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A flight from democracy under these circumstances conforms so perfectly to expectations that it eludes specific recognition, appearing merely as an atavism, or confirmation of dire repetition.
Still, something is happening, and it is – at least in part – something else.
One milestone was the April 2009 discussion hosted at Cato Unbound among libertarian thinkers (including Patri Friedman and Peter Thiel) in which disillusionment with the direction and possibilities of democratic politics was expressed with unusual forthrightness.
Thiel summarized the trend bluntly: “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” In August 2011, Michael Lind posted a democratic riposte at Salon, digging up some impressively malodorous dirt, and concluding: The dread of democracy by libertarians and classical liberals is justified.
Between ‘enlightenment’ and ‘progressive enlightenment’ there is only an elusive difference, because illumination takes time – and feeds on itself, because enlightenment is self-confirming, its revelations ‘self-evident’, and because a retrograde, or reactionary, ‘dark enlightenment’ amounts almost to intrinsic contradiction.
To become enlightened, in this historical sense, is to recognize, and then to pursue, a guiding light.
Once certain enlightened truths have been found self-evident, there can be no turning back, and conservatism is pre-emptively condemned – predestined — to paradox. What could an Old Whig be, if not a reactionary progressive? Of course, plenty of people already think they know what reactionary modernism looks like, and amidst the current collapse back into the 1930s their concerns are only likely to grow.
Basically, it’s what the ‘F’ word is for, at least in its progressive usage.
There were ages of darkness, and then enlightenment came.
Clearly, advance has demonstrated itself, offering not only improvement, but also a model.