Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Nineteenth Century "Rules for Radicals"

When one thinks of the professional socialist revolutionary, many names spring immediately to mind: Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Che Gueverra, and Fidel Castro, to name a few. Much more obscure is Sergei Nechaev, a petulant socialist who lived during the mid-nineteenth century. Nechaev continues to be an inspiration for leftist revolutionaries and progressives to this day; traces of his thought can be found in the writings of men from Vladimir Lenin to Saul Alinsky to the DailyKos and Huffington Post.

According to his biography, Nechaev was a serf rightfully indignant at the Tsarist regime, and especially the "phony liberator" Alexander II. But his righteous indignation would transform into pathos; his maudlin and existentially angst-ridden writings would influence the Narodnaya Volya ("People's Will"), the quintessential terrorist group that carried out the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, to more recent terrorist groups such as the Red Army Faction (sometimes inaccurately referred to as the Baader-Meinhoff gang) and nearly all leftist terrorist and revolutionary groups today.

Nechaev, who was a founding member of the Narodnaya Rasprava, or "People's Vengeance," is perhaps best remembered for co-writing, along with Mihkail Bakunin, the revolutionary anthem "The Catechism of a Revolutionist." The writhing and faux-stoic call to arms should be immediately familiar to any student of the political left, a nineteenth century "Rules for Radicals," if you will:

1. The revolutionist is a doomed man [doomed or obrechennyi, in older usage signifying also "consecrated"]. He has no personal interests, no business affairs, no emotions, no attachments, no property, and not even his own name. Everything in him is wholly absorbed in the single thought and the single passion for revolution.

2. The revolutionist knows that in the very depths of his being, not only in words but also in deeds, he has broken all the bonds which tie him to the civil order [grazhdanskim poriadkom] and the civilized world with all its laws, moralities, and customs, and with all its generally accepted conventions. He is their implacable enemy, and if he continues to live with them it is only in order to destroy them more speedily.

3. The revolutionist despises all doctrines and refuses to accept the mundane sciences, leaving them for future generations. He knows only one science: the science of destruction. For this reason, but only for this reason, he will study mechanics, physics, chemistry, and perhaps medicine. But all day and all night he studies the vital science of human beings, their characteristics and circumstances, at every possible level of social existence. The object is perpetually the same: the surest and quickest way of destroying the whole filthy order.

4. The revolutionist despises public opinion. He despises and hates the existing social morality in all its manifestations. For him, morality is everything which contributes to the triumph of the revolution. [...]

8. The revolutionist can have no friendship or attachment, except for those who have proved by their actions that they, like him, are dedicated to revolution. The degree of friendship, devotion and obligation toward such a comrade is determined solely by the degree of his usefulness to the cause of total revolutionary destruction.

9. It is superfluous to speak of solidarity among revolutionists. The whole strength of revolutionary work lies in this. Comrade-revolutionists [tovarishchi-revoliutsionery] who possess the same revolutionary passion and understanding should, as much as possible, deliberate all important matters together and come to unanimous conclusions. When the plan is finally decided upon, then the revolutionist must rely solely on himself. In carrying out acts of destruction, each one should act alone, never running to another for advice and assistance, except when these are necessary for the furtherance of the plan. [...]

13. The revolutionist enters the world of the state, of the privileged classes [soslovnyi mir], of the so-called civilization, and he lives in this world only for the purpose of bringing about its speedy and total destruction. He is not a revolutionist if he has any sympathy for this world. He should not hesitate to destroy any position, any place, or any man in this world. He must hate everyone and everything in it with an equal hatred.

14. Aiming at implacable revolution, the revolutionist may and frequently must live within society while pretending to be completely different from what he really is, for he must penetrate everywhere, into all the higher and middle-level social formations [sosloviia], into the merchant's commercial establishment, into the church, the gentry estate, and the world of the bureaucrat [mir biurokratskii] and military, into literature, and also into the Third Section [see link] and even the Winter Palace of the tsar. [...]

22. The Society has no aim other than the complete liberation and happiness of the narod -- i.e., of the people who live by manual labor. Convinced that their emancipation and the achievement of this happiness can only come about as a result of an all-destroying popular revolt, the Society will use all its resources and energy toward increasing and intensifying the evils and miseries of the people until at last their patience is exhausted and they are driven to a general uprising.

23. By a revolution, the society [tovarishchestvo] does not mean an orderly revolt according to the classic western model -- a revolt which always stops short of attacking the rights of property and the traditional social systems of so-called civilization and morality. Until now, such a revolution has always limited itself to the overthrow of one political form in order to replace it by another, thereby attempting to bring about a so-called revolutionary state. The only form of revolution beneficial to the people is one which destroys the entire State to the roots and exterminates all the state traditions, institutions, and classes [klassy]...

24. With this end in view, the Society therefore refuses to impose any new organization from above. Any future organization will doubtless work its way through the movement and life of the people; but this is a matter for future generations to decide. Our task is terrible, total, universal, and merciless destruction.

25. Therefore, in drawing closer to the people, we must above all make common cause with those elements of the masses which, since the foundation of the state of Muscovy, have never ceased to protest, not only in words but in deeds, against everything directly or indirectly connected with the state: against nobility, against bureaucracy [chinovnichestva], against priests, against the merchant gild, and against the parasitic kulak [rich peasant]. We must unite with the world of adventurous robber bands, the only genuine revolutionists in Russia.

26. To weld this world into one single unconquerable and all-destructive force -- this is our organization, our conspiracy, our task.

To put Nechaev's exhortations to obliterate the State, a true call to destructive anarchism that is not equivalent to the libertarian desire for a rule of law that protects the individual, liberty, and property, we can cite Matthew Carr's The Infernal Machine, "a history of terrorism" with a leftist bent:
Nechaev's vision of a secret terrorist organization made up of ruthless amoral Jacobins was both a theoretical and tactical innovation, in which the relationship between the ends and means posed no moral problems, since 'everything is moral which assists the triumph of the revolution. Immoral and criminal is everything that stands in its way.' [...]

