In 1964, a book was published which described the Puritan Hypothesis, the concept of No Enemies to the Left, the Left’s tactical use of the Overton Window, virtue signaling, out-group preference, the nature/nurture debate, the Corporate-Managerial character of liberalism, and the notion of conservatism as nothing but a pale shadow of liberalism. This book was James Burnham’s Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism.
It is one of the latter works of a man made famous by his hypothesis of a Managerial Revolution in the mid-20th century, where the old, bourgeois elites were being displaced by a class of high-verbal IQ specialists, where wealth as a source of status was being replaced with credentialism and political creedalism, and where the accumulation of wealth was becoming a product of political-corporate collaboration and rent-seeking, rather than innovation and production.
Burnham’s great contribution in this work is his ability to define and diagnose the question of liberalism, by which he means the ideology spanning communism to its Left and various inegalitarian systems of thought to its Right. Burnham is clear that he wants to include both “ideological purists” and mere “conformists,” to avoid the inevitable variants of the No True Scotsman line whenever liberalism is discussed. The problem he finds in contemporary accounts defining liberalism is that scholars and pundits tend to focus on the policy prescriptions or the rhetorical justifications of liberalism, this leading to an ever-increasing number of conflicting definitions over which academics may bicker and fight without ever solving any real problems.
The “fundamental postulate of any genuine science is that observations in the past will resemble observations in the future,” given, of course, similar circumstances. Any definition of liberalism that will not adequately predict liberal behavior without the need for unprincipled exceptions and judgment calls is an inadequate definition. From this, we get Burnham’s great, controversial claim: modern liberalism has little or nothing to do with liberty or equality.
First, let us acknowledge that liberty as a liberal goal is defunct; we must ignore the shift from classical liberalism to neo-liberalism in the early 20th century to claim any real liberty content in liberalism. Yes, it is significant to a tiny minority of fringe liberals and to those liberals who lag a generation or two behind the Current Year and call themselves conservative. The liberal fringe, however, is not worth discussing, and conservatives are merely a lagging shadow who will wholeheartedly adopt every liberal proposition in time. I fully expect to hear how homosexual marriage is a Christian conservative family value within twenty-five years or so. But wait, that was already printed in the National Review.
Never mind that comment.
Secondly, if liberals were truly motivated by a desire for equality, then there would be a point in which the liberal could be satisfied with the balance between men and women, whites and nonwhites, cis-heteros and assorted freaks, and Christians and non-Christians. I will humbly apologize and retract this article if any person can demonstrate this equilibrium point where the archetypical liberal could be content with equality. The fact is that there is no such point, because the liberal cannot be satisfied in such a way. The annihilation of all white, Christian, heterosexual men will not satisfy the liberal, neither will the achievement of perfect equality in test scores and incomes. When overt racism became rare, they invented new categories of racism, such as institutional racism and the idea of microaggressions, in order to keep the liberal system going.
The quest for equality fulfills a psychological need for the liberal; thus, the prime driver of his behavior is not the post-hoc rationalization of “liberty and equality,” but the drive and experience which undergirds the liberal mindset. Just as liberty was replaced by social justice, liberalism will jettison any rationalistic justification the moment it fails to provide for the need being serviced.
Yes, the liberal does claim that through social justice, limiting liberty and equality now will result in greater liberty and equality in the future. Burnham asks the following question: did you buy that line when the communist told you that totalitarianism would bring about the stateless society? Statements of ideological fantasy cannot and should not be taken as statements of policy goals and purposes.
It is this psychological drive which Burnham identifies as a suicidal drive to self-harm at the center of the liberal psyche. He doesn’t want equality; he wants to be punished for his sins, for when his Puritanism secularized, he lost the capacity of forgiveness and of being forgiven without losing the intrinsic human perception of Original Sin and the guilt inherent in that truth. If only the average liberal could be given a monk’s cell and a scourge, he could beat himself to his heart’s content, but the doctrine of his faith leaves him not only without forgiveness, but without the ability to alleviate his guilt through good works.
This guilt is expressed through what Burnham calls the doctrine of “moral asymmetry,” wherein the liberal ideology inverts the old Calvinist doctrine of the Elect and the Damned, such that the “privileged” believer is the damned and the “less privileged” is the Elect, with non-liberal whites playing the apostate, who in every faith is the most despised of all. This is why no matter what an Elect might do, from burning down inner cities to FGM, the Damned liberal, sinner that he is, must mortify himself for the benefit of the “less fortunate” (even better if one can make the apostate share in the suffering). The leftist lives in a Manichean world of angelic, sinless protesters and demonic, irredeemable police. The “less privileged” cannot be anything but innocent and their opponents cannot be anything but evil. This is a matter of definition for the liberal, not a matter of judgment; facts simply don’t matter.
Since liberalism stems from an unmet psychological need, namely the need for our sins to be forgiven, it is not useful to rationalize an inherently irrational movement. The problem of trying to find a rational definition, in the same vein as dialectical materialism explaining communism, is that the rational components of liberalism are far looser and much more ad hoc than Marxist ideologies. Certainly, there are some bright-lines which distinguish liberal and non-liberal, but remember that the ideology itself claims John Locke, John Stuart Mill, John Dewey, and John Rawls as liberal ancestors, despite the massive distance between their respective works.
According to Burnham, liberalism is “a set of unexamined prejudices and conjoined sentiments,” which undergird a post-Christian society and which emerge from the high verbal IQ “opinion-makers” which he defines as, “teachers, publishers, writers, Jewish and Mainline clergy, some Catholic bishops, the Civil Service, and the leaders of the monied Foundations.” These sentiments and prejudices are largely unspoken and unacknowledged by the liberals which hold them, but form the foundation of their perception of the world and reality, from their idealistic doctrine of Man’s perfectibility to their moral preference for anyone who is not them.
