touchstone archives


Piquant excerpts lifted from Touchstone editors' own reading & listening.

Topic: Politics

"The social justice left's entire modus operandi is to implement extreme positions using the language of moderate positions."

Claire Lehmann
from a Tweet quoted by William Voegeli in "Racism Revised," Claremont Review of Books (Fall 2018 )

Politics Commonplaces #24 Jan/Feb 2020

The defendant in this case [Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker] orders you to stay home and pronounces that, if you leave the state, you are putting people in danger [of contracting Covid-19], but his family members traveled to Florida and Wisconsin because he deems such travel essential. . . .

When laws do not apply to those who make them, people are not being governed, they are being ruled. Make no mistake, these executive orders are not laws. They are royal decrees. Illinois citizens are not being governed, they are being ruled.

Clay County, Illinois Judge Michael McHaney
ruling in Mainer v. Pritzker, a suit challenging Gov. Pritzker's lockdown orders (May 22, 2020)

Politics Commonplaces #59 Sept/Oct 2020

A deadly plague . . . is creeping into the very fibres of human society and leading it on to the verge of destruction. . . . We speak of that sect of men who, under various and almost barbarous names, are called socialists, communists, or nihilists, and who, spread over all the world, and bound together by the closest ties in a wicked confederacy, no longer seek the shelter of secret meetings, but, openly and boldly marching forth in the light of day, strive to bring to a head what they have long been planning—the overthrow of all civil society whatsoever. . . .

Although the socialists, stealing the very Gospel itself with a view to deceive more easily the unwary, have been accustomed to distort it so as to suit their own purposes, nevertheless so great is the difference between their depraved teachings and the most pure doctrine of Christ that none greater could exist.

Pope Leo XIII
Quod Apostolici Muneris (1878)

Politics Commonplaces #76 March/April 2021

For even if we recognize the powerful element of emotions and sentiments in politics, we can see that political ambitions are more or less rational ones, whereas this is less true of social ambitions, at the source of which we find the gnarled roots of Vanity, luxuriating in cavernous recesses of the human spirit; and it is therefore that the penetrating eye of the novelist may furnish some guidance here to the cultural historian.

John Lukacs
Historical Consciousness (1968)

Politics Commonplaces #77 March/April 2021

The terrible, tragic fallacy of the last hundred years has been to think that all man's troubles are due to his environment, and that to change the man you have nothing to do but change his environment. That is a tragic fallacy. It overlooks the fact that it was in Paradise that man fell.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (1971)

Politics Commonplaces #78 March/April 2021

. . . When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws. . . .

. . . If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments, they shall be governed by the ten thousand commandments. . . .

G. K. Chesterton

Politics Commonplaces #79 March/April 2021

It was a small matter that they [different sorts of men] reacted differently to that Will—grace—which flowed towards them from the primeval depths of existence. That one man accepted it, feelingly, intently, full of longing and affection, while others let themselves be carried along, resisting, yielding light-heartedly to every temptation, but still hanging on. He recognized, with a clearness that was almost intolerable, what the Church was—an organism with morbid and healthy cells animated by the same mysterious common life, either powerful or weak; but it made all the difference between life and death whether one took one's part or dropped out. It was the same difference as it makes in an army—of good soldiers and splendid soldiers and grousers and skulkers—whether one does one's duty or is already a deserter in one's inmost secret intention. It is the same as feeling solidarity with one's nation—the leaders, the common people, those who work and those who shirk—or planning one's flight to a foreign country, under an assumed name.

Sigrid Undset
The Burning Bush, Book 3, chapter 4 (1932)

Politics Commonplaces #80 March/April 2021

I know what is said by the several admirers of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. . . . [But] there is hardly one frame of government in the world so ill designed by its first founders that in good hands would not do well enough, and story tells us the best in ill ones can do nothing that is great or good. . . . Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them, and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. . . . Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it be ill, they will cure it. But if men be bad, let the government be never so good, they will endeavour to warp and spoil to their turn.

[A] loose and depraved people . . . love laws and an administration like themselves. That, therefore, which makes a good constitution, must keep it; viz., men of wisdom and virtue, qualities that because they descend not with worldly inheritances, must be carefully propagated by a virtuous education of youth. . . .

[W]e have (with reverence to God and good conscience to men) to the best of our skill, contrived and composed the Frame and Laws of this government [of Pennsylvania] to the great end of all government, viz., to support power in reverence with the people and to secure the people from the abuse of power, that they may be free by their just obedience, and the magistrates honourable for their just administration; for liberty without obedience is confusion, and obedience without liberty is slavery.

William Penn
Preface to the Frame of Government (1682)

Politics Commonplaces #90 July/August 2021

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies?

Augustine of Hippo
The City of God

Politics Commonplaces #91 July/August 2021

Where Communism has been able to assert its power . . . it has striven by every possible means, as its champions openly boast, to destroy Christian civilization and the Christian religion by banishing every remembrance of them from the hearts of men, especially of the young. . . .

Pope Pius XI
Divini Redemptoris (1937)

Politics Commonplaces #99 Sept/Oct 2021

The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man's home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.

Fr. Joseph Ratzinger
German radio broadcast, Christmas Day, 1969

Politics Commonplaces #105 Nov/Dec 2021

Attacks on our personhood always take the form of diminishing what we can do or have say over, sometimes up to the point of forcing us to submit to what we abhor. In the familiar human order, slaves are at the other end of the spectrum from kings. Their bodies and lives are at the disposal of another. Prisoners are, in most cases, several degrees above slaves. And, as the twentieth century has taught us, thought control is worst of all. It is the most heinous form of soul destruction, in which even our own thoughts are not really ours. It reaches most deeply into our substance.

Dallas Willard
The Divine Conspiracy (1998)

Politics Commonplaces #120 May/June 2022

Already we know almost literally nothing about the Revolution and the years before the Revolution. Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. . . .

O'Brien smiled faintly. 'You are no metaphysician, Winston,' he said. 'Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?'


'Then where does the past exist, if at all?'

'In records. It is written down.'

'In records. And—?'

'In the mind. In human memories.'

'In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?'

George Orwell
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

Politics Commonplaces #122 May/June 2022

The further left one goes, the more one finds that the ideology provides moral cover for a life that is not moral.

Dennis Prager
on his radio show (2016)

Politics Commonplaces #136 July/August 2022

After he had read Witness, André Malraux, the author of Man's Fate, wrote me: "You are one of those who did not return from hell with empty hands." I did not answer him. How is one man to say to another: "Great healing Spirit"?

Whittaker Chambers
from "The Direct Glance," an essay published in Cold Friday, a posthumous collection of his writings (1964)

Politics Commonplaces #138 July/August 2022

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