In Nechaev's apocalyptic imagination the energies of his revolutionary generation were to be entirely devoted to that 'intensification and an increase in those calamities and evils which must finally exhaust the patience of the people and drive it to a popular uprising.' (19)
Nechaev's writings immediately recall the writings of the immensely influential 1960s radical Saul Alinsky, whose "Reveille for Radicals" and "Rules for Radicals" directly impacted the thinking of both President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Alinsky is famous for his "ends justify the means" mentality, which he shares with the Italian Communist revolutionary Antonio Gramsci (both borrow heavily from the writings of the political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli).

Sergei Nechaev's "The Catechism of a Revolutionist" (1869) anticipates the unscrupulous socialist activists and revolutionaries of the twentieth century who would adopt a Gramscian strategy and Alinskyite tactics to infiltrate the American political and economic system and direct it toward self-destruction. One might call Nechaev the "godfather" of modern socialist revolutionaries; both of red terrorist groups like the Weather Underground, and infiltrators and subverters of the school of Saul Alinsky, the "godfather" of American social activism and agit-prop.

The Ramblings of an Ex-Emperor

Scribbles written by a retired autocrat once again prove the link between religion and tyranny: 

During his last year at Doorn, Wilhelm believed that Germany was the land of monarchy and therefore of Christ and that England was the land of Liberalism and therefore of Satan and the Anti-Christ. He argued that the English ruling classes were "Freemasons thoroughly infected by Juda". Wilhelm asserted that the "British people must be liberated from Antichrist Juda. We must drive Juda out of England just as he has been chased out of the Continent."[33] He believed the Freemasons and Jews had caused the two world wars, aiming at a world Jewish empire with British and American gold, but that "Juda's plan has been smashed to pieces and they themselves swept out of the European Continent!" Continental Europe was now, Wilhelm wrote, "consolidating and closing itself off from British influences after the elimination of the British and the Jews!" The end result would be a "U.S. of Europe!"[33] In a letter to his sister Princess Margaret in 1940, Wilhelm wrote: "The hand of God is creating a new world & working miracles ... We are becoming the U.S. of Europe under German leadership, a united European Continent." He added: "The Jews [are] being thrust out of their nefarious positions in all countries, whom they have driven to hostility for centuries."[32] 

One should also remember, of course, that both ghettos and pogroms were initiated by medieval Christians and only later on borrowed by the Nazis. Luther, the preeminent founder of Protestantism, was also one of the biggest anti-Semites and an inspiration for Hitler. 

Mises: By the Way, Free Markets Are Free

By the Way, Free Markets Are Free
Mises Daily: Friday, January 29, 2010 by

Having failed to learn what causes depressions and how to treat them when they arrive, our nation's leaders are steering us straight into a monetary catastrophe. Predictably, the major media voices are clinging to the assurances of Keynesians, who see new wads of debt and paper money and conclude that the good times are ready to roll again; don't pay any heed to the millions still looking for work.

The free-lunch Keynesians even tell us how we got into the crisis and what saved us. Paul Krugman speaks for many when he blames market deregulation for the meltdown and hails the Fed's printing press as our savior.

What does this mean? It means we can laugh at rumors that the Fed's cheap credit brought on the crisis. We can laugh even harder at the claim that Fed monetary pumping will ensure an even greater disaster down the road. And we can save our biggest laughs for that lucky guesser, Peter Schiff, whose knowledgeable detractors laughed at him in 2006 when he predicted the current meltdown.

For many, it was the government's tinkering with Glass-Steagall that gave investors a free hand to commit evil — by allowing greedy mouths to gorge themselves to the brink of self-destruction. Because those mouths were so big, our leaders had no choice but to fleece taxpayers and dollar-holders to save them. Once again, we were told, freedom in economics became a recipe for disaster.

Sorry, state lovers, but rigging regulations to create a stupendous moral hazard does not reflect the "influence of free-market ideology," as Krugman claims. Regulations are interventions, and interventions are that seemingly benign collection of stepping-stones from capitalism to socialism. The current economic debacle is overwhelmingly a crisis of government meddling, not free markets.

A Regulated Economy without State Coercion?
A free economy is one that is — how to say this? — free. It is free of cronyism, favoritism, handout-ism, protectionism, or anything else that amounts to using the state as a means of living at the expense of others. If paupers or billionaires need help, they're required to get it without picking the pockets of others.

In a free economy the only role for force is the enforcement of property rights. Using force for other means is a violation of the natural freedom of individuals. This is what classical liberals meant by laissez-faire. A free-market ideology is one that calls for a free market, not the massaging of one or two regulations out of a constellation of a million.

But don't markets need regulating? Of course. Markets in which the government hasn't turned criminal regulate themselves without violating anyone's rights. If a bank insists on practicing fractional-reserve lending, for example, and finds itself unable to meet depositor demands, it files for bankruptcy, not a bailout. The free bank is thereby discouraged from creating multiple claims to the same dollar. It cannot ask for a loan from its friendly central banker because it doesn't have one.

A central bank such as the federal reserve could not exist in a free market. Central banking requires a monopoly of note issue, and monopolies — as grants of privilege — require the enforcing arm of government. Through bank competition and the threat of runs, a free market limits the tendency of bankers to practice fractional-reserve lending, which is the root of the business cycle.

But since fractional-reserve lending is profitable to bankers and government in the same way that counterfeiting is profitable to counterfeiters, we find ourselves saddled with a central bank to make sure the various costs of expanding the money supply are passed on to the poor and middle class.

The idea that central banks are independent from the governments that gave them life is a bad joke. Through their purchase of government debt obligations, central banks provide a convenient way for politicians to spend wildly on their pet projects — whether it's welfare for seniors or wars overseas — without having to raise taxes.

The hidden tax of bank inflation is perfectly suited to their ends. It gives the impression that government is an endless source of largess, while shifting the blame for crises and everyday higher prices onto governments' favorite whipping boys, speculators and business people. By depreciating the currency, bank inflation quietly takes wealth from our pockets and gives it to those in on the racket.

The very existence of a fiat-paper money like federal reserve notes precludes the possibility of a free market. "In no period of human history has paper money spontaneously emerged on a free market," Jörg Guido Hülsmann writes in The Ethics of Money Production.

