All of the essays I post on this site will deal with ideas, and I don’t believe that the identity of a writer is relevant to whether his ideas are true. In fact, writing anonymously has a long history, and we seldom think less of, say, the participants in the debates over the American Constitution because they wrote under pseudonyms, and there are documents from the ancient world whose author we simply don’t know.
That said, some people do like to know how an author came to have the views he does, so I thought I would share a brief intellectual autobiography for those interested.
My name is Richard Carroll, I was born during the latter part of the Reagan Administration in the American South, where I’ve lived my entire life, most of it in Texas. In religion I inherited my family’s Catholic faith, and in politics I have my father’s Conservative disposition.
My political instincts were formed during high school, from four different sources. The primary one, of course, was Catholicism, and in particular the work of my patron saint, Thomas Aquinas. This has been the foundation of everything else in my intellectual life. The second, also a constant, was reading The Analects of Confucius, which inspired me to the point that when asked about my politics I sometimes answer that I'm a Confucianist. In any case, though my understanding of Confucius took a while to develop, I immediately took to heart the emphasis on right conduct, respect for authority, tradition, and so on.
In history, I also began noticing the truth of Napoleon’s maxim, “History is written by the victors.” I noticed that Charles I, Louis XVI, and Nicholas II were all far better men than the rebels who overthrew them, for example, as well as other things, like how Abraham Lincoln was no hero, and that the Second World War did not seem to have any “good guys,” but only varying degrees of evil.
Finally, through cable news and especially by following and participating in online discussions, I found that many, perhaps most, people are either unwilling or unable to discuss important issues in a dispassionate, rational manner. Between this and the previous point, I became very skeptical of democratic government, and by my freshman year of college openly identified as a monarchist.
I didn’t begin thinking about politics and the state in a systematic manner until late 2007, when an acquaintance made me aware of Dr. Ron Paul. I read his book, The Revolution: A Manifesto, and following his recommendations also read Hazlitt, Rothbard, Hayek, von Mises, and other prominent Libertarians. The central question for me became “By what authority does the state rule?” For a couple years, I was part of the anarcho-capitalist camp, which may seem like an odd turn for a young monarchist, but keep in mind that my concern was not simply about authority, but legitimate authority. Furthermore, even as a Libertarian anarchist I was more favourable to monarchism than republicanism.
By 2010, though, various flaws in Libertarianism became increasingly obvious to me. I noticed that Libertarians tend to be rather myopic in their worldview; when people refer to the philosophy as “applied autism,” there is some truth in the accusation. At about this time, a friend of mine recommended that I read Pope Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno, which demonstrated to me that individualism, as understood by Libertarians and Liberals generally, is incompatible with Christianity. Since I was and am certain that Christianity is true while I had serious doubts about Libertarianism, I dropped Libertarianism.
After this detour, I went back to Confucius and monarchism, and also decided to read more foundational material, like Aristotle, Plato, and of course Scripture, among other things, but for a while I was more focused on practical, personal matters like looking for a new career. That said, I did find some helpful contemporary writers in the budding Right-wing blogging and Twitter community.
Of course, though blogs and websites can be helpful for their commentary and bringing one’s attention to authors and works one wasn’t aware of, they are simply starting points. In the past couple years, then, I’ve made a concerted effort to read more of the “source material,” so to speak, of Reaction. In particular, Sir Robert Filmer, St. Robert Bellarmine, Joseph de Maistre, and various works of history have made me certain that my earlier instincts were largely correct, and that Liberalism must be rejected root, tree, and branch.