Web Letters | The Nation

Re-branded feudalism

Arguing that an idle rich class living off inherited wealth produces superior cultural outcomes is a proposition that could have been put forward by feudal lords during the Dark Ages. This philosophical approach only benefits the plutocratic few while abandoning the many, i.e., the “peasants,” to poverty and misery—and is not so much a rational argument as an attempt to defend the indefensible. But of course, touting the interests of the wealthy always pays much better than advocating for the poor.

Jack Hughes


Jun 27 2013 - 10:58am

Socialism vs. moral maturity

The implicit claim in the article is that freedom of economic activity leads to unequal outcomes. This is presumed to be bad. Why? The postulate of the primacy of egalitarianism and the rejection of all moral narratives outside of social—which is to say abstract, unreal, intellectualized—moral growth is unexamined. It is stipulated.

And nowhere does Corey Robin examine in a serious way what Nietzsche meant by an Übermensch. He intended someone who recognized the freedom that complete acceptance of our finite existence enabled, and who grew beyond the need for moral narratives.

Hayek’s project depends entirely on the distribution of individual moral narratives that are largely shared and congruent among differing economic constituencies. His ideas both build and depend on common-sense notions of moral reciprocity, honesty and diligence.

Hayek’s ideas build communities. Socialists build lifeless shells quacking at the back door of the government, pleading daily for scraps.

Barry Cooper

Louisville, KY

May 16 2013 - 9:15am

Nietzsche and Hayek’s twin mistakes

What an interesting article! Nietzsche and Hayek both offer penetrating glimpses into the modern problem, but both go horribly, backwardly wrong on the question of the value of aristocracy. I had never thought to see them so closely linked on this issue before. They both have the same ridiculous blind spot whereby they are unable to see what history shouted at their faces: the military personality creates aristocracies, aristocracy couple power to hypocrisy, and stagnation and feudalization of culture are the inevitable results. How either of them managed to see dynamism in aristocracy; how they failed to perceive that dynamism becomes possible in spite of aristocracy rather than because of it; how Hayek, more specifically, sees dynamism in the suffocating fabric woven by rich hobbyists and their “good works” surpasses my imagination. And yet they did. Nietzsche, incidentally, is my favorite philosopher.

Jon Monroe


May 15 2013 - 9:40am

Nietzsche and conservatism: look again

Corey Robin’s piece on the relation between Nietzsche and contemporary American conservatism does not take into account passages such as the following:

1. “Under the charm of the Dionysian…the union between man and man is affirmed.… the slave is a free man; all rigid hostile barriers that necessity, caprice, or impudent convention have fixed between man and man are broken.” (Birth of Tragedy, sect. 1)

2. “the pathological estrangement which the insanity of nationalism has induced” (Beyond Good and Evil, #256)

3. “the individual…is an error” (“Expeditions of an Untimely Man,” #33, Twilight of the Idols)

4. “order of rank …the development of more comprehensive states … enhancement of the type ‘man’ ” (Beyond Good and Evil, #257, beginning of chapter titled “What is Noble”)

These do not imply that Nietzsche was a socialist, only that the conservative interpretation of Nietzsche is as fictional as is the “invisible hand of the market,” an Idol that he did not have the foresight to reckon with.

Don Schneier

Northampton, MA

May 10 2013 - 10:36am

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