Whenever governments issue the stuff, they of necessity impose a "legal obligation for each citizen to accept it as legal tender." At one point, paper money certificates were "backed" by a certain weight of gold or silver. But with widespread indifference to monetary issues, it proved easy for governments to blame crises on the commodity backing rather than the inflation of the notes. Governments outlawed the use of gold and silver as money so they could inflate with minimal restraint.

Paper money, in short, is not a market phenomenon; it comes into use only when the police power of the state forces us to accept it.

Austrians on the Rise
Writing recently in Foreign Affairs, Harvard historian and bestselling author Niall Ferguson noted that the current crisis has made certain dead economists look good, others not so good.
Though superficially this crisis seems like a defeat for Smith, Hayek, and Friedman, and a victory for Marx, Keynes, and Polanyi, that might well turn out to be wrong. Far from having been caused by unregulated free markets, this crisis may have been caused by distortions of the market from ill-advised government actions: explicit and implicit guarantees to supersized banks, inappropriate empowerment of rating agencies, disastrously loose monetary policy, bad regulation of big insurers, systematic encouragement of reckless mortgage lending — not to mention distortions of currency markets by central bank intervention.
The Austrians, in Ferguson's view, were "the biggest winners, among economists at least," because they "saw credit-propelled asset bubbles as the biggest threat to the stability of capitalism."

According to Austrian economics, we need to rein in the central bank. But what does our 2008 Nobel-prize-winning economist say about bubbles? In a New York Times editorial of August 2, 2002, Krugman wrote,
To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble.
On the other hand, Ron Paul, on September 10, 2003, addressed the House Financial Services Committee on the moral hazard of the federal government's policy of providing special privileges to the GSEs, Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, and the growing credit bubble in housing:
Like all artificially-created bubbles, the boom in housing prices cannot last forever. When housing prices fall, homeowners will experience difficulty as their equity is wiped out. Furthermore, the holders of the mortgage debt will also have a loss. These losses will be greater than they would have otherwise been had government policy not actively encouraged over-investment in housing.
Paul warned about the danger of bubbles while Krugman was campaigning for their creation. Paul, an adherent of the Austrian School, believes there is no such thing as a free lunch. Krugman, the quintessential Keynesian, argues that there is, at least in a depression. He also says that "if politicians refuse to learn from the history of the recent financial crisis, they will condemn all of us to repeat it."

But if it's history's lessons we should imbibe, why have politicians and their pundits ignored the lessons of the 1920–1921 recession? Let me guess: maybe letting the market fix what government broke isn't an option they can bring themselves to embrace, even if it's the only way out.

Libertarianism is Not Conservative

There is great deal of conflation in the mind of the public at large between conservatism and libertarianism. It is my contention that libertarianism should be thought of as a political philosophy divorced of historical particularities; and as such, cannot be "conservative," except by coincidence.

Libertarianism contends that the world should be ordered according to the moral standard of the individual's natural right to life, liberty and property. The conciseness and clarity of libertarianism can be contrasted with conservatism, which is a very slippery concept philosophically. The vaguery of the term "conservative" is exploited by both those on the political right, usually thought of as nationalists, and those on the political left, popularly conceived of as socialist-egalitarians (to borrow the terminology of the French Revolution).

Conservatism cannot specify what aspects of American politics since the founding are relevant at hand to any given issue, and as such is a blunt tool for political analysis. It is imbued with history, both justices and injustices, and as such is an inherently contentious term around which the arguments are boundless, circular, and ever increasing.

While the right assumes that conservatism is equivalent to the eventually triumphant emancipatory doctrines of the founding; the left surveys the entire history of the United States and critically condemns the founding by virtue of the accumulated injustices proceeding henceforth, namely: slavery, the delay of women's suffrage, the "genocide" of "Native Americans," the upshot of "trusts" in the Gilded Age, the Spanish-American War and the colonization of Pacific Islands, and so forth. In other words, the left composes a litany of grievances against the United States as if the recurring moral standard at any given point in history was that of an existential heaven on earth.

Libertarians' championing of the individual should not only be contrasted with conservatism, but with both the American left and right. It should be thought of as directly opposed to "progressivism," which seeks the creation of a collectivist heaven on earth, by whatever means possible. In contemporary American politics, the inegalitarian and authoritarian nature of the progressive movement throws into doubt whether it is a phenomenon of the left or the right, and indeed, its fascist tendencies suggest that it is a "third way." But this is a bit deceiving. Through examining progressivism, we might better understand libertarianism.

Though one of the best ways to think of left and right is as the difference between universalist-democrats and nationalist authoritarians, we can fruitfully think of progressivism as a form of collectivism that displays tendencies of both Left and Right Hegelianism, eventually fusing into one "World Spirit," which will be explained below. Libertarianism can easily be seen as opposed to both forms of collectivism.

To use the peculiar language deriving from Hegel, the left is the Hegelianism of Universality and the right is the Hegelianism of the Particular, if one thinks in in terms of States. Reason, and Absolute Freedom, triumph when the Universal is in the Particular, and the Particular in the Universal. In other words, Reason either triumphs when all men reflect the State, and the State all men, for the Right Hegelians; and for the Left Hegelians, when all men reflect the World Spirit, and the World Spirit reflects all men.

When Hegelianism is fused with Nietzschean ethics, which espouses the "Will to Power," we see the embodiment of Hegel's "Great Man of History" theory, which is very much akin to Marxist -Leninism, and can easily be confused with it. While Hegel cannot explain why the Particular and the Universal harmonize in a "great man" like Napoleon, who is the embodiment of the cusp of historical Idea, and the usher in of new Ages (usually with bloodshed and world trauma), the great man of history is an inspiration, and indeed, a license for narcissistic leaders on both the Left (Lenin, Stalin, Mao) and the Right (like Mussolini, Hitler, in these terms) to seek the implementation of their totalitarian plans without regard for any individual who stands in their way.

