Author: Eric-Clifford Graf

Eric-Clifford Graf (PhD, Virginia, 1997) teaches and writes about the liberal tradition as authored by men like Alexander Hamilton, Frederick Douglass, and Jorge Luis Borges. His latest book is ANATOMY OF LIBERTY IN DON QUIJOTE DE LA MANCHA (Lexington, 2021). All of his work can be found here: ericcliffordgraf.academia.edu/research.

Social Dualism and the Problem of Archaic Inequality—Part II

Editor’s Note: This is part II of “Social Dualism and the Problem of Archaic Inequality.”If you have not yet read part I, find it here. Undoubtedly, some individuals who inhabit the marginal regions between two national coalitions can learn to jump between their points of view. Most of us, however, remain isolated, as if on […]

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Social Dualism and the Problem of Archaic Inequality—Part I

Neither side of the aisle in the U.S. recognizes the other anymore. But this is more normal than we imagine. According to what political theorists call “realignment theory,” life gets bumpy in an electoral democracy, and it can change substantially and suddenly. But it’s deeper than that. Our current national malaise is a very common […]

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Thucydides and Us

“You Americans, all you do is talk and talk, and say ‘let me tell you something’ and ‘I just wanna say.’ Well, you’re dead now, so shut up.” —Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983) Twenty-five centuries ago, history’s greatest historian wrote his masterpiece. The Peloponnesian War—late fifth century BC—initiated the Western tradition of analyzing the […]

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Inflation Is Not a Monetary Phenomenon

Idealistic, fanatical libertarians—the Mises types, Rothbardian and Randian—like to shout from the rooftop that “inflation is a monetary phenomenon.” But that’s mastery of the obvious. Maybe there are still some five-year-olds out there who imagine inflation to be the fault of merchants raising prices so as to screw their clients and, thus also the fault […]

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The Kirkpatrick Doctrine and Domestic Policy

Jeane Kirkpatrick was the American Ambassador to the United Nations during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. A brilliant and principled woman, she was famous for her pithy characterizations of the surreal, indecorous nature of politics at the UN. She once said, for example: “What takes place in the Security Council more closely resembles a mugging than either […]

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Against Democracy in Education: Reading, Writing, Shooting, and Smoking in Tocqueville, Jefferson, and Palafox

You may not have noticed, but we live in revolutionary times and at a global level. A lab-created plague just killed millions of people, and now we’re witnessing the migration of millions more from third-world countries into Europe and the United States. Constitutional governance has drawn to a close in the only remaining superpower, where […]

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The Trouble with Our Founders

A decade ago, I gave a talk on the Quiché-Mayan epic at the Popol Vuh Museum at Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala. It was flattering at first. The smallish auditorium was full. About 100 people. A lot for a topic in the humanities at a school devoted to law, business, economics, and dentistry. I spoke […]

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Some of These Institutions Need to Die. But They Won’t.

I recall an incident on a trading floor at a firm where I once worked. A young man—let’s call him William—got himself too long on the stock of Barclays as it crashed in concert with the collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008. William was betting big that Barclays was oversold and that it […]

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What Is Natural Law?

As with negative rights, there’s a lot of confusion regarding natural law. People use the term without much explanation of what it means, and those of us who are not trained lawyers or legal historians don’t want to reveal our ignorance by asking for clarifications. This is my attempt as a non-specialist to explain what […]

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Say ‘Yes’ to the First Amendment

“For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.” —Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 1 All university-level students should read, study, and discuss The Federalist Papers (1787–88). This most sacred document of the American founding explains the logic […]

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About Friendship and Democracy

“To justify a general conclusion, requires many observations, even where the subject may be submitted to the Anatomical knife, to Optical glasses, to analysis by fire, or by solvents.” —Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XIV I’ll never forget a beautiful Peruvian girl, breathtaking she was, and a true friend, Ivy Arbulu. […]

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What Are Negative Rights?

Negative rights signal the core of natural law in the American tradition, also known as our Bill of Rights. Without them, the Constitution might never have been ratified, or we might be a very different country today. Most of us can list them—the right to free speech, the right to keep and bear arms, the […]

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Don Juan or Hamlet? Us or Them?

“Men learn in a negative rite to give up the best things they were born with, and forever.” —Norman Mailer, Armies of the Night (1968) William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (c.1599) and Tirso de Molina’s El burlador de Sevilla (1612?) are the most archetypal plays by any Spanish or English playwright from the early modern period, arguably […]

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Carroll and Borges: Two Perspectives on Individualism

Author’s Note: Dedicated to Alicia Cerezo “Rara temporum felicitas ubi sentire quae velis et quae sentias dicere licet.” —Tacitus, Historiae, 1.1 “I don’t like belonging to another person’s dream.” —Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, VIII There is a quick and easy way, I say, to introduce young readers to the political allegory of Lewis Carroll’s […]

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Who’s Going to Make Sure the Salt Isn’t Poison?

