The Most Serious Threat to Our Civilization

When the question, “What is the most serious threat facing our civilization?” was posed to Michael Crichton, he eloquently replied:

“Loss of classical liberal values in those western societies that embraced them.

England was the first modern state, the first superpower, the first nation to deal with moral issues around the world, and the first nation to install the benefits of what we might now loosely term a liberal society. I mean that in the 19th century sense of liberalism.  That notion of liberalism was also present in America, but made it to the Continent only in a pale and limited form.  It is a wonderful social conception that must be vigilantly guarded.  It is not shared by other nations in the world.  Nor is it shared by many citizens in English-speaking countries.  Peculiarly, many of our most educated citizens are least sympathetic to classical liberal ideals. Indeed the term ‘liberalism’ in the modern day has come to imply a constellation of attitudes that John Stuart Mill would not recognize as liberal at all.  Nor would, say, John F. Kennedy recognize them as liberal.  Kennedy’s conception of liberalism was simultaneously more tolerant and more tough-minded: tolerant about varieties of behavior within the society, and tough-minded toward threats to a tolerant society from without.

That’s all gone, now.  Today there is far too much sensitivity within societies, and too little hard-nosed recognition of threats from without.  We are inclined to be intolerant of speech by our friends and neighbors, and tolerant of beheadings, rape, and homophobia in distant lands.

This makes no sense.  But here we are.”

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