A useful book to explore Hegel's ideas is a collection of his lectures entitled, "Reason and History." From the Introduction:
Morality is more a collective than an individual matter for Hegel; , and the great man becomes, if "necessary," an immoral force. Here the modern totalitarians can and do take their departure; libertarians like Mill get nauseated, and Hegel, in so far as he becomes a historic hero himself, for the prophets of Left and Right totalitarianism, the father of immoral deeds (xxxvii).
The libertarian is not sympathetic to either the Left or the Right; whether in the terms of the French Revolution, or in the terms of Hegelian dialectics. The libertarian is not conservative in most senses of the term, for conservatism implies a continuation of the status quo due to the inability of human beings (and by implication, societies) to adjust to radical changes. We can see a ready conflict between Burkean conservatism and the libertarianism of Frederic Bastiat, in this following excerpt from The Law:
It is so much in the nature of law to support justice that in the minds of the masses they are one and the same. There is in all of us a strong disposition to regard what is lawful as legitimate, so much so that many falsely derive all justice from law. It is sufficient, then, for the law to order and sanction plunder, that it may appear to many consciences just and sacred. Slavery, protection, and monopoly find defenders, not only in those who profit by them, but in those who suffer by them. If you suggest a doubt as to the morality of these institutions, it is said directly—“You are a dangerous experimenter, a utopian, a theorist, a despiser of the laws; you would shake the basis upon which society rests.” (8, see PDF).
Libertarianism can thus be seen as radical to the Burkean as well as to the Nationalist conservative, though libertarianism can be seen as overlapping with many of the ideals of the American founding. Yet libertarianism should be seen as independent of History, and as such, cannot be "conservative." The moral standard of life, liberty and property, co-extensive with the Natural Right of the individual to sustain his own life, is synonymous with Justice.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Eric Hoffer on "The True Believer"

From Eric Hoffer's The True Believer via A Conservative Lesbian:

Hoffer explains on p. 138 how the media are able to create the grounds for a fanatical mass movement like Obama’s:
It is easy to see how the faultfinding man of words, by persistent ridicule and denunciation, shakes prevailing beliefs and loyalties, and familiarizes the masses with the idea of change. What is not so obvious is the process by which the discrediting of existing beliefs and institutions makes possible the rise of a new fanatical faith. For it is a remarkable fact that the militant man of words who “sounds the established order to its source to mark its want of authority and justice” often prepares the ground not for a society of freethinking individuals but for a corporate society that cherishes utmost unity and blind faith.
However, while ridicule is Obama’s Kryponite, since he is now the prevailing order, Hoffer explains why it does not affect the masses he has inflamed with “hope” for “change” (pp. 138-140):
When we debunk a fanatical faith or prejudice, we do not strike at the root of fanaticism. … The freedom the masses crave is not freedom of self-expression and self-realization, but freedom from the intolerable burden of an autonomous existence. They want freedom from “the fearful burden of free choice.” freedom from the arduous responsibility of realizing their ineffectual selves and shouldering the blame for the blemished product. They do not want freedom of conscience, but faith — blind, authoritarian faith. They sweep away the old order not to create a society of free and independent men, but to establish uniformity, individual anonymity and a new structure of perfect unity. It is not the wickedness of the the old regime they rise against but its weakness; not its oppression, but its failure to hammer them together into one solid, mighty whole. [Continued]
The religious fervor of Christianity in nineteenth-century America fused into the secular faith of socialism during the Progressive Era; as Darwinism and science ate into the edifice of the other-worldly religion, there was a concomitant rise in the intellectual fashion of building a paradise on earth. All things standing in the true believer's way: freedom, the individual, all institutions, traditions, and attachments, must be swept aside if we are to usher in a new dawning of history and an elevation of man's consciousness. So argues the man willing to destroy all, including himself, for the empty promise of hope and change. The Christian and the Marxist do not differ on the matter of their faith in a future utopia; they only differ only on the when and where of it. The why is a deep-seated and unstated refusal to take responsibility for one's life and to see the real world for what it is; the how is a secondary consideration not to be entertained, unless one wants to be branded a reactionary or a heretic.

Prokofiev: Symphony No 1

Religion is Destroying America

America's transformation into a welfare-warfare state in the 20th century is a well-known phenomenon. Much less well-known, and perhaps even more profound, is the gigantic change that took place from roughly the mid-19th century through the early 20th century.

By the middle of the 19th century, the U.S. was probably closer to a libertarian society than mankind had ever got before or has ever been since then, perhaps with the infamous exception of slavery in the South (which is, by the way, characteristic of societies where the boundary between a slave and a freeman is very clear, as opposed to a lack of distinct boundaries in many despotic societies). The education and healthcare systems were largely private, taxes and government spending accounted for less than 10% of GDP, specie-backed bank notes were issued by many privately-owned banks, gun possession was not restricted in any way whatsoever, infrastructure was mostly privately-financed. There were few vice laws. There was neither pre-publication nor post-publication censorship, even for pornography (for comparison, pre-publication censorship, which is the most severe type, existed in most of Europe, while France still retained post-publication censorship, with the only notable exception being the U.K.).

Government was by and large limited to its proper functions - law enforcement and defense. Freedom seemed to reign supreme: free speech, free thought, free banking, free trade and free markets.  

But no sooner did humanity reach the highest point in its development than its fall into the abyss began. From the 1840s on, a tremendous change took place.

The government started financing infrastructure, an embryo of the welfare state emerged as workers' compensation laws and so-called mothers' pensions were enacted, coercive labor legislation was passed, the regulation of utilities and railroads began, the government began subsidizing farmers, customs tariffs were drastically increased, and antitrust laws were passed. Progressive income taxes were introduced by some states since the mid-19th century and by the federal government in 1913. Government control over the monetary system was gradually introduced. In the mid-19th century, the government authorized a system of decentralized quasi-central banking known as "national banks". In 1913 the Federal Reserve was established.

Moreover, immigration was restricted, and gun control came into vogue. Censorship was resurrected first during the Civil War and then during the World War I. Slaves who became free for a brief moment soon became crushed again by compulsory segregation laws. Forced sterilization laws were passed to promote eugenics agenda.

The abomination of public schools spread throughout the United States and more and more states made education compulsory. Government control over education was also increased when the land-grant college system was introduced.

Prostitution and pornography became illegal, drug bans were imposed, prohibition of alcoholic drinks was initiated first by states and then by the federal government, and abortion was banned. At the same time, more and more sexual activities became covered by the absurd sodomy laws.

