It’s astonishing how poorly equipped many people are today to handle the art of rhetoric, as indicated by the puerile attempts to put down my friend Vero for being French. Independently of dealing with such unpleasantness, I have been corresponding with a sharp young man who is interested in improving his knowledge of the world, and at the same time sharpening his skills in discussion and debate. It’s commonly assumed that those are contrary goals, but, in fact, thinking, discussing, writing, and debating, if done well, are mutually reinforcing. I recommended strongly George Orwell’s marvelous essay “Politics and the English Language,” from which I have learned much, as well as Cicero’s De Inventione, which has helped me on numerous occasions.
Rhetoric is a vital element of a free society, as it is an alternative to violence. It’s also a central element in the development of civil society, which is a topic I treat of historically in the chapter on “Classical Liberalism and Civil Society” in my Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice. (It’s not too late to order your copy for Valentine’s Day for that special person… 😉 )