C.S. Lewis on Recovering the Way Forward

Reprinted from the Independent Institute

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote:

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

There is an increasing awareness that leftism is not liberal, and that the original arc of liberalism is represented by Adam Smith. There is increasing awareness that Adam Smith does not at all fit the false composite that Patrick Deneen calls ‘liberalism.’

Those who continue to call leftism ‘liberal’ fail to see how ephemeral their discourse is. The original arc of liberalism will still be the original centuries-long arc of liberalism. The founding of liberal civilization will still be the founding. The ascendancy of liberalism will always be liberalism’s historic ascendancy.

Buckley was on the right track but took a wrong turn by signing on to semantics furthered in the US context notably by FDR. The wolves in ‘liberal’ clothing recognized opposition provided it went along with the left’s ‘liberal’ identification. Now, the anti-liberalism of leftism is on full display.

People who continue to call leftists ‘liberal’ reveal a myopia, in their short-term-ism and their parochial North Americanism.

C.S. Lewis says that if you have made a wrong turn there is nothing to do but face up to it and turn back, the sooner the better. Here are ten reasons to do so.

It’s not about not calling oneself ‘conservative,’ but about not calling leftists ‘liberal.’ Indeed, it is apt to call Smith a conservative liberal.

Daniel B. Klein

Daniel B Klein

Daniel Klein is professor of economics and JIN Chair at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he leads a program in Adam Smith.

He is also associate fellow at the Ratio Institute (Stockholm), research fellow at the Independent Institute, and chief editor of Econ Journal Watch.

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