The paragraph above is evidence for what actually stood behind the statist drive. These restrictions are clearly religiously motivated.

To understand what was going on, one needs to research the cultural atmosphere of that era. The pro-reason Enlightenment had ended long ago, and the Counter-Enlightenment held sway. After being relegated to the periphery in the 18th century, religious mysticism again raised its ugly head.

After the "indecent" and life-affirming Enlightenment era, a revival of 17th-century Puritanism came to the fore in the Victorian era. It's worth mentioning that the word "leg" was deemed improper and it was quite common for a Victorian-era girl to be ashamed of her own body in the bathroom, as contemporary literature suggests.

Enlightenment deism was being forgotten as faith peddlers sold their Third Great Awakening. The progressive movement's agenda was religious through and through, with State and God bullying the believer-citizen into submission and crushing the infidel-enemy of the state under feet.

Religious sentiments and the birth of the modern left were so closely intertwined then that sometimes they are hard to separate. For starters, Marx started off as a Christian communist and a Hegelian and only later became an atheist and materialist (changing his beliefs in name only but not in essence). Dickensesque hysteria over "slums" and "lower classes", calls for spurious "social reform" and false and hypocritical concern for "fallen women" (which led to bans on prostitution) were shared by atheist leftists and Christian social gospel peddlers ("Christian democracy", "Christian socialism", "Catholic social teaching" and that kind of thing). The modern welfare state itself is no more than an outgrowth of Christian almsgiving and tithe-financed poor relief.

At the root of both ideologies is an archaic, uncivilized mentality, aversion to a free, capitalist society where no authorities, religious or secular, prevent the individual from realizing his unlimited potential. Both Christianity and socialism preach a static society based on blind obedience to the will of God or State. Both involve victimizing the poor, the usual target group of all populist tyrants, pandering to their lowly instincts and turning them into a subservient clientele always eager to kill the rich or the "ungodly."

By the early 20th century, however, religious hysteria was wearing thin, while socialism - i.e. a quasi-religion with a false modern façade - was gaining momentum. Now it seems that the reverse is happening, when primitive and barbarous fundamentalism (Christian and Muslim) and environmentalism, which is sloughing the modernist façade characteristic of Marxism, are coming to the fore. If old-style socialism was medieval hogwash wrapped in Enlightenment clothing (that is, allegedly pro-industry and pro-progress), environmentalism is the next step in the process of destroying not only the essence but the symbolism of the Enlightenment. While Marxism still claimed to appeal to rational values, envirofascism no longer does. Quite logically, going back to the primitive superstition of the Dark Ages - i.e. religion - is the next and final step towards the death of civilization.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Libertarianism: What It Is and Is Not

Libertarians are often described to the uninitiated as "fiscally conservative, socially liberal." But that is a deeply misleading characterization. Libertarians are not split in their alignment between the political right and left, between conservatives and progressives, respectively. Libertarians have their own approach to political and economic problems, generally drawing on a well thought-out philosophical system of individual freedom.

Libertarians value individuality, by virtue of humans being born as co-equals into this world. Human beings are not brought into this world in bondage, with necessary obeisance or loyalty to a clan, race, nation, or even a god. Humans, as sentient beings, with rationality capable of engaging and knowing the world, have agency. Thus the ethical standard by which humans should justly relate to one another is not arbitrary; it is not determined by tradition, or by collective decree or license. It is freedom.

As such, libertarians are not "fiscally conservative," because libertarians do not seek to "conserve" the government spending status quo. In general, libertarians wants radical reform of the marketplace to one of government non-intervention and a renewed emphasis on the sanctity of private property rights.

Libertarians are not "socially liberal." Though "liberal" may be a fairly accurate descriptor in classical terms, "liberalism" is often wrongly associated with the political left. The current political left is about as far from "socially liberal" in classical terms as imaginable; and indeed, due to the exposure of the left's hypocrisy in invoking the term "liberal," and the recent popularization of the term as an invective, the left has fled it almost entirely. Nonetheless, the descriptor of libertarianism as "socially liberal" stands in the left's wake.

The American left now describes itself as "progressive." Though there is hardly anything "progressive" about the left's agenda, since the left now hearkens back to a pre-Enlightenment world of statism and mobocracy, the term's allusion to an earlier period in American history is informative. Yet the progressives of that former era tend to be relatively innocent compared to the current "radical progressives," who have imbued cultural Marxism into their cause. It is through the lens of cultural Marxism, or "critical theory," that we can really differentiate libertarians and the political left on social issues.

At its core, critical theory is about the 'critique' of capitalism, and thus American politics and economy. The myriad of guises that critical theory can take range from environmental extremism, to radical feminism, to Afro-centrism - the number of potential causes are limited only by the imagination. We must realize that these causes are not about liberation; they are about turning groups and causes into weapons to be wielded against capitalism and America as we know it.

Thus there is a world of difference between the libertarian, who cares not if homosexuals join together and desire to call it "marriage," nor desire the state to put its stamp of imprimatur on any civil association; and the progressive, who seeks to force the state or churches to recognize such marriage. There is likewise a difference between libertarians, who recognize that men and women are human beings, and as such should be afforded equal individual rights and protections; and progressives, who seek to force the state and businesses to adopt hiring practices such as quotas, and "equal work for equal pay." There is also a difference between libertarians, who seek a truly "colorblind" society, meaning the judgment of individuals according to their personal behavior; and progressives, who seek to continue the grievances of blacks and other "minorities," and grant such arbitrary classes of individuals special privileges and benefits, such as "affirmative action."

It is the libertarian's view that the market punishes the ignorant who discriminate against others on any other basis but on the merits. It should be up to the employer or organization to discriminate as it deems fit; knowing full well that it is its loss for exercising flawed judgment. It is the view of the libertarian that an organization, like an individual, is able to "learn." If it does not, it is naturally punished.

