Man being complex, his government cannot be simple. The humanitarian theorists who contrive projects of ingenious simplicity must arrive, before long, at the crowning simplicity of despotism. They begin with a licentious individualism, every man deprived of ancient sanctions and thrown upon his own moral resources; and when this state of things turns out to be intolerable, as it must, then they are driven to a ponderous and intolerant collectivism; central direction endeavors to compensate for the follies of reckless moral and economic atomism. Revolutionary idealists of this stamp are faithful to simplicity, though to nothing else in heaven or earth. They cannot abide any medium between absolute freedom and absolute consolidation.1

As I mentioned at our Thursday night reading group, I have been impressed by Kirk’s ability to make deep connections between ideas that I have never considered before. The very simplicity of a radical ideology necessarily leads to a consolidation of power when the fanatics of that ideal run up against the intractable complexity of concrete human existence.

  1. Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind (Gateway Editions, 1985), 102.