In defense of "Frenchism"

In May, New York Post op-ed editor Sohrab Ahmari published an essay in First Things with the eye-catching title (to me at least) of “Against David French–ism.” While the essay takes rather direct aim at me personally — including offering a false version of my career and beliefs to create a straw-man version of milquetoast libertarianism — his claims serve mainly as a proxy for two competing visions of American political engagement.

Ahmari’s stated desire is “to fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.” By contrast, he says, I believe “that the institutions of a technocratic market society are neutral zones that should, in theory, accommodate both traditional Christianity and the libertine ways and paganized ideology of the other side.”

According to Ahmari, contemporary politics should be viewed through a prism of “war” and “enmity,” and then public commitments to decency and civility become optional. In fact, they can be a hindrance to political victory over a vicious and committed opponent.