The libertarian believes the individual should have the right to discriminate, with the implicit knowledge that irrational discrimination damages that individual. The radical progressive left, which is wrongly associated with "social liberalism," seeks the obliteration of all forms of discrimination; and as such, the destruction of an economy and society where the behavior of individuals is the sole guide to one's reward or punishment in life. A civilization cannot rest on the slip-shod terrain of irrational archetypes that lead to the decimation of the virtuous for the sake of the unproductive, incompetent, and vain.

In summary, libertarianism is not for those who rest easy with philosophical inconsistency, irrationality, and arbitrary power over the individual. Libertarianism is conservative only to the extent that a predictable legal and political order is necessary for individual freedom. But it cannot be just any order, it must be one of individual rights, protections, and liberty.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reflections on Private Property and the Politics of Economic Freedom

Those who argue that private property is by its very nature a cruel defiance of the public will, and the thwarting of a possible utopia where the fruits of an economy are shared openly and "equally," rarely carry out the implications of their arguments to their logical ends. Some, following Proudhon, have gone so far to argue that property is by its very nature "theft" (though this does not logically follow; one must have the legal institution of property for theft to exist). The historical record that shows that men by nature compete for scarce resources is brushed away by socialists with such lofty statements as the famous Marxist dictum "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." Utopians tend to quite desperately patch up their political theories with the vacuous hope that men can be reprogrammed into altruistic beings who will sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the "common good."

Specious socialistic reasoning persuades so many in this country that it is acceptable for the state to "redistribute the wealth" from the rich to the poor (rather than merely allowing the rich to create productive jobs), not recognizing that one's own security is inherently bound up with the private property rights of rich and poor alike. Once one consents to the state arbitrarily and wantonly plundering the economy for the cause du jour of the masses or the supposed intellectual elites, then one consents to becoming a subject under an increasingly powerful state.

Far from being a legalistic pretense that reinforces a status quo of haves and have-nots, private property is an indispensable institution that undergirds a political system respecting the agency of each individual, and an economy of mutual exchange that rewards the innovative and productive, rather than the amoral and the power-hungry.

When private property is a serious barrier to legalized or illegal theft, with the threat of imprisonment or serious penalty awaiting the violator of it, then prudent considerations dictate that one's own property be attained through moral means. By this I mean, one must exchange one's time, labor, or ideas in kind for what one needs or desires. After all, the products and services in an economy are not created out of thin air (as opposed to the manner currency is created in an economically corrupt one). A healthy respect for the time, labor, and rightfully-gotten property of others, and therefore the life and personhood of others, prompts one to contribute to the economy (and to society through the mutual exchange of needed or wanted goods) through the application of one's labor. Indeed, rationally directed self-improvement in a market benefits mankind because it is intrinsically tied up with one's ability to provide one's fellow men with what they need or want.

The following are a number of reflections on private property that one might benefit from if of the free market orientation, or that one should openly and honestly confront if of the statist bent.

From the Mises Institute, Garet Garrett on Henry Hazlitt's classic Economics in One Lesson:
But if it is intended for those who believe in another way of organizing society they will say, and say rightly, that there is no such thing as an economic system. There is first a political system and then the economics of it. So you may have a totalitarian system and its economics or a system of free private enterprise and the economics for that, or anything in between. Mr. Hazlitt says, in italics,

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

Very good. But you may define economics also as the study of how people produce, exchange and consume wealth; and when you have so defined it you see at once that when, as in a free political system, people feed and clothe and house themselves, provide their own security, pursue their own profit and absorb their own losses, the economic canons will be very different from those of a totalitarian system in which people are fed and clothed and housed and minded in their work and in their play by the omnipotent state. [Continued]
Framing the debate between statists and free marketeers in terms that brings front-and-center the economic ramifications of the political organization of society acknowledges that men are indeed capable of rationally engaging their world. (Marxists, on the other hand, see politics as a a reflection of class inequality and the dialectic of material forces; while neomarxists, following Gramsci, see the economic base as strongly influencing the superstructure of culture).

The free market approach emphasizes that man is responsible for his actions, and is not a pawn of forces beyond his control and understanding. Organizing a political system is a rational and conscious act, and philosophical consistency dictates that man should be allowed to exercise his rationality in freedom, lest civilization collapse under the nihilism that proceeds from a self-effacing mutual dependence.

In another recent article, Mises contributor Mateusz Machaj comments on a relevant work by Hans-Hermann Hoppe:
One of my favorite books, and among the most important for my intellectual development, was Hoppe's A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, which could be labeled "property economics in one lesson," and, in the opinion of the present writer, is as important an introduction to Austrian economics as Hazlitt's classic. After reading Hoppe's book, one understands that political economy and comparative analysis of economic systems are about the external effects of different property regimes.

As Hoppe proves, society and economy are themselves great positive external effects of private property, whereas socialism and interventionism are associated with negative external effects that eventually lead to destruction of society and economy.
Thus we can see the proper organization of an economy and polity for an individual who desires to live in freedom and security from both directions: From the macro-level political organization of free private enterprise, and the concordant economic and societal effects that proceed from that legal-rational structure; and the micro-level unit of private property, which is the guarantor to each individual that the expenditure of his time, labor, and creativity will not be in vain.

As is so often the case in contemporary political debates, the worldviews of the two opposing sides, the statists and the free marketeers, can be reduced to a classic political debate between Hobbes and Locke.

Thomas Hobbes' conclusion from his imagined but roughly accurate depiction of man's life in the state of nature as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" was that security and prosperity demanded a "Leviathan," a dominant state that would protect men from threats in the supposed common interest of the ruler and the ruled. This seems to the self-absorbed intellectual as all well and good, as long as a "philosopher-king" along the lines of Plato's Republic is available to wisely and paternalistically guide his subjects. As too often is the case, due to the self-same qualities of human nature that Hobbes describes, political leadership devolves to an abusive relationship where narcissistic rulers or kleptocratic oligarchies exploit their subjects for their own gain.

Systematic abuse and exploitation by the state of its subjects has demoralizing effects on a polity. Men resort to cheating and a state of mutual insecurity, as property is no real obstacle to prevent theft (of every kind) and to encourage relatively honest and productive economic relations. It becomes easier and in some cases, safer, to wed one's livelihood to the all-powerful state than to strike out on one's own to create and produce something of value (as can only be vouchsafed in a marketplace).

