This book is a must read for any conservative who does not know that liberals used to be progressives. I suspect, however, that the author is what he calls a “classical liberal.” This means, in my mind, he is just as irrational and any of the liberals, progressives, fascists, communists, etc., that he criticizes because he defends and seems to admire the nut job who wrote this:
It seems hard that an unskillfulness which with all his efforts he cannot overcome, should entail hunger upon the artizan. It seems hard that a labourer incapacitated by sickness from competing with his stronger fellows, should have to bear the resulting privations. It seems hard that widows and orphans should be left to struggle for life or death. Nevertheless, when regarded not separately, but in connection with the interests of universal humanity, these harsh fatalities are seen to be full of beneficence—the same beneficence which brings to early graves the children of diseased parents, and singles out the intemperate and the debilitated as the victims of an epidemic. (Herbert Spencer, Social Statics: Abridged and Revised and The Man versus The State)
Herbert Spencer is suffering from cognitive dissonance. His belief that life ends in the grave conflicts with the reality that all religions, east and west, say we pay for our sins when we die. This causes him emotional and mental stress and he makes himself feel better by thinking irrationally. Instead of thanking God that he has plenty to eat, he imagines some benefit to letting poor people die of hunger.
There came a time, of course, when such irrationality stopped satisfying the emotional and mental needs of the likes of Spencer. This is when humanists stopped being classical liberals and became real liberals.
There is, of course, no evidence that there is life after death. One can reasonably say that belief in God is irrational, as long as it is understood that revelation is another source of knowledge and that there are reasons to believe in life after death. If this is true, our lives have meaning and we can be rational in explaining why we do what we do. When I do a good deed, I explain this by saying, “I’m storing up treasures in heaven.” If I lie to my boss, I can say I was following my conscience. If a judge orders the execution of a criminal, it is for the sake of justice.
Without faith in God, you can only muddle through life. You can’t say your purpose in life is to be happy because everyone knows millionaire playboys are miserable. You can’t say your purpose in life is self-realization because you can fulfill your potentials in different ways. The problem of life is deciding how to realize your potentials.
Liberalism, classical or modern, began with Niccolò Machiavelli. “Old Nick” is the name for the devil because Niccolò Machiavelli was an atheist:
From this it may be concluded that men should either be caressed or exterminated, because they can avenge light injuries, but not severe ones. The damage done to a man should be such that there is no fear of vengeance. [The Prince and Other Writings (Barnes & Noble Classics)]
Up until that time, politicians believed in the 5th commandment. They killed their political enemies for the sake of justice. Machiavelli said you could kill your political enemies for reasons of state. I apologize if I am wrong, but I think Jonah agrees with Machiavelli.