting book Republicanism:

Republican patriotism is capable of crossing national boundaries. It is stronger than cultural and religious differences. A person who loves the common liberty of his or her own people also loves and respects the liberty of other peoples and commits himself or herself to defending it...

Classical political writers were quite clear on this point [i.e. the difference between republican patriotism and nationalism]: the political and cultural values of the fatherland* differ from the non-political values of the nation. They used two different terms to describe them: patria and natio...

The ancient distinction is still valid. Theorists of republican patriotism considered that the republic's political institutions, and the way of life based on them, had the highest political value; nationalists, on the other hand, put the people's cultural or ethnic or religious identity in the forefront...

For republicans, as I have pointed out, love of country was an artificial feeling that required constant stoking and nourishment by political means, first and foremost good government and participation in public life. For nationalists, in contrast, love of country was a natural emotion which, to thrive and grow strong, had to be protected from contamination and cultural assimilation. This difference obviously derives from the former considering the republic as a political institution, and the latter considering the nation as produced by nature, or God.

...The republic, being a political order and a way of life, is a culture. Machiavelli spoke of living free; others defined the republic as "a certain life of the city." Thus republican patriotism has a cultural significance: it is a political passion based on the experience of republican equality and love of a certain culture, although it does not assign great value to the matter of being born in a given territory, belonging to the same ethnic group, speaking the same language, having the same customs, or worshipping the same gods or god...

Republican patriotism, then, differs from both ethnic and civic nationalism. In contrast with the former, it recognizes no political or moral value in the unity and ethnic homogeneity of a people, while it does recognize the moral and political importance of values of citizenship, which are entirely incompatible with any form of ethnocentrism. In contrast with the latter, it proclaims allegiance not to culturally and historically neutral political principles but to the laws, constitutions, and ways of life of specific republics, each with its own history and culture.

* The political writers of the Enlightenment used the word "fatherland" synonymously with "republic," because they believed that the true fatherland could only be a free republic. This identification was not merely polemical: it summarized the idea that under the yoke of a despot, citizens are without protection and cannot participate in public life; they might as well be outsiders, and they therefore have no fatherland.

My own views are similar to Viroli's. I have always been strongly patriotic, but that patriotism has been for the ideals, institutions and culture of liberty that are at the core of the American Experiment and which act in opposition to racism and bigotry. And a key element of the American Experiment is open citizenship: people of any race or ethnicity can become citizens. That, I believe, is a patriotism that is appropriate for a free society.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


I was flipping through my copy of One Taste: The Journals of Ken Wilbur and randomly stopping at various passages and I came across this:

The comedian Dennis Miller nailed it: "Only man is a narcissistic enough species to think that a highly evolved alien life force would travel across billions and billions of light years--a group of aliens so intelligent, so insouciant, so utterly above it all, they feel no need to equip their spacecraft with windows so that they can gaze out on all that celestial beauty--but then immediately upon landing, their first impulse is to get in some hick's ass with a flashlight."

Irish Baseball

This looks like an interesting documentary film. I had no idea there was baseball in Ireland:

"The Emerald Diamond" is a 90-minute documentary about the Irish National Baseball Team. The film's budget of $70,000 was financed on credit cards by first-time filmmaker John Fitzgerald. 
. . .

Baseball has been played in Ireland since the early 1990s. The Irish National Team made its debut in the 1996 European Championships in England. Today, baseball is played throughout the country - the National Team is based in Dublin and youth baseball is played in Cork, Kerry, Port Stewart and Greystones.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Christianity in Africa

Over the past few years I've become more and more interested in how and why ideas and beliefs spread. Following that interest, recently I was googling about Christianity in Africa and came upon an interview with Andrew Walls who is a professor and former missionary in Africa. The excerpt below reveals that while Christianity may gain believers, people do not necessarily completely abandon their prior beliefs. Rather there is an overlap and the missionary, minister, or priest is expected to be able to deal with spirits and witchcraft, something that Westerners are not exactly trained to do.

What aspects of the African experience are being reconfigured in Christian terms?

The role of ancestors and witchcraft are two important issues. Academic theologians in the West may not put witchcraft high on the agenda, but it’s the issue that hits ordinary African Christians full in the face.
Of course, Western theology has made its peace with the Enlightenment, the fundamental assumption of which is that there is a firm line between the empirical world and the transcendent world or spirit world. If you’re a rationalistic person of the Enlightenment, you’ll say either that there’s nothing on the other side of the line or that we can’t know anything about it. Western Christians have particular points on which they cross the line -- incarnation, resurrection, prayer, miracles and so on -- but on the whole they still assume the existence of that firm division.

The world of most African Christians doesn’t have this firm line between the world of experience and the transcendent world. It’s an open frontier which is being crossed all the time. They are very aware, for example, of the active forms that evil takes.

So what does a Christian theologian do when somebody says he’s a witch? Our instinct in the West is to say, Oh no, of course you are not a witch. But what do you do when a person tells you she has killed somebody, that she hated some woman so much she wanted her baby to die -- and then the baby dies. This can be a pressing pastoral issue in Africa.

When African Christians read the New Testament, they naturally see things that Western Christians miss. They can see, for example, that the New Testament plainly deals with demons, and that it also deals with healing -- issues that Western Christians tend to think are part of an outdated world.

It seems that African Christians have two challenges: they are reinterpreting their traditional religious culture in the light of Christian teachings, and at the same time they are responding to the pressure of the Enlightenment worldview and Enlightenment-sponsored technology.

Traditional and Enlightenment worldviews can live together very well. You can drive a car and watch television and still be very much aware of the objective force of evil and may want to call it witchcraft. And the reconfiguration process has a variety of solutions. African traditional universes have several components. Many recognize not only God, but also lesser divinities who are rulers of territories and of departments of life, as well as ancestors who are mediators. In African Christian thought, the God-component is enlarged -- but what happens to the divinities? They are sometimes interpreted in terms of angels and ministers of God, sometimes in terms of demons and enemies of God. African Christianity has a lively sense of the demonic. Ancestor mediation produces still more complex theological questions. All three kinds of answers emerge within African Christianity. But Western theology is not very helpful in providing answers to such questions, because it doesn’t even understand the questions.

John Mbiti has a wonderful story about the African student who goes home to his village with a Ph.D. in theology. This son of the village is greeted with a service of welcome and afterward a big party. During the party there’s a shrieking and a howling and a banging in the tent -- his sister has become possessed. Of course, the villagers immediately turn to the new Ph.D. -- he’s the expert, the one who has received the best theological training. But he’s completely incapacitated for dealing with this African event.

Another thing to think about is that while "Western theology has made its peace with the Enlightenment," this won't be true of most of the new Christians in Africa for whom the Western Enlightenment is not a part of their cultural heritage. We may see forms of Christianity emerge in Africa that are very different from what Westerners are used to and perhaps not in a good way. Religious tolerance, separation of church and state, and the important role of science and philosophy may be absent. It's possible that extremist Christian movements will emerge that will cause some of the same kinds of problems we now see with extremist Muslims. Hopefully, though, as Christianity spreads so too will some of these other values and beliefs.

To believe or not to believe...

An interesting intra-conservative debate on belief and non-belief in the conservative movement is going on here, here, and here.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Entrepreneurial Revolution

Jeff Cornwall has posted the text of a speech he gave recently on the entrepreneurial generation that he sees coming of age. We are all well aware of the technological revolution that has been going on for a while now, but the entrepreneurial revolution that Cornwall talks about will have a tremendous impact on our society as well. The 20th century was characterized by centralization and consolidation throughout society, but with our current technological and entrepreneurial transformations the 21st century may be characterized by decentralization and the pushing of authority out to the edges. This transformation would contribute greatly to the health of our free society.

We are here today to honor a group of entrepreneurial small business owners for their individual successes. I am here to talk briefly about the economic revolution that they, and those who will be following them, are leading in the American economy. We are in the early stages of an entrepreneurially-based transformation of our economy the likes of which we have not seen in this country in over 100 years.

The American economy today is being driven by entrepreneurs. Small businesses now create 50% of the US Gross Domestic Product and 50% of all employment in this country. There are two groups, more than any other segment of our population, who are leading the Entrepreneurial Economic Revolution.

One group with high rates of entrepreneurial activity is my generation -- the Baby Boomers. These Entre-boomers, as they are sometimes called, are certainly important for our economy. But they are not the group who will be leading this Entrepreneurial Economic Revolution. The true foot soldiers who will lead us to economic victory in this Economic Revolution are those in the Entrepreneurial Generation.
So who is this Entrepreneurial Generation?