What this means is that the liberal’s notions are not derived from principles but from instinctive, gut-level reactions to situations which are then rationalized post-facto into the categories of Peace, Justice, Freedom, and Liberty. Trying to understand liberal thought by beginning with these principles is working backward, and theorists who attempt to do this create theories which lack in predictive accuracy; in short, it’s bad science. Predicting that the liberal will pursue egalitarianism flies in the face of the reality that liberals do not care about equality for outgroups like poor whites, divorced men, or Christians suffering religious persecution in Islamic countries. What most accurately predicts liberal behavior is the combination (or possibly merger) of the No Enemies to the Left doctrine and the moral asymmetry doctrine. In any conflict between the “less fortunate” and the “oppressor,” the liberal will either side with the “less fortunate” or explain away any atrocities too great to ignore by denying the moral agency of the group due to “oppression,” always defined in accordance with No Enemies to the Left.
There is an apparent logical loop here: if the liberal is defined by signaling leftist moral asymmetry, then who defines “less fortunate” and “oppressor”? Burnham is silent, but it could be implied from his writing that the communists are setting the paradigm which the liberal follows. Burnham discusses the role of communist groups in manipulating and riding on the coat-tails of liberals, as well as setting the stage for liberal political conflicts. Liberals, given that their beliefs do not stem from rational principles, are incapable of making these kinds of judgement calls. Therefore, they blindly follow the illiberal Left, or at least those who pose left while pushing self-interested narratives. Certainly, the KGB is no longer writing liberal policy, but there are more than enough NGOs and wealthy elites who were all too happy to step into those shoes after the 90s.
The source of this sentiment and prejudice according to Burnham is the replacement of Christianity in the West by a bastardized Calvinism incapable of dealing with the human problem of guilt and the psychological need for forgiveness. Christianity provides a solution to the problem of guilt in the person of Christ, who forgives sins through his death on the cross in a way that liberalism cannot.
Because forgiveness is not available in liberalism, the liberal elevates the problem of personal guilt to the level of the abstract and institution; the concept of the white race, in Burnham’s account, is a liberal invention in order to create a scapegoat for the personal guilt of the liberal. Likewise, the notion of institutional racism is the other fork of this same motion, to rid the liberal of his personal guilt for sin by placing sin at the level of abstraction and society. One function of this abstraction is that it provides an easy way for the liberal to absolve himself of sin by turning his guilty self-hatred against his neighbors and country. The liberal declares that he is not racist because everyone else is the real racist. DR3 was not a conservative invention but an expression from liberalism itself, which began as YouR3 and USAR3 then continued into Western CivR3. This is one of the reasons that, as Vox Day states, SJWs Always Project; the core of their belief system is the projection of their personal sinfulness onto others and onto abstract concepts.
Unfortunately for the liberal, even with all this, there is no forgiveness of sin outside of Christ and these justifications fall short. Hence, the liberal must constantly move the bar in order to justify himself. Every action must be amplified and repeated ad infinitum because the last action failed to provide the “peace which surpasseth all understanding.” Liberalism is a never-ending cycle of leftists virtue signaling out of a profound sense of lost-ness and guilt in an attempt to find the forgiveness that political ideology cannot provide. Virtue signaling, therefore, is just a human response to incentives, namely the desire to game the system by maximizing reward and minimizing investment. If you can satisfy your conscience for a few days and demonstrate your righteousness to your fellow liberals by cutting a small check to BLM instead of marching in the street, risking arrest and losing your weekend, why not? The liberal is no less human than the people who try to game confession and penitence in Christianity.
Burnham gives one sliver of hope to a non-liberal future. First, he demonstrates that the various special-interest groups of “less fortunates” are not liberal in any real understanding of the word. These groups, of which he focuses on blacks, Jews, and Catholics, are fundamentally operating at the level of tribal self-interest, to the point of nearly being non-ideological. The “less fortunate” groups are riding liberalism’s moral asymmetry so long as that gravy train holds out and show no evidence of holding any real allegiance to its doctrines. Secondly, he argues that white labor is only superficially liberal and supports the liberal agenda of the Democratic Party only insofar as it provides tangible benefits in the form of higher pay and less hours. Liberalism is a doctrine for the managerial class of the white majority which justifies their prejudices, so it should be no surprise that Burnham believes that blue-collar whites will slowly drift out of liberalism as it becomes increasingly hostile toward their interests.
Remember that Burnham wrote this in 1964, long before the Trump campaign.
In short, Burnham tells us that traditional political theory is fairly useless in the study of liberalism. Those few non-liberal theorists tend to be wedded to the rationalist style of study which approaches liberalism from the wrong side, mistaking outputs for inputs. To give a final argument for Burnham’s method, let me challenge the reader to do, as Aristotle advised, and put theory to the test of reality. Go out and test which hypothesis best predicts liberal actions. Are they seeking equality and liberty? Are they combining No Enemy to the Left with the doctrine of moral asymmetry? If you find the latter to be somewhat convincing, pick up the book yourself.
 Burnham, Suicide of the West, p. 31
 Ibid. p. 134
 Ibid. p. 169
 Ibid. p. 166
 Ibid. p. 297
 Ibid. p. 205
 Ibid. p. 200
 Ibid. p. 39
 Ibid. p. 145
 Ibid. p. 32
 Ibid. p. 160.
 Ibid. p. 200
 Ibid. p. 212
 Ibid. p. 189
 Ibid. p. 204
 Ibid. p. 246