On the Bill Bennett Show this morning I made a spontaneous offhand reference to Malcolm Muggeridge’s classic essay from the 1970s, “The Great Liberal Death Wish,” and was surprised that Bill was unfamiliar with it. I can only guess that he missed it those many years ago because he was still a liberal then. Anyway, Muggeridge published several versions of the essay over the years—it became sort of his blues-jazz standard, so to speak. The version included in the “Picks” section on our home page is not perhaps the best one out there, but it gives a good flavor of the piece.
A better version in my mind is collected in the Penguin Portable Library’s Conservative Reader. Here’s an excerpt:
Previous civilizations have been overthrown from without by the incursion of barbarian hordes; ours has dreamed up its own dissolution in the minds of own intellectual elite. It has carefully nurtured its own barbarians—all reared on the best Dr. Spock lines, sent to progressive schools and colleges, fitted with contraceptives or fed birth pills at puberty; mixing D.H. Lawrence with their Coca-Cola, and imbibing the headier stuff (Marcuse, Chairman Mao, Malcolm X) in evening libations of hot chocolate. Not Bolshevism, which Stalin liquidated along with all the old Bolsheviks; not Nazism, which perished along with Hitler in his Berlin bunker; not Fascism, which was left hanging upside down, along with Mussolini and his mistress, from a lamp-post—none of these, history will record, was responsible for bringing down the darkness on our civilization, but liberalism. A solvent rather than a precipitate, a sedative rather than a stimulant, a slough rather than a precipice; blurring the edges of truth, the definition of virtue, the shape of beauty; a cracked bell, a mist, a death wish.
Perhaps I’ll share more from this essay in a future post. Alas, I have to rush off to the office now for a long day of meetings.