What would I object to? Well, I thought there was an undertone of something in that talk, and this later post by Professor Deneen makes it explicit. He detects “gauzy sentimentality” in the libertarian and generally anti-statist bent of some of the participants, as well as an overvaulting optimism about human nature. To me, it looks like the statists are the optimists about human nature: they believe that some people, given lordship over others, will not abuse their powers. I would contend that that view holds up neither in theory nor experience: with a very few exceptions, growth of state power comes at the expense of community and civil society. ~Dan McCarthy

I am even shorter on time this morning and there is much to say about this important question, but I will propose the following compromise between Prof. Deneen and my anarchist and agrarian friends: I think I know what Prof. Deneen is talking about, because I used to get the same sense from people who would speak approvingly about anarchism and agrarianism, but I then realised that the traditionalists and conservatives talking about anarchism weren’t really in favour of laissez-faire anything and the agrarians had a profoundly realistic assessment of the virtues and vices of man–which was why they felt so strongly that power and wealth needed to be dispersed as widely as possible and why they believed it was so important to keep man grounded in nature and place that would tend to impose limits on their fallen tendency to excess and sin.  Prof. Deneen is worried about the “gauzy sentimentality” of some of the anarcho-traditionalists (our latest tongue-twisting designation) he met at Charlottesville, but I would submit that there is more gauzy sentimentality in Sam Brownback’s little finger than there was in that entire conference and the two respective visions put forward have nothing do to with each other. 

Prof. Deneen is also rightly concerned to stress that men are not angels and need laws and institutions.  He would find that most of the people there, I believe, are actually far more in agreement with him than a lot of more conventional “conservatives” and libertarians who do embrace Reaganesque, Paine-quoting optimism, a belief in progress and the possibility of improving human nature.  What they do insist on, though, is that the laws of an abusive central state are actually destructive of respect for law and authority itself, and that the institutions of a centralised state are the enemy of natural and intermediary institutions that function to protect human liberty and the communities that make that liberty possible in the first place.  Now I really must go, as I am already late for Armenian.