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Suicide of the West, by James Burnham

Imagine a Trotskyite turned conservative. It was a common post World War II phenomena in the United States. Once some of these thoughtful leftists took a hard and realistic look at the world, they began to see the folly of communism and statism. One of these found a place on the editorial staff of National Review. His name was James Burnham.

"Suicide of the West" was first published in 1964. In the book, Burnham worried that if communism continued its expansion as it had up to the time of the publication of his book that communist states would control the entire planet by the end of the 20th Century. Of course, this would not happen. Communism would be crushed by the weight of its own inherent inefficiencies in the face of the capitalist west. But this was not really Burnham's thesis; what he was really writing about was the growth of liberalism and its complete blindness to death, cruelty and injustice perpetrated by leftist regimes.

In 1964, as today, it is very easy to see how a thinking person might see the intellectual drift to the left as a move toward societal suicide. For liberalism is a cry for the supremacy of general good intentions over the practical application of common sense. Burnham said that liberals are often driven by "profound non-rational, often anti-rational sentiments and impulses." Ideas like the welfare state and leniency on criminals to facilitate rehabilitation may have sounded good coming out of the mouth of a liberal, but they were disastrous in practice.

Burnham's book, "Suicide of the West", was in effect a warning that leftward drift would ultimately destroy all affluence and freedom in the world. Fortunately, many of the readers of his book heeded Burnham's cry and helped stem the leftward movement of policy and ideas in America.

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