The Two Theaters of Politice

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At a 1990 conference among Liberty editors, I suggested that the most appropriate literary mode for libertarianism was comedy, because both are concerned with what might happen, while tragedy was the mode for conservatism, which emphasizes what cannot happen. Though I thought I was saying something profound, I don’t recall anyone except Steve Cox, now Liberty’s editor, bless him, understanding what I was talking about. And so I repeat the theme here, wondering, alas, if I might try to fly it once again in 2022, 16 years from now (providing, of course, that at age 82 I’ll remember it).

One Comment

  1. King Alexander

    I for one am happy to have comedy as the literary mode for libertarianism, versus tragedy for conservatism, and I agree with the premise that comedy is well-suited to the former. (Am I right to interpret “what cannot be done” to mean “what must be avoided,” rather than what is literally impossible? Some classical tragedy (e.g. Oedipus Rex) entails what cannot be avoided once foretold by the Delphi oracle and set in inexorable motion by the tragic hero’s wrong choices consistent with his flaw of hubris.) Your insight in 1990 is borne out by the ascendancy of Gutfeld! to No. 1 in late-night television ratings. Regular Kat Timpf voices the libertarian view in able and hilarious fashion. The great Samuel Johnson’s most commonly-remembered words are his amusing bon mots and aphorisms as recorded by Boswell and others, rather than his tragic drama, his serious sonnetry, or his didactic essays, not to mention his formative contribution to liberary criticism, particularly of Shakespeare.

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