John Locke's vision of men, born as equals, co-existing in mutual security out of rational self-interest, with power invested in a limited state to legally and justly arbiter disputes; and cooperating in a society where each man's rights are protected, and thus each secure in his life and the means to sustain it, provides a powerful answer to those who endorse a state-led polity, whether justified by Marxism, or good old-fashioned elitism.

Following the logic of Locke, the state has a limited set of mandates; this proceeds from the assumption of protecting the rational self-interest of each member of the citizenry, and not punishing the whole from want of virtuous men. The state's mandates are primarily encapsulated by the task of providing security, from threats both foreign and domestic. Surely, protection from theft, whether by popular demand, political caprice, or private rapine, falls under that umbrella. As John Locke wrote:
The preservation of property [is] the reason for which men enter into society”... "government" . . . can never have a power to take to themselves the whole or any part of the subject’s property without their own consent, for this would be in effect to leave them no property at all. (Two Treatises of Government.)
Private property is indispensable to the security of all men in society, and not a barrier to the "common good," as the modern Rousseauian, Marxian, Keynesian or even Deweyan statist would have it. Without private property, men are reduced to a state of social, economic and political domination closely approximating a state of nature.

The following are relevant quotes that support the Lockean position:

"Let us therefore lay down a certain maxim: that whenever the public good happens to be the matter in question, it is not for the advantage of the public to deprive an individual of his property – or even to retrench the least part of it by a law or a political regulation." - Charles Secondat de Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws

“So great moreover is the regard of the law for private property that it will not authorize the least violation of it – no, not even for the general good of the whole community." William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England

“The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence”...“Property is surely a right of mankind as really as liberty.” - John Adams, A Defence of the Constitution of Government of the United States of America

“Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist.” - John Adams, “Discourse on Davila; a Series of Papers on Political History.”

“It is the undoubted right and unalienable privilege of a [citizen] not to be divested or interrupted in the innocent use of . . . property. . . . This is the Cornerstone of every free Constitution.” - John Jay, “A Freeholder: A Hint to the Legislature of the State of New York,” Winter 1778

“Let these truths be indelibly impressed on our minds: (1) that we cannot be happy without being free; (2) that we cannot be free without being secure in our property; (3) that we cannot be secure in our property if without our consent others may as by right take it away.” - John Dickinson, “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the inhabitants of the British Colonies,” Letter XII

Property is an extension of our lives and our right to live it unfettered by the state. When property ceases to exist, or is no more than a trifling formality to theft, then political, economic, and social disintegration commences. Those who would feign to be able to build a more just order on the ashes, one where power is invested in an all-powerful and presumably benevolent state, or in a roving mob that is constrained only by its whims, is either hopelessly ignorant of history and political philosophy, or is so disingenuous as to be purposefully misleading the public into civilizational decline with more than a middling chance of political hell. Those preparing to adorn themselves with the crowns of political philosophers in the statist-dominated paradise of their imaginations are likewise deluding themselves of their pretended roles in the future state; the wild-eyed extremists who pave the path to totalitarianism are ironically, and perhaps justly, often the first to be exiled or executed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Keynes vs. Hayek: That's a Rap

Obama Most Polarizing American President in Modern History

From Gallup:

PRINCETON, NJ -- The 65 percentage-point gap between Democrats' (88%) and Republicans' (23%) average job approval ratings for Barack Obama is easily the largest for any president in his first year in office, greatly exceeding the prior high of 52 points for Bill Clinton.

Overall, Obama averaged 57% job approval among all Americans from his inauguration to the end of his first full year on Jan. 19. He came into office seeking to unite the country, and his initial approval ratings ranked among the best for post-World War II presidents, including an average of 41% approval from Republicans in his first week in office. But he quickly lost most of his Republican support, with his approval rating among Republicans dropping below 30% in mid-February and below 20% in August. Throughout the year, his approval rating among Democrats exceeded 80%, and it showed little decline even as his overall approval rating fell from the mid-60s to roughly 50%. [Continued]

Hope. Change. Bi-partisanship. Transparency. All empty vessels dashed on the jagged rocks of political reality. We are the United States of America, Mr. Barack Hussein Obama aka Barry Soetero, and it is about time you get that fact through your narcissistic head. Americans may not be the brightest lightbulbs in the bunch, but once they get the whiff of socialist tyranny, they will turn on you in a flash.

Communist News Network: 70% Glad Dems No Longer Have Iron Fist in Senate

Many believed that the election of Barack Obama meant a stamp of approval on a left-wing program of nationalizing as much of the economy as possible, spending money like power-drunk Democrats, and going on an all-out "charm offensive" on America's enemies. One year in, 7 out of 10 are breathing a sigh of relief that there is at least a semblance of a firewall in the Senate to prevent the ongoing statist nightmare. CNN reports a survey that is going to be really difficult for progressives to spin.

Washington (CNN) - Americans are divided on whether Democratic control of Congress is good for the country, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday also indicates that 7 in 10 Americans believe that the Democrats' loss of their 60 seat supermajority in the Senate is a positive move for the country.

Forty-five percent of people questioned in the poll said Democratic control of Congress is a good thing, with 48 percent disagreeing. The margin is within the survey's sampling error. But the results are a shift from last June, when 50 percent felt that Democratic control of both chambers of Congress was good and 41 percent felt it was bad for the country. [Continued]

This is hardly a go-ahead for clueless Republicans, who seem to think anyone who favors Constitutionally authorized government and fiscal accountability (meaning no corporate welfare) is a right-wing "extremist." But add it to the growing list of signs that most Americans (approximately 6 out of 10) are rejecting big government solutions for every problem that ails America.

Public Priorities for 2010: Global Warming Ranks Dead Last

Looks like the truth has finally got its pants on and has caught up to the "big lie" of manmade global warming. From Pew Research Center:

"As Barack Obama begins his second year in office, the public’s priorities for the president and Congress remain much as they were one year ago. Strengthening the nation’s economy and improving the job situation continue to top the list. And, in the wake of the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, defending the country from future terrorist attacks also remains a top priority.

