Ideas Have Consequences

The University of Chicago has just published a new edition of Richard Weaver’s quirky classic Ideas Have Consequences, which was first published in 1948. Probably, Dear Reader, you have heard of but not read the book.  Now is your chance. Let me mention a few of the book’s many attractions:


1. It is, as I say, a classic, more specifically, it is a classic in the library of modern conservative thought. Readers of Roger’s Rules should know Ideas Have Consequences.

2. Weighing in at a mere 200 pages, the book would have gratified Polonius, who rightly observed that “brevity is the soul of wit.”

3. It carries a new foreword by R. Kimball, and you would not want to miss that now, would you?

And just what does Richard Weaver have to tell us? Let me turn to a talk he gave in 1962, just a year before his early death in 1963, before the Young Americans for Freedom Foundation:

The past shows unvaryingly that when a people’s freedom disappears, it goes not with a bang, but in silence amid the comfort of being cared for. That is the dire peril in the present trend toward statism.  If freedom is not found accompanied by a willingness to resist, and to reject favors, rather than to give up what is intangible but precarious, it will not long be found at all.


How do you reckon we’re doing with that resistance, that willingness to reject the favors of a coddling state and hold fast to “what is intangible but precarious”?  To ask the question, I think, is to answer it, but Weaver has a number of useful, admonitory things to add to that central, anti-statist insight.

I just finished taping a podcast on Ideas Have Consequences with John J. Miller over at National Review Online. Look, or rather listen for, it in the next couple of weeks at John’s splendid series Between the Covers.



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