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Thomas Carlyle – a comprehensively mad and dangerous enemy of liberty

Some relevant notes:


“The fundamental dogma of all brands of socialism and communism is that the market economy or capitalism is a system that hurts the vital interests of the immense majority of people for the sole benefit of a small minority of rugged individualists. It condemns the masses to progressing impoverishment. It brings about misery, slavery, oppression, degradation and exploitation of the working men, while it enriches a class of idle and useless parasites.

“This doctrine was not the work of Karl Marx. It had been developed long before Marx entered the scene. Its most successful propagators were not the Marxian authors, but such men as Carlyle and Ruskin, the British Fabians, the German professors and the American Institutionalists.” – Mises


Thomas Carlyle: The Founding Father of Fascism

Carlyle was an enemy of economics

The originator of the great man theory of history is British philosopher Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), one of the most revered thinkers of his day. He also coined the expression “dismal science” to describe the economics of his time. The economists of the day, against whom he constantly inveighed, were almost universally champions of the free market, free trade, and human rights. [ibid]

His literary output was devoted to decrying the rise of equality as a norm and calling for the restoration of a ruling class that would exercise firm and uncontested power for its own sake. In his view, some were meant to rule and others to follow. Society must be organized hierarchically lest his ideal of greatness would never again be realized. He set himself up as the prophet of despotism and the opponent of everything that was then called liberal. [ibid]

Carlyle established himself as the arch-opponent of liberalism — heaping an unrelenting and seething disdain on Smith and his disciples.And so on it goes for hundreds of pages that celebrate “great” events such as the Reign of Terror in the aftermath of the French Revolution (one of the worst holocausts then experienced). [ibid] [Sanjeev: No wonder Gandhi hated Adam Smith and approvingly read Carlyle’s history of the French Revoution]


Liberty? The true liberty of a man, you would say, consisted in
his finding out, or being forced to find out the right path, and
to walk thereon. To learn, or to be taught, what work he
actually was able for; and then, by permission, persuasion, and
even compulsion, to set about doing of the same! That is his
true blessedness, honour, ‘liberty’ and maximum of wellbeing: if
liberty be not that, I for one have small care about liberty.
You do not allow a palpable madman to leap over precipices; you
violate his liberty, you that are wise; and keep him, were it in
strait-waistcoats, away from the precipices! Every stupid, every
cowardly and foolish man is but a less palpable madman: his true
liberty were that a wiser man, that any and every wiser man,
could, by brass collars, or in whatever milder or sharper way,
lay hold of him when he was going wrong, and order and compel him
to go a little righter. [Source]  [Sanjeev: This is the most shocking “definition” of liberty I’ve come across]


But truly, as I had to remark in the meanwhile, ‘the liberty of
not being oppressed by your fellow man’ is an indispensable, yet
one of the most insignificant fractional parts of Human Liberty. [Sanjeev: there he goes, again]
No man oppresses thee, can bid thee fetch or carry, come or go,
without reason shewn. True; from all men thou art emancipated:
but from Thyself and from the Devil–? No man, wiser, unwiser,
can make thee come or go: but thy own futilities, bewilderments,
thy false appetites for Money, Windsor Georges and such like? No
man oppresses thee, O free and independent Franchiser: but does
not this stupid Porter-pot oppress thee? No Son of Adam can bid
thee come or go; but this absurd Pot of Heavy-wet, this can and
does! Thou art the thrall not of Cedric the Saxon, but of thy
own brutal appetites, and this scoured dish of liquor. And thou
pratest of thy liberty? Thou entire blockhead!  [Source]


The anti-capitalist writer Thomas Carlyle coined the phrase ‘the dismal science’ to describe the economic thought of the free market liberals. The epithet has stuck, as a catch-all phrase that seems to describe the dry, passionless arithmetic of economic inquiry. But few know what Carlyle really meant by the phrase. It first appears in his 1849 essay, ‘Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question’, which was written to support slavery in the West Indies.

Carlyle regretted that there was no room in the laws of supply and demand for forced labour on the basis of race. His essay first appeared in Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country – followed by a furious denunciation by John Stuart Mill in the next issue.[Source]


Thomas Carlyle called Macaulay vulgar, intrinsically common, the sublime of commonplace, an author without the slightest tincture of greatness or originality of any kind of superior merit. [Source]

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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