At the same time, the public has shifted the emphasis it assigns to two major policy issues: dealing with the nation’s energy problem and reducing the budget deficit. About half (49%) say that dealing with the nation’s energy problem should be a top priority, down from 60% a year ago. At the same time, there has been a modest rise in the percentage saying that reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority, from 53% to 60%." [Continued]

Obama will now go on a "populist" PR campaign of "creating or saving" jobs, but then again, wasn't that the point of the $787 BILLION stimulus bill?

Krauthammer: Will Obama Be a "Mediocre One-Term President"?

Ron Paul Gives "State of the Republic" Address to the Adult's Table

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chris "Tingles" Matthews Slaps Around Alan Grayson on Reconciliation

Chris "Tingles" Matthews brings left-wing ideologue Alan Grayson back down to earth on the possibility of nationalizing one-sixth of the economy through "reconciliation." Matthews may be positioning himself as the left-wing version of Bill O'Reilly. If by some chance he is, I say keep it up. MSNBC needs more heated debate on its network besides who was more awesome: FDR or JFK?

Interestingly enough, I caught a version of this interview on MSNBC Sunday morning (don't ask) and all the references to "NutRoots" were cut out. Well, a leopard can change his spots, but he's still a leopard.

Hatred of Money: the Biblical Root of Socialism

Timothy 6:10 The love of money is the root of all evil

Friday, January 22, 2010

On Feeling Good Over Living Good

The left, driven by rage and jealousy, is now ecstatic about Obama going after banks. Bankers are selfish capitalist fat cats, and they deserve whatever is coming to them, or so goes the leftist meme. But as businesses continue to be extremely reticent to hire, people have to be wondering - just how is Obama going to "stimulate" the economy with more regulations, higher taxes, more handouts to unions, more welfare, more environmental restrictions for industries, more useless and unproductive "green jobs," more nationalization, more economic insanity? The sad answer is - he won't.

The fundamental problem with most people on the left, and more specifically, those on the left whom we might call "non-ideologues," is that they feel solutions to problems, they don't think them. A leftist will label a banker "selfish" or "greedy," when a banker's greed is beside the point. Does the banker provide financial services that investors, depositors, and creditors desire? If so, he will have clients. If not, he won't have clients. It's that simple.

The same goes with businesses. Does a "greedy" businessman provide a good or service that people want at a price they can afford? If the answer is yes, all other things being equal, he will get business. If not, he will go out of business.

So while leftists are obsessed about profits, they hardly seem to mind all those small business owners who go out of business, whose dreams are being crushed by the toxic environment that government interference creates. The U.S. government, under Obama now just as under Bush, rewards those with connections, rather than providing an environment (specifically, protecting private property) that just rewards those with ideas and initiative (see a great show by John Stossel on "Crony Capitalism" for more on this).

The bottom line is that while leftists obsess over such emotional intangibles as "selfishness" and "greed," they miss out on the material and evidential fact that if the rich have more money, there are more jobs and more opportunities. That is because, in a system with sound money (and one cannot have sound money with a central bank controlling the print of fiat currency), the wealth of fat cats and "greedy" businessmen and bankers is a proxy for the overall success of the economy. It shows that there are goods and services that people need or desire being produced, and more specifically mass produced (implying that people need money in their pockets to buy them).

But liberals would rather emotionally lecture us on how evil we are for wanting to get ahead, and would rather interfere with the free exchange of goods and services and ideas, than allow people to pursue their dreams in relative peace without harassment by the government or the confiscation of the fruits of their labor. Third party statists claim that they are here to "help," but always offer an eking out of existence to their clients, rather than an opportunity to work and move up in a business. No one ever got ahead on welfare - so why not just stop taxing businesses and get out of the private sector's way? The thought never occurs to "compassionate" leftists, whose sole reason for existence is to meddle and to claim some vicarious glory in other people's successes. And it must be frustrating as hell when those meddling kind of successes never come.

When one is driven by emotion rather than reason, no amount of evidence for the failure of one's ideas to be successfully implemented in reality is sufficient to persuade one that he is off-base. There is always "next time," another crisis (usually caused by the government) to be taken advantage of to try hare-brained, radical ideas. But such is the sheer existential desperation of the radical left: If it cannot make the world into a utopia, well damn it, it is going to burn the world down trying.

This is a juvenile and disconsolate view of the world that people should reject. While one may never attain public glory (and this is a shame) for inventing some new toy that makes a child happy, or a new kind of plastic that preserves food better than any other, or even less likely, just for bagging someone's groceries with a smile and enthusiasm, the capitalist system is not a "heartless" and "cruel" economic. It is what free-willed individuals make of it.

And perhaps this is where we see the hypocrisy of the left most clearly. While the hard left talks the talk of altruism, few of them walk the walk on a regular basis. That is because one cannot be altruistic and successful unless someone is sponsored by others, through the church, a charity, or through coerced government money. Such altruism damages the economy at large, because it takes capital that could have been put to productive use, and instead, throws it down a pit. Instead of hard times coaxing a lazy individual to work, wherever he can find work (and in an unobstructed market, we can be 95% sure that will) he is coddled. And instead of an individual rendering a good or service in exchange for kind, a good or service is bought up with imaginary money, given to him by the government or by someone else. And even worse, that individual comes back for more ill-gotten money, sometimes because the leftists have ensure that he must, and he and the economy are no better off in the long-run as a result.

Now I ask you, which is more compassionate: A "selfish" capitalism that ensures that a person earns what he takes, or a "compassionate" socialism that subsidizes failure and nearly guarantees a life half-heartedly spent?

Rush Limbaugh is Not Anti-Semitic

Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League has recently launched some baseless attacks at conservative radio-host, and despised agitator of the left, Rush Limbaugh. Foxman's baseless and even idiotic attacks have been rebutted by Norman Podhoretz (Author of "Why are Jews Liberals?") as well as by Michael Ledeen of NRO.

[Note: An excellent source to keep up on Jewish and Israeli matters can be found in a special section on Commentary online.]

The Left Running Out of Canaries

Cartoon of the Day. (Newsbusters)

When Leftists Attack: Stewart Savages Olbermouth

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Special Comment - Keith Olbermann's Name-Calling
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Even Jon Stