What I’ve Been Writing

Over the past eighteen months, I have been blessed to be free to pursue the vocation of a writer as very few are ever so blessed. However, since I’ve been writing in so many different fora, several folks have complained that it is hard to keep track of it all. As I’m making this blog my new online home, I figured it might be good to have a sticky post with a running index of what all I’ve been writing lately, loosely organized by topic (I’ll probably gradually drop the older material out to avoid this getting unwieldily long). My hope was to include a short synopsis accompanying each link so you can have some sense of what it’s about and what I’m arguing without having to click on it, but I’ve only had time to do that with about half thus far.

Political Philosophy and History

Individual Freedom and National Freedom: Toward a New Conservative Fusion (American Affairs, September 2020): A philosophic consideration of the nature of freedom, the necessity of freedom having a corporate as well as an individual dimension, and the role that the nation plays in this experience of freedom.

Richard Hooker: A Forgotten Father of National Conservatism (The American Conservative, September 2020): An introduction to some of Richard Hooker’s key contributions to the political philosophy of conservatism: his warnings against revolutionary change, his call for epistemic humility, and his commitment to national particularism.

Conservatives Should Embrace Labor Unions (The Public Discourse, September 2020): This was an interview with Oren Cass about the principles of pragmatic, common good conservative political economy being promoted by American Compass, and how the issue of labor unions in particular serves as a key example of how this approach looks different from the sloppy laissez-faire of recent conservative political economy.

America Among the Nations: Our Debt to Vattel (Modern Age, November 2020): The idea in the Declaration of Independence that America should “take its separate and equal station among the nations of the world” reflects the influence of the great 18th-cent. Swiss Reformed political theorist Emer de Vattel, one of the seminal theorists of the nation and international law within the Protestant natural law tradition. This essay introduces his thought and explores his impact on the early American republic.

The City on a Hill: Toward a National Conservative Foreign Policy (Providence, October 2020)This essay represents a shorter distillation and practical application of many of the key insights of the Vattel essay below about why and how nations have moral responsibilities toward themselves and toward others, but must retain sovereignty vis-a-vis international institutions.

Burkean Economics in the Right-Wing Realignment (The American Conservative, January 2021): This is a book review of Gregory Collins’s important new book, Commerce and Manners in Edmund Burke’s Political Economy.

The Appeal to Heaven and Our New Revolutionary War (Providence, February 2021): This essay looked at the rhetoric of “An appeal to heaven” present in the events of January 6th and the origins of this revolutionary idea in the work of John Locke. I seek to shed light on Locke’s conception of the “state of nature” and its relation to the ordered liberty of law, and consider how a society loses faith in the rule of law and resorts to revolution, with lessons for today’s disgruntled conservatives.This essay weaves in material and themes likely to appear in our book project.

Who Are the Real Radicals? (The American Conservative, March 2021): This is an essay on the so-called phenomenon of “Christian nationalism” and the dishonesty and historical amnesia of those who have piled on to tar various forms of conservatism with this brush. It also addresses the emptiness of attempts like Paul Miller’s to substitute a purely formal “patriotism” for a substantive “nationalism.”

How ‘Rights Talk’ Became Fake (The American Conservative, May 2021): This is a book review of Nigel Biggar’s What’s Wrong with Rights?, a profound work of ethics and political philosophy that is likely to become a classic in the field.

The Necessity of Cultural Nationalism (Law and Liberty, June 2021)This is a book review of Sam Goldman’s After Nationalism, a very important work that directly engages our project and raises some key questions about the nature of American nationalism. My review takes the opportunity of engaging Goldman to highlight different forms of nationalism and the importance of national “myths”.

The Forgotten Genius of the Scots (The American Conservative, June 2021): This essay considers the empiricism of the Scottish School as a model for contemporary conservatives to recover. My main focus is on the Scottish appropriation of the English common law as being better adapted to the task of conservative reform and as the embodiment of custom; and I look at how Adam Smith applied some of these jurisprudential insights to his political economy.

Decline on the Mind (Law and Liberty, June 2021): This is a book review of Joseph Johnston’s The Decline of Nations, which although raising interesting and important points about internal and external threats to the American nation, ends up being a pretty unimaginative exercise in re-fried neoconservatism.