- They are those born between 1977 and 2002 -- they range from the young people who are just now graduating from college, to those who are just entering primary education.
- Studies show that about 50% of today's college students have business ownership as a primary career goal.
- They are more financially savvy -- 37% of today's college students already thinking and planning for retirement.
- They are independent thinkers
- They embrace change -- and they view entrepreneurship as a career path that will allow them to use the changes that are occurring in our current world to their advantage.
What does the Entrepreneurial Generation think about work?
- Work is important
- They seek high levels of achievement -- many university Entrepreneurship programs like ours at Belmont now see 40-50% of our students arriving as freshman with profitable businesses already operating.
- They want their work to make a difference and have meaning.
- But, they do not want it to become all consuming -- They see entrepreneurship as a career path that will give them more control in their lives and the ability to create balance.

One of my students put this way in a comment she placed on my blog site:
My generation is really focused on keeping family first, even before career. Some say that this is because we watched so many baby boomers screw this whole family thing up. My take on it is that because the baby boomers sometimes grew up wanting, they determined in their minds that their families would want for nothing. Unfortunately, my generation has all they want, but grew up with workaholic parents who were absent in their lives. I believe we're searching to find that balance between family and career.

And how does the Entrepreneurial Generation view the World they will soon be leading?
- They do not trust large institutions -- be it corporate or government institutions
- They are politically independent, but leaning toward a more libertarian philosophy
- They are concerned about our culture, our society and our economy -- and they view entrepreneurship as a way to make things better.

I received an e-mail from a student recently after a recent talk I gave on our campus at Belmont University. She was reacting to my comments on how the Entrepreneurial Generation wants to use entrepreneurship as a vehicle not only for economic gain, but for making a positive social and cultural change in America:
You described the desire I've felt so accurately; "to make a difference in terms of our culture." I have never heard a professor speak about the HEART of my generation. I want to thank-you for renewing my hope and giving me the "nod of approval" to really dig in and change the world. I will hold on to your words as I try to make connections and find other compassionate, like-minded "movers and shakers."

The foot soldiers who will lead the current Economic Revolution are those in the Entrepreneurial Generation. And I believe we are in good hands.

Lessons Learned

It's good to see this topic starting to get some media play:

Twenty years ago, David Petraeus, then a young Army officer, wrote a Ph.D. dissertation for Princeton University, saying many of the lessons U.S. military leaders learned from the Vietnam War were wrong.
Generals had become hesitant to commit forces except when they could win conventional battles with superior American firepower. "The senior military have universally been more cautious since Vietnam," Petraeus wrote.
That hesitancy posed a problem in Petraeus' view. The U.S. military was turning away from the very fight — insurgencies — that it would likely confront. The United States' enemies had also learned from Vietnam and would not want to confront U.S. military might head-on.
"We got so far out of this business when we got back from Vietnam," says Andrew Krepinevich, a counter-insurgency expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "We had no institutional memory, no doctrine."

It is not enough to prepare to fight a conventional war. We have to be equally prepared to fight counterinsurgency, perform disaster relief, humanitarian ops, post-war ops, peacekeeping and small wars generally. The Bush Administration has made many mistakes, but not enough attention has been paid to the negligence of the military leadership over the past 30 years. Focusing solely on conventional war made it inevitible that our enemies would seek to exploit our weaknesses. The task that we have before us is not just adapting to the specific fight we are in now, but to institutionalize counterinsurgency and the variety of other missions for the long term.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Thoughts on Art and Literature with Merrill's Marauders

From The Marauders by Charlton Ogburn, Jr., a memoir of his time with Merrill's Marauders in Burma during the Second World War:

Ahead of us loomed the Naura Hkyat, the 6,100-foot pass over the backbone of the Kumon. It looked insurmountable and very nearly was so. It strengthened our feeling that we had become detached from the rational world, like the Russian regiment that was forgotten about after the Czar sent it marching off in a direction that happened to be that of Siberia. All the way up we had to spend as much time resting and giving our hearts and lungs a chance to catch up as we did climbing. One thing that helped keep you going was the thought that this was the worst there could be. It was so bad it was preposterous. At times it was possible to drop to your hands almost without bending over, and we did so, scrambling up on all fours. We were unable to reach the top the same day we began the ascent and had to camp halfway up.

That night was one of those rare times when we were able to pick up a program of good music from a U.S. Army station in Australia. It included Marian Anderson singing "My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice," the spiritual "Heaven," and the Largo from Xerxes. On an earlier occasion, on the way to Walawbum, we had heard portions of Aida.

