Punditry is certainly tiresome, which is why I try to avoid it. But this idea of Hegel as a “moderate liberal” is so astounding that it really can’t go unchallenged.
If the state is confused with civil society, and if its specific end is laid down as the security and protection of property and personal freedom, then the interest of the individuals as such becomes the ultimate end of their association, and it follows that membership of the state is something optional. But the state’s relation to the individual is quite different from this. Since the state is mind objectified, it is only as one of its members that the individual himself has objectivity, genuine individuality, and an ethical life.
Now, who said this? Was it Burke? Bolingbroke? Acton? Kuehnelt-Leddihn? Or anyone else that a reasonable person might associate with the phrase “moderately-liberal constitutional monarchist?” Monarchist it may be, constitutional it may be, “liberal” perhaps if only in the 2007 sense of the word, but “moderate”?
In case this is out of context, readers are invited to peruse Hegel’s State on their own. (I’m afraid I don’t share this passion for secondary sources.)
It’s certainly true that when we look at any actual state of Hegel’s time – Austria or Prussia, say – the political structures we see are unimaginably libertarian by today’s standards. And inasmuch as any policy proposals can be gleaned from Hegel’s woolly Teutonic mysticisms, they are quite unremarkable. He is perfectly happy to have us worship the State as it is.
Hegel’s totalitarianism is merely rhetorical. But the rhetorical acceptance of totalitarianism is the hard part. Once we swallow the proposition that “this final end has supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the state,” the Cheka is a mere implementation detail.
That this thought comes from Popper, whose Open Society and Its Enemies is a cracking good read (volume 2 can be skipped), does not make it false. And it certainly does not make anyone, even Jonah Goldberg, mockworthy for expressing it. Goldberg is out of his intellectual depth in any debate with the likes of Larison, but that does not relieve the latter of the obligation to play fair – quite the contrary, in fact.
(Update: Larison responds.)