SolutionsWeaver’s book is broken into two parts—the first tracing the history of the decline of the West due to the ideas spun off from the original attack on universal truths, and the second providing some idea of a means toward the restoration of order.
How might we begin to undo the damage? First, by defending the individual’s right to private property, because in holding to his or her own property, a person may find some means of defending his or her privacy, fighting for truth, and may find some refuge from an encroaching state. In other words, property gives us a place from which we may take a stand.
Second, he argues, we must reclaim language from those who have reduced it to sentiments, twisted it for political usage, and scrubbed it of common meaning with which we can seek truth and discuss our differences.
Third, to counter the selfish egoism of modern man, we must return to a state of piety—piety toward nature, toward our neighbors, and toward the past. There is much wisdom for modern America to be found in Weaver’s diagnosis and in his prescriptions.
Beyond the specifics of this important and challenging work, Weaver’s title reminds us that ideas can be powerful things to toy with—as likely to bring great damage as to serve progress.
Whether or not we read Weaver’s great work again in the 21st century (and we would profit from it), we should at least use it to encourage us all to think—seriously think—about the potential consequences of new ideas, and to think about them, not only through the lens of temporary politics and our own emotions, but in terms of the long-term health of civilization itself.
The events of the 20th century should ever remind us all of how close to the edge civilization resides and how consequential bad ideas can be.