Among the things we learned about ourselves in Burma was that, even in times of hunger for food, a hunger for music and books persisted. Winnie Steinfield had brought along a paperback collection of five of Shakespeare's plays and had split it up into its constituent parts which, after binding them with adhesive tape from a K-ration carton, he circulated among a few friends. They were considered priceless. I had had the foresight to bring a copy of Hamlet of my own, one about three inches high, and I read it all through the campaign, dipping into it during halts on the march. However pressing the reality, it never seemed more real than Shakespeare and never dimmed his force and appeal or, for that matter, Kipling's or Conrad's--those two especially weathered the ordeal of that period--though in their case I had only my recollections to go on.

Art, you might think, would do little for a faint heart. It holds out no promise of a happy resolution in this world or a next, it has nothing to say about any higher purpose that life is serving--life being to art an end in itself. Yet when you read the poetry of Hamlet or hear the music of Handel's Largo or Verdi's "Su del Nilo" amid the wild, dark hills, you find that it transcends hunger and sickness and fear. If art cannot fulfill our yearnings and aspirations, it can voice them with an eloquence that ennobles our cause. A great expression of literature, painting or music is like the sun when it breaks through the clouds to transfigure a wearisome landscape in a golden light. Bringing a heightened awareness of the realm of experience, it brings also a sense of triumph of the human spirit, and perhaps because of the harmony of its own vision seems to testify, like the cosmology of science, to the underlying oneness of all things, in which is our immortality.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Books on Classical Liberalism

Over the past few years I've been searching for intellectual histories or political histories of classical liberalism. To my surprise it has not been easy, fortunately I have had accesss to an excellent used bookstore where I found all but one of the following. I offer this list as a reference for others who may be similarly engaged. We are most definitely in need of historical studies of classical liberalism written by contemporary scholars. In my experience it is easier to find books on socialism and fascism than classical liberalism. Classical liberalism is in many ways invisible. I was a classical liberal without knowing it until my early 30s. This shouldn't happen. Teenagers and college students whose intellectual abilities are flowering should be encountering classical liberal ideas the way they encounter Milwaukee's Best and the ubiquitous Che image. People shouldn't be floating around without a political identity for years, like I did, wondering why they don't fit in politically despite their belief and commitment to freedom and individual liberty. For me, I first discovered libertarianism, and then as I was browsing through libertarian articles and books I kept coming across "classical liberalism", "19th century liberalism", "true liberalism" etc. and I was baffled: to me liberalism was always regulatory-welfare state liberalism. Classical liberalism is the philosophy of freedom. It is essential that its ideas, history and development be common knowledge. We should be able to walk into any bookstore across the country and find a variety of histories and biographies on classical liberalism written by contemporary writers. We have a rich and varied literature on the American Founding, we need to have the same kind of literature on all the various aspects of classical liberalism. Until that happens, I offer the following as the best that we've got. If anyone has other recomendations please leave them in the comments, I'm always on the prowl for new books:

Liberalism by John Gray

Liberalism--In the Classical Tradition by Ludwig von Mises

Liberalism by D.J. Manning

The History of European Liberalism by Guido de Ruggiero

An Intellectual History of Liberalism by Pierre Manent

The St. Petersburg Manifesto

This is a very important step in the right direction. Let's hope that this is the beginning of a viable alternative to Islamist radicalism:

Released by the delegates to the Secular Islam Summit, St. Petersburg, Florida on March 5, 2007

We are secular Muslims, and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.

We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.

We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights.

We find traditions of liberty, rationality, and tolerance in the rich histories of pre-Islamic and Islamic societies. These values do not belong to the West or the East; they are the common moral heritage of humankind.

We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called “Islamaphobia” in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights.

We call on the governments of the world to

reject Sharia law, fatwa courts, clerical rule, and state-sanctioned religion in all their forms; oppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostacy, in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights;

eliminate practices, such as female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage, that further the oppression of women; protect sexual and gender minorities from persecution and violence;

reform sectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-Muslims;

and foster an open public sphere in which all matters may be discussed without coercion or intimidation.

We demand the release of Islam from its captivity to the totalitarian ambitions of power-hungry men and the rigid strictures of orthodoxy.

We enjoin academics and thinkers everywhere to embark on a fearless examination of the origins and sources of Islam, and to promulgate the ideals of free scientific and spiritual inquiry through cross-cultural translation, publishing, and the mass media.

We say to Muslim believers: there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine;

to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, and all members of non-Muslim faith communities: we stand with you as free and equal citizens;

and to nonbelievers: we defend your unqualified liberty to question and dissent.

Before any of us is a member of the Umma, the Body of Christ, or the Chosen People, we are all members of the community of conscience, the people who must chose for themselves.