I had a conversation about fifteen years ago with a colleague from Seville. We sat in a restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia, as she expounded on the dangers of economic freedom and defended what seemed to me like the divinely ordained need for government regulation. I was perplexed. “That’s not my tradition and it’s not my […]

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A Political Earthquake in an Overeducated Latin American Republic: Argentina Elects Javier Milei

In stockjobber parlance, Argentina is “risk on.” By electing rising political star Javier Milei as President—he took office on December 10th—Argentina is the first modern nation to embrace the libertarian creed. We’ve not had such a determined political philosophy on the world stage since Goldwater—maybe Reagan. The runoff on November 19th wasn’t even close. The […]

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The Motives Fallacy and 1619

The accusation that the United States of America was “founded on slavery” is advanced to discredit the nation. Accordingly, if some people were oppressed at the time of the Founding, then somehow the entire American project is illegitimate to this day. Or, in another way, if some people who wrote or signed the Constitution also […]

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How to Wake the Woke

Well, this is impertinent, but to build Monticello, That domed dream of our liberties floating High on its mountain, like a cloud, demanded A certain amount of black sweat. —Robert Penn Warren, Brother to Dragons (1979) Concessive ways to dismantle woke ideology exist that don’t require America to abandon her best ideas. This will not […]

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Milei’s Best Case for Argentina’s Effort to Dollarize: We’re All Federo-Americans Now

There’s a lot of hand-wringing in Argentina regarding anti-Keynesian candidate Javier Milei’s expressed promise to dollarize the economy if he’s elected president. After a century of centralized industrial planning and oversized welfare programs, along with insane levels of money printing to pay for it all, Argentina went from one of the wealthiest nations on earth […]

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The Constitution of Liberty in Borges’s “El Aleph”

  “It is desirable, in short, that in things which do not primarily concern others, individuality should assert itself.” —John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (London, 1859) Jorge Luis Borges’s story “El Aleph” (1945) contemplates the struggle for personal liberty in Argentina, a subject he conjures more formally a year later in his essay “Nuestro pobre […]

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Thucydides as Artist and Individual

(For don Pedro Schwartz, a great economist and a true gentleman) For sociological, political, and economic reasons—family breakdown, information overload, technological innovation, chemical and behavioral addiction, etc.—skills-based learning, along with instruction in practical areas like science, math, engineering, music, nutrition, finance, logic, and personal psychology, makes more sense today than cultural, gender, or literary studies. […]

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American Goddesses

“Stopping first at Ephesus he made sacrifice to Artemis …” —Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War (fifth century BC) “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” —Eagles, “Hotel California” (1976) America depends on and produces a large supply of freaks. This causes anxiety as well as comfort. Eric Hoffer—the “longshoreman philosopher” […]

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Federalism: Virtue or Structure?

What is federalism? Historians and political philosophers will bicker about its origins and definitions. I like the natural-law approach—think Locke and Madison in the Anglo tradition. It’s tangible, comparable, and verifiable. Further, any policy decisions related to federalism can be kept simple. A warning, however: I come from the field of literature. I’ve read too […]

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Reforming the Humanities in Florida

When Thomas Jefferson returned from France in the fall of 1789, he turned his home at Monticello 180 degrees. The building had originally faced east, that is, toward the Atlantic, Europe, and the Mediterranean. Now he made it face west, that is, toward Louisiana, Texas, Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon, and the Pacific. Any Hispanist […]

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Novels, Constitutions, and Mineral Rights

Gustave Doré, Don Quijote 2.22 (1869) I wondered what all the fuss was about after I saw the movie There Will Be Blood (2007). It’s visually remarkable but overly moralizing. After two and a half hours, you’re supposed to think American capitalism is about greed, treachery, and murder. In Texas the movie is a litmus […]

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How Identity Politics Trumps Preference

Fear Versus Glory in a Hyper-Democracy Democracy dumbs things down by rewarding conformity. This echoes both the vote and the market. It also explains why new urban America struggles to be as attractive as old urban Europe. In a hyper-democracy—politically, economically, and sociologically speaking—the vulgar mean takes the prize due to its astonishing potential to […]

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Tocqueville’s Women

Guiding Readers Toward the Problem “Mailer finally came to decide that his love for his wife while not at all equal or congruent to his love for America was damnably parallel.” – Norman Mailer, The Armies of the Night (1968) Alexis de Tocqueville’s epic Democracy in America (1835/40) offers a curious preview of the American […]

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A Micro Canon: My Three Essential Books

At the age of ten, while running on my family’s patio I slipped and put my arm through the window of the kitchen door. I paused to marvel. I hadn’t cut myself. But when I saw shards of glass in the frame, I jerked away, leaving a two-inch gash in my forearm. My mother telephoned […]

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Why Do People Teach?

Curiosity or Ideology? On the morning of September 11, 2001, faculty members at an elite college in Massachusetts aimed their frustration at President Bush. We stood like a small crowd in the department lounge, all of us facing the TV. CNN showed the moment an assistant whispered in the president’s ear while he was reading […]

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How We Love to Hate Foucault!

Many centrists and conservatives are leery of Michel Foucault’s enduring popularity in higher education. Some think he’s the very essence of a great postmodern conspiracy to take down Western Civilization. Perhaps. But even if he’s part of a bigger problem, we ought not dismiss the entirety of his work. Not all his books merit attention, […]

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