The Government Which Governs Least … Is Doomed to Fail
A similar message was instilled in a group of students who were invigorated by the political philosophy of Leo Strauss at the University of Chicago. Strauss, a Jewish immigrant who escaped Hitler’s Germany, held an equally suspicious view of the state of American liberalism.
Strauss blamed the liberalism of the Weimar Republic in Germany for allowing the madness of Hitler into the world. Liberalism and egalitarianism eroded the foundation of truth, he argued, giving all ideas equal weight. Such a condition produces a nihilistic moral vacuum, and a society in such a state will eventually welcome anyone who gives it a strong, consistent set of values.
When Strauss came to the US, he saw the same type of conditions erupting, and he feared another Hitler was imminent. His solution to the problem of modernity was the creation of a philosophical elite that could guide the leaders who in turn guide society. He believed the truth was dangerous and should remain hidden from the people. Instead, power should be reserved for the few great men who can handle such truths, while feeding the population a steady diet of fear and superstition to keep them safe and content. “Because mankind is intrinsically wicked he has to be governed,” Strauss wrote in a letter to Carl Schmitt (a friend of Strauss’ and a legal architect for the Nazis). “Such governance can only be established, however, when men are united – and they can only be united against other people.”
There are two effective antidotes to liberalism: religion and nationalism. Religion keeps people united by giving them shared values, and nationalism is based on having a common enemy, uniting people against an “other.”