I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about the things I love. My reflection has been inspired largely by a convergence of factors that typically accompany massive change. Such examples include purchasing a home, adopting dogs, ushering our oldest child into high school, finding out the exciting news of my wife’s pregnancy, and our response to shore up debts and the pursuit of secondary education.
It has been a whirlwind of a season, as this change has inspired a healthy mix of contemplation and action. Along with the sea change our household has undergone, I have also been held captive by a 170-page tract published earlier in the year imploring its readers to take stock of what they love.
This book is the latest contribution of Richard Storey, a contributor to Mises UK and Crisis Magazine among other publications, and is called The Uniqueness of Western Law; A Reactionary Manifesto.
I have deliberately consumed his book rather slowly, because my desire has been to define exactly what makes it reactionary. Unlike my hard-won education, in determining the goods of my little private kingdom, Mr. Storey seems to intuitively understand what is at stake in our western-illiberal-post-modern-culture. What exactly makes it a “Reactionary Manifesto”? It is an unapologetic plea with men throughout the west to stand up for what they love or lose it all.
A Summa of Natural Law
It begins with a six-chapter section on law which is Richard’s main area of expertise. He offers the reader a concise history of natural law development, the way in which Christianity was central for developing our modern Hellenistic framework, and what has made this law so unique throughout space and time.
Echoing parallel ideas as libertarian scholar Hans-Herman Hoppe; Storey places himself among a handful of thinkers who perceive that enduring concept of justice collapsed along with the Holy Roman Empire. Such thinkers would define true law as one rooted in the higher nature of rational animals, and that state-defined law will inevitably descend into a funhouse mirror of ‘pen and sword’ legislation. In an American sense, this phenomenon can be observed in the systematic deconstruction of natural law guided jurisprudence in various Supreme Court decisions reaching back at least one hundred years.
The most compelling chapters in the first part seek to explain how the Middle Ages, with its feudal kingdoms and organic aristocracies, is the closest mankind has come to truly limited government that worked in service of the common good. With its bottom-up approach to social order, its aristocratic classes, cohesive Christian culture underpinning law and justice, and kings who simply exchange goods like protection to their corresponding fiefdoms for loyalty—the Medieval kingdom becomes something of a model for reconstructing our current technocratic arrangement. This again echoes Hoppe where he lavishes the last remnants of a truly Medieval order with praise, “Instead of the EU, we need a Europe of 1,000 Lichtenstein’s.”
Western Civilization–Love It, or Lose it
The following chapters and subdivided parts are where, I think, it becomes clear that Richard’s finger is on the pulse of something that has only become exceedingly obvious to me over the past year. A significant portion of the book was devoted to convicting his readers that we should be proud of our western cultural heritage, in turn rejecting the identity saturated condemnations of it, and to be unashamedly willing to exhibit some public pride and gratitude for the traditions that shaped our culture.
This section is followed up with a full-throated condemnation of the late stage liberal project of endless wars and the international saturation of misanthropic policy goals seen most vividly in manifestations such as the Green New Deal or even the UN’s declaration of abortion as human rights.
Finally, the book ends with a tome for men to reclaim their places at the head of their respective households. The theme of the book—its reactionary element—is that men in the west must take it upon themselves to learn about their past, to individually cultivate the cardinal virtues, to claim the heritage that was once handed down as a pedagogical service to civilization, and ultimately to align ourselves to the demands of ordered love.
What do these demands look like? We are at odds with a powerful one-two punch of policy and culture being defined by actors—coined by Rusty Reno of First Things as ‘velvet nihilists’—who wish to tear asunder that which our ancestors had sacrificially advanced. Most of the late twentieth century liberal project had been executed with the expressed intent to short-circuit the attachments that men will die for, but more importantly what they will live for and build. Eternal things, like faith, family, and community are seen as a liability—and often a danger—to the comically woke. To assent to the demands of ordered love means identifying this deconstruction, a fundamental hatred of the good, and rebel by living deliberately and more in line with the past.
Reject Our Technocratic Overlords
To be a reactionary in western society today means to seek out those goods that are discouraged by the ascendant Cosmopolitan technocrats. These leaders preach about global progressive utopias while never knowing, or simply caring about, the particular bonds of a parent and child. They consider jet setting a kind of human right while abjectly failing to comprehend why a man would reject it in exchange for toil and the creation of new life. They seek in policy goals to thwart such particular attachments, and culturally label it bigotry. Richard’s manifesto seeks to breathe life back into the sacrificial bonds of men which have been decimated, ultimately flattened out, and thus reduced to one choice among a buffet of lifestyles.
I have personally enjoyed in abundance that which has become unobtainable for all but a sliver of western men. This includes a fruitful marriage, property, the blessing of young minds to shape and guide, stable work, and the friendship of great people. As I begin to knock on the door of middle age what has become increasingly clear to me, while observing this cosmopolitan project of leveling all that is good, appears to have been quite obvious to Richard Storey for some time. A very powerful cabal of media, political actors, and corporate CEO’s loath what is true, good, and beautiful. They conspire to undermine it by any means necessary, and in their wake have gleefully decimated the backbone of a healthy society.
To title his work as a “Reactionary Manifesto” is Richard’s call to young western men to wake up and define what they love by committing to marriage, owning property, and rebuilding western civilization with large families. To commit to a life of such divine normality is the most politically subversive act available to twenty-first century western men, and it is really the only reasonable response to the misanthropic tyrants who define what is good in the public square.