Late last week on a whirlwind visit to Washington DC I sat down with Jonah Goldberg to tape an episode of his new podcast, “The Remnant,” which title was inspired by Albert Jay Nock’s classic essay “Isaiah’s Job.” Nock was a wonderful stylist, and an early libertarian (William F. Buckley’s earliest informal tutor in many ways), and if you’ve never read his Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, add it to your reading pile and prepare for an enjoyable time.
Our conversation ranges widely from the problems with universities today, to the problems with Trump, and finally to a little bit of decoding of Leo Strauss, though I did not reveal the secret handshake to Jonah, because who knows if it is actually a handshake at all?
It only occurred to me afterward that there is a parallel of sorts between Nock’s idea of “the Remnant” and the Strauss’s insight into “esoteric” writing and the controversies about Straussian dispositions toward democracy. The libertarian Nock thinks of “the Remnant” as a self-conscious prophetic elite, as opposed to “the masses.” Like this:
The line of differentiation between the masses and the Remnant is set inevitably by quality, not by circumstance. The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to comprehend these principles [of the humane life], and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them; the masses are those who are unable to do either.
Well this argument could be played out a long way, but that’s enough for now. Here’s a link to the Ricochet posting of the podcast, which I encourage you to download and play backwards, where all the secrets are revealed: