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Nationally syndicated columnist, past Senior Editor for National Review
Joseph Sobran

Michael Joseph Sobran Jr. (23 February 1946 – 30 September 2010) was an American journalist, formerly with National Review magazine and a syndicated columnist. Pat Buchanan called Sobran "perhaps the finest columnist of our generation".

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23 Feb 1946, Michael Joseph Sobran Jr., in Ypsilanti, Michigan


30 Sep 2010, in Fairfax, Virginia


Sobran's -- Biography of Joe Sobran
Joe Sobran received his B.A. in English from Eastern Michigan University and pursued graduate studies in English, specializing in Shakespeare. From 1969 to 1970 he taught English on a fellowship and lectured on Shakespeare. In 1972, he went to work for National Review Magazine, beginning what would be a 21-year stint, including 18 years as senior editor. ... He is currently writing a book on the Lincoln presidency and its abandonment of the Constitution and another book on the poems of Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford. ... In 1994, he founded SOBRAN’S. a monthly newsletter of his essays and columns.


Sobran's -- The Real News of the Month
Website maintained by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, copyright owner of Sobran's past columns; sections include "The Reactionary Utopian", "The Wanderer", the Shakespeare Library, other essays and articles and biographical summary

Web Pages

Advocates for Self-Government - Libertarian Education: Joseph Sobran - Libertarian
Includes picture, biographical profile and quotes by and about Sobran
Sobran was born in Michigan in 1946. ... During and after his college years, Sobran worked as a factory timekeeper, as a teaching fellow in the English department of Eastern Michigan University, and as a child-care worker in the state mental hospital located in Ypsilanti. While he was working at the hospital, a former professor introduced him to William F. Buckley Jr. The professor also showed Buckley Sobran's writings. The following summer, Sobran was invited to join the staff of Buckley's National Review, beginning what would be a 21-year stint, including 18 years as Senior Editor.

Recent Column


Archived Columns

Sobran Columns -- Archive
"The Reactionary Utopian" archive, from Mar 1999 to Mar 2008

Archived Articles

Archive of issues of the monthly newsletter Sobran's with links to many of its articles, from Sept 1994 to May 2007


Bush's Learning Problem, The Reactionary Utopian, 12 Oct 2006
Discusses George W. Bush's behavior with regard to his enemies, pondering he may have never learned one of the fundamental concepts of chess strategy
When I was a kid learning to play chess, I couldn't wait to move my queen. She was the most powerful piece on the board, Guess what? On his next turn, my opponent captured her. It hurt my little feelings, but those were the rules. I soon learned to take into account the danger that if I exposed her too soon, I would lose her. ... Bush's actions and policies get increasingly hard to defend. ... It's symptomatic that he can’t imagine how the world looks to his enemies, whom he can describe only in rigidly moralistic terms, as if they must know how evil they are. Sensible statesmen don't act this way. Neither do normal people.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, North Korea
Bush's Place in History, The Reactionary Utopian, 6 May 2006
Considers the Bush presidency from his candidacy description of himself as a "uniter" to Bush saying he is "the decider" (18 Apr 2006), from his popularity after the 11 Sep 2001 attacks to his "abysmal" poll ratings in 2006
Back in 2000, candidate George W. Bush described himself as 'a uniter, not a divider.' If we didn't all remember that, you'd think I'd made it up. Now Bush has dubbed himself 'the decider.' Well, things change, people change, and our perceptions of them change; but with Bush, everything has changed, and in the most startling way, beginning with his election. ... It's a crazy time, when the old verities don't seem to apply anymore ... One small consolation is that the Bushes are unlikely to have airports, schools, and stadiums named after them. It looks as if their place in history is already secure.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Conservatism
The Case against Football, The Reactionary Utopian, 10 Jan 2006
Discusses Sobran's several peeves and a few things he likes about American football, also complaining about journalistic coverage of the 2006 Rose Bowl
We are deep in the season of peak football fanaticism, of bowl games and playoffs. Even I sometimes get caught up in the spirit of it, though I disapprove of American football in principle. ... But when I read that the Texas quarterback had not only passed for 267 yards but also run for another 200, including the winning touchdown in the last few seconds, I figured it was all a pack of lies. ... In the old days they'd have been ashamed to run a story like that. They had too much respect for the reader's intelligence. Nowadays they assume that football fans will believe anything.
Related Topic: American Football
Criminal Justice? The Legal System vs. Individual Responsibility, The Freeman, Sep 1995
Review of the title book, edited by Robert James Bidinotto and published in 1995 by the Foundation for Economic Education
Progressives used to talk confidently about 'building a new society.' Well, here it is. They've built it. We're in it. The intellectual cornerstone of the New Society was determinism: the belief that human behavior is in principle caused by factors outside the agent’s control. ... Meanwhile, alas, we have to deal with the boys for whom prevention is too late. Toward them severity is the only remedy left to us. They have, after all, chosen to do evil... Those who excuse them share their guilt. In this respect Criminal Justice? is consistently sensible and fresh, a damning indictment of a truly criminal system.
Finding the Flaws, 25 Mar 1997
Discusses how governments naturally attempt to influence each other, the democratic flaw of voting for benefits at others' expense, in particular children, and how the U.S. Constitution has failed to avoid this outcome
The former tennis player Ilie Nastase once had his wallet stolen, with all his credit cards in it. A friend was shocked to learn that he hadn't reported the theft. Why not? "So far," Mr. Nastase replied, "the thief is spending less than my wife." That's what I call keeping your eye on the ball ... We might as well throw the old text out ... think how much easier life would be for our civics teachers! They could simply explain to the young, "The whole business of politics is to try to get the gorilla to take your banana so he'll go sit on somebody else." Only a few curious pupils would care to know how this Darwinian gorilla "evolved."
Glorious War!, The Reactionary Utopian, 31 Aug 2006
Discusses how, after the Bush father and son presidencies, the Republican Party and conservatism became associated with militarism and war
Most observers are predicting a rout of the Republicans in this fall's elections. Some think the Democrats can even recapture both houses of Congress. I hope so. Oh, how I hope so. May the Republicans perish forever. May vultures gobble their entrails ... The presidency of George W. Bush has been one long object lesson in unintended consequences. It's amusing to recall that his father was kidded for using the phrase wouldn't be prudent, an expression the son could profitably adopt. Until the Republicans learn that peace is normal, they will deserve defeat and infamy.
Honoring Jefferson, 1 Jul 2004
Argues the 2004 cover of Time magazine, featuring Jefferson, as well as numerous articles in it, merely pay "lip service (to his genius) while missing the essence of it"
In observance of Independence Day, Time magazine has put Thomas Jefferson on its cover. Naturally, the copious articles within pay his genius worshipful lip service, while missing the essence of it. They are more interested in current obsessions — such as his views on race and whether he had children by one of his slaves — than in his political philosophy. ... But that is all the more reason to take his principles seriously. A man of Jefferson's intellect, merely creating a philosophy to justify himself, would have come up with a very different set of principles.
How Lincoln Gave Us Kwanzaa, The Reactionary Utopian, 7 Dec 2006
While planning for his holidays, Sobran discusses a couple of books about the Gettysburg Address
Kwanzaa is imminent, but I'm planning to observe the holidays in a more traditional manner, curling up with The Snoop Dogg Christmas Album. Mutatis mutandis, Snoop Dogg is this generation's Nat 'King' Cole, and I look forward to his interpretation of that old chestnut 'The Christmas Song.' ... But don’t waste your time trying to explain even to Bush's partisans that Lincoln was a much worse president than Bush. By a consensus I can only call bipartisan, Lincoln is a god, to whom we all owe our freedom — you, me, and Snoop Dogg alike.
The Lawless State, The Reactionary Utopian, 11 Jul 2006
Explains how the United States changed from being a decentralized republic to a centralized democracy and how most of the power has moved from the legislative branch to the "imperial presidency"
Sometimes the deepest changes in a political system sneak in almost unnoticed. So it has been in the United States, which has quietly shifted from being a decentralized federal republic to being a centralized democracy. Moreover, the actual power has shifted from the legislative branch to the executive ... And now ... the Constitution has ceased to inhibit the government ... If the Founding Fathers could see us now, they'd surely ask, "How on earth did you get yourselves into this mess?" We've managed to do nearly everything the Constitution was designed to prevent us from doing.
The Myth of "Limited Government", 20 Dec 2001
Discusses some of the concepts in Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Democracy: The God That Failed (2001)
We are taught that the change from monarchy to democracy is progress; that is, a change from servitude to liberty. Yet no monarchy in Western history ever taxed its subjects as heavily as every modern democracy taxes its citizens. ... And historically, kings showed no desire to invade family life; but modern democracies want to "protect" children from their parents. By comparison with the rule of our alleged equals, most kings displayed remarkably little ambition for power. And compared with modern war, the wars of kings were mere scuffles.
None Dare Call It Hypothetical, The Reactionary Utopian, 20 Dec 2005
Discusses a talk-radio question about whether a plot for a "Super 9/11" (or an even more incredible possibility imagined by Sobran) would justify President Bush ordering wiretaps and surveillance to uncover and prevent the plot
In Washington, D.C., a local talk-radio host poses a provocative question: What if international terrorists were plotting a Super 9/11 that would kill not just 3,000 Americans — mere child's play for these nuts — but might wipe 30,000, 300,000, or even 'a city of 3,000,000 off the face of the planet'? Would the president then be justified in a few technically illegal wiretaps to detect them in time? ... Monarchism — which might be called political idolatry or hero-worship — is a perennial temptation, ... as Bush and his supporters illustrate, with their bizarre claims, demands, and excuses for concentrated power.
Penumbras, Emanations, and Stuff, The Reactionary Utopian, 6 Feb 2006
Examines how Federal employees avoid mentioning the Tenth Amendendment to the U.S. Constitution, and how politicians instead search for implied powers in order to expand their authority
You could easily get the impression that the U.S. Supreme Court has banned public displays of the Tenth Amendment. Actually, this hasn't happened, at least not yet. Anyway, adults can still read it in the privacy of their own homes, if they can lay hands on a copy. And in the age of the Internet, it would be hard to suppress completely. ... If the power to 'regulate commerce ... among the several states' had been as broad as the courts now say, Congress could have abolished slavery, imposed (and repealed) Prohibition, and given women the vote by mere statute, without all the bother of amending the Constitution twice.
President Paul?, The Reactionary Utopian, 25 Jan 2006
Commentary and anecdotes on hearing that Ron Paul had formed an exploratory committee for his 2008 U.S. Presidential bid
Dozens of people have announced their candidacies for the White House in 2008, and if I had to bet at this point, I would put my money on the old woman. Hillary may be awful, but at least she is predictable. I suppose I can learn to resign myself to her ... Taken literally, this would reduce the government to about 5 percent of its current size. That would be a huge improvement. If nothing else, the Constitution stands as a reminder of what normality used to be. Well, I can dream, can't I? And today I'm dreaming of President Ron Paul, with a Congress he deserves. Well, I can dream, can't I?
The Price of Bush, 11 Oct 2005
Examines the George W. Bush presidency a year after his re-election and argues that conservatives should have known better than supporting him earlier on
A year ago, John Kerry caused conservatives to rally behind President Bush; even I, no fan of the president, softened on him, given the alternative, when the 2004 election seemed likely to be almost as close as the one in 2000. I was relieved to the point of elation when Bush won a clear victory. ... Democrats paid a heavy price for supporting [Johnson's] war in Vietnam along with his multifarious social programs. They tried to recoup by pretending he hadn't happened and moving leftward, but liberalism got a bad name and by 1994 they'd lost the electoral majority they'd taken for granted since the New Deal.
The Servile State Revisited, The Wanderer, 5 Jun 2003
Ponders David Hume's observation as to the ease with which "the many are governed by the few" and positing that in modern society, "the habit of obedience" has been taken too far
I am haunted by an observation of the philosopher David Hume, which I must quote approximately from memory: "To the philosophic eye, nothing is more surprising than the ease with which the many are ruled by the few." ... I merely wish to point out that most animals, especially insects, have never heard of genes. They just want to have a little fun. I would add that the whole idea of the theory of evolution is to banish the idea of teleology or purpose in nature. Yet this "creationist" concept keeps sneaking back in, even into the rhetoric of scientists. Mother Nature, it seems, uses male madness as her method.
Related Topics: Democracy, Law, Militarism, The State
The Trouble with Vouchers, 11 Sep 1997
Responds to an article by the Denver Archbishop advocating for vouchers, pointing out the problem with such a plan: it "leave[s] the state in charge of all schools"
'The main fact about education,' G.K. Chesterton observed, 'is that there is no such thing.' He meant that we tend to speak of teaching in the abstract, without reference to what is actually being taught. ... Yet we see Archbishop Chaput edging away from this obvious fact. He wants to justify Catholic schools in secular terms ... If Catholic educators really think that way, it's likely that vouchers would subtly lead them to filter anything distinctively Catholic out of their schools — which already happens too often even without vouchers. The only sound approach is the total separation of school and state.
We the Sheep, The Reactionary Utopian, 7 Mar 2006
Comments on the U.S. (mostly) two-party system with a made-up example featuring the Prohibition and the Vegetarian parties, and then mixes in comments about the film Brokeback Mountain
Am I dreaming, or what? The Republicans are on the ropes, and everyone is surprised that the Democrats can't seem to take advantage of the situation. ... So when the wolf pounces on your lamb, just ignore the pitiful bleating and remind yourself that this is a democracy, where every sheep can freely express its preference for which kind of wolf it wants to be eaten by. Many sheep, perhaps understandably, prefer a wolf in sheep's clothing, which is after all the basic idea of democracy. So far it has worked pretty well. The wolves all agree on that, and they want to spread democracy everywhere.
Related Topics: Democracy, Voting


Joseph Sobran Interview, by Joseph Sobran, Scott Horton, The Scott Horton Show, 11 Dec 2004
"Scott talks with Joe Sobran about the warfare state, the National Review crowd, the Old Right, the culture war, secession and anarchy."

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Joseph Sobran" as of 6 Jun 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.