The Thinking 

When Numbers Are Not Decisive

December 11, 2012


IN his remarkable 1886 book, El Liberalismo es Pecado, or Liberalism is a Sin, the Spanish priest, Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany addressed the issue of the relatively small number of individuals resisting liberalism. I like what he says very much because it addresses a complaint I hear often: “There are not enough of us.” His book was written for Catholics but is applicable in some of his points to others as well. He wrote:

Among the illusions entertained by a certain class of [anti-liberals], there is none more pitiable than the notion that the truth requires a great number of defenders and friends. To these people, numbers seem a synonym for force. They imagine that to multiply heterogenous quantities is to multiply power.

Now true force — real power, in the physical as in the moral order — consists in intensity, rather than in extension. A greater volume of matter equally intense evidently produces a greater effect, not by reason of the increased volume, but by virtue of the augmented intensities contained in it. It is therefore a rule of sound mechanics to seek to increase the extension and number of forces, but always on the condition that the final result be a real augmentation of their intensities. To be content with an increase without consideration of the value of the increment is not only to accumulate fictitious force, but to expose to paralysis the powers which one does possess by the congestion of an unwieldy mass. The millions of Xerxes’ army constituted a force of tremendous extension, but they were of no avail against the vigorous intensity of the Greek three hundred at Thermopylae.

Faith possesses a power of its own, which it communicates to its friends and defenders. It is not they who give the truth power, but truth which charges them with its own vigor. …

… [A] single platoon of well-armed soldiers — knowing what they are defending, against whom they are contending, and with what arms they fight in order to defend the truth — is preferable a thousand times over. This is the kind of soldier we need. This is the kind who have always and will yet do something more for the glory of His Name. They go into the deadly, imminent breach and never flinch. [Liberalism is a Sin, Tan Publishers, pp. 147-149]

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