Big Tech and the Battle for Republican Liberty (The Public Discourse, July 2021): This is a book review of Josh Hawley’s new book The Tyranny of Big Tech. The volume is not important only because of the high-profile author or the extreme timeliness of its topic (something we often talk about at EBF), but because it roots current debates over Big Tech in a deeper clash over the meaning of liberty and self-government, with several chapters on Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. I give particular attention to this material and how it relates to the larger debate between Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian traditions. 

“Over-Mighty Subjects”: Big Tech and the Logic of Feudalism (American Affairs, August 2021): This essay considers the rising debate over the “new feudalism” of Big Tech giants in light of the Sir John Fortescue’s diagnosis of the resurgent feudalism of 15th-cent. England and Teddy Roosevelt’s assault on the robber barons at the turn of the last century. In it, I argue that conservatives need to get beyond their blind commitment to “starve the beast” of big government and recognize the ways they have been complicit in empowering the “woke parallel government” of Big Tech.

COVID-19 and Christian Ethics

“No Wealth but Life”: Moral Reasoning in a Pandemic (Mere Orthodoxy, March 2020)

Our Lives or Our Freedom: The Fear of Tyranny in a Time of Pandemic (Mere Orthodoxy, April 2020)

Coronavirus and The Myopia of American Exceptionalism (Mere Orthodoxy blog, May 2020)

How (Not) to Navigate Coronavirus Conflicts in the Church (Mere Orthodoxy blog, May 2020)

Lost at Sea (Breaking Ground, June 2020)

Christ and Caesar: A Response to John MacArthur (The Davenant Institute, July 2020)

Consciences, Covid, and Credibility: A Response to Doug Wilson (Mere Orthodoxy blog, August 2020)

Letter to a Christian Protester (Mere Orthodoxy blog, October 2020)

COVID-19, One Year On, Pt. I: Threnody for a Buried Nation (Mere Orthodoxy, March 2021)

Covid-19, One Year On, Pt II: The Limits of Politics (Mere Orthodoxy, March 2021)

Virtue in the Twilight of a Pandemic (Breaking Ground, May 2021)

Other Current Events

Christian Witness and the Election: Debating the Statement from Evangelicals and Catholics Together (Plough, September 2020): In this brief contribution to a symposium on the election, I argue that the Christian politics of Evangelicals and Catholics Together is no longer sufficient for our fractured cultural moment. Christians must speak of authority and with authority, rather than simply petitioning to be left alone.

Justice in a Time Out of Joint (Breaking Ground, January 2021)

Liberty, Law, and the Peril of Arbitrary Power (Public Discourse, January 2021): This essay sought to analyze the causes of the events of January 6th in terms of the American public’s increasing sense that its freedom is under assault by arbitrary and lawless authority. I make use of Montesquieu and the American founders to show how at the root of our disquiet is a very different conception of liberty than the one often enshrined in our modern libertarian rhetoric.

Theology and Politics

We’re All Marsilians Now (Breaking Ground, October 2020)

Resisting the Powers That Be (The Gospel Coalition Canada, December 2020)

Christian Citizenship and the Rule of Law (The Gospel Coalition Canada, December 2020)

Come, Desire of Nations: Christian Nationalism Between the Two Advents (The Gospel Coalition, December 2020)

Called to Judgment: A Critical Review of “Fratelli Tutti” (Mere Orthodoxy, February 2021)Pope Francis has emerged as one of the most prominent critics of the nationalist resurgence, and used his encyclical Fratelli Tutti to make a case for a world where borders are porous, immigrants welcomed, and war renounced. It is of course a confused and occasionally ridiculous performance, but a very influential one and a treatise that really displays the logic of the sentimentalist globalist left very clearly.

Two-kingdoms: the Riches of Reformational Political Thought (Mere Orthodoxy, February 2021)

A Theology of Free Speech (The Gospel Coalition, March 2021)

The Return of the Vigilante: An Essay on the Possibility of Political Judgment (Ad Fontes, May 2021)

The Good of Nationalism, Part I: Why Christians Should be Nationalists (American Reformer, August 2021)

Imagining a People: An Essay on the Possibility of Political Representation (Ad Fontes, August 2021)

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The Tyranny of “They Say”

“‘They say,’ is the monarch of this country, in a social sense. No one asks ‘who says it,’ so long as it is believed that ‘they say it.’ Designing men endeavor to persuade the publick, that already ‘they say,’ what these designing men wish to be said, and the publick is only too much disposed blindly to join in the cry of ‘they say.’” (233)

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