Nigel Davies pops up for one of his very occasional blog posts, and in this one he explains that there are actually two different Enlightenments, not just the one we tend to casually refer to:
There is the English style Liberal Enlightenment (sometimes called the ‘moderate’ enlightenment according to sceptics like Jonathan Israel), accepts that people are people, so we can only do the best we can do to get them to all agree and play happily together.
Then there is the European style Radical Enlightenment, which believes that the only way to make people play well together is to change them, by moulding them into better people. Into people who are designed, built, trained, and FORCED, to fit the correct mould.
If you are a victim of the superficial attractions of the fuzzy idealism of the Radical Enlightenment, you probably believe that the state, and its education and punishment systems, are there to make people fit into a ‘socially desirable’ mould.
If you are such a person, you usually call yourself by benign titles like ‘socialist’, or a ‘multi-culturalist’; or perhaps by titles that have gone out of fashion but mean exactly the same sort of state intervention in people’s lives like ‘Eugenicist’ or ‘White Man’s Burden’ worker; or perhaps you even still hang grimly on to the ultimate idealism of sickening movements like Communism or Fascism. (See any recent European news for samples of both.)
No matter which of these fantasies you are attached to, you become a dangerous fundamentalist the second you believe that ‘the world would be a better place if everyone thought the same way’.
“Sure as I know anything, I know this. They will try again… a year from now, ten, they will swing back to the belief that they can Make People Better…”
No matter how many times they fail, or how appalling the results, ‘they’ keep believing that their idealistic fantasy just needs a bit of ‘perfecting’. It is simply beyond their comprehension that you cannot build a stable, or indeed sane, system on Radical Enlightenment beliefs.
The Liberal Enlightenment gave birth to the dozens of Constitutional Monarchies of the older parts of the British Commonwealth, or of the Protestant parts of Northern Europe — Scandinavia and Benelux etc. Countries that, despite their whacky, cobbled together and often unwritten constitutions, have generally had between two and five centuries of internal peace and economic development. (Unless attacked or invaded by their Radical Enlightenment neighbours.)
The Radical Enlightenment gave birth to the — literally — hundreds of ‘Republics’ that tend to break down into political chaos, dictatorship, civil war, mass murder or genocide of their own people, or just violent attacks on all their neighbours. Usually within twenty years of being founded.
From the French Terror to the Napoleonic wars; from the Weimar Republic to the Nazi state; from the Soviet Socialist Republics of XXX, to the Muslim Republics of XXX, to almost any post WWII African or Asian republic you care to name — including most ‘new Commonwealth’ ones; or indeed the interwar Western European or postwar Eastern European ones.
The four, FOUR, successful republics out of the hundreds of failures — that have not been just tiny city states like Singapore — are: Switzerland, Finland, Israel, and Botswana. Three that held together mainly because they were monocultures under constant threat from invaders for most of their existence, and the third an effective tribal monarchy even if it is not called one.
(The United States is the standout weirdo of the modern world… enough English Liberal Enlightenment in its legal structure to keep it to only a single Civil War — and only 600,000 dead — despite the unstable French Radical Enlightenment elements in its constitution. But if you watch the US Congress — Liberal Enlightenment — and President — Radical Enlightenment — systems in conflict recently it constantly amazes that it works at all…)
You cannot build a state purely on Radical Enlightenment ideals, which is why all such states run in to trouble sooner or later. Usually much sooner. Which just reinforces why the US hybrid state and other Radical Enlightenment states (even functional Constitutional Monarchy states like Australia that should know better) trying to force illiterate tribal cultures in Central America and Asia and Africa and — more recently — the Middle East: to become ‘democratic republics’ has been so woefully unsuccessful. (And which has also dropped the average survival of modern ‘republics’ to even lower levels, because the ‘imposed’ idealistic republics are even less successful than the ‘revolutionary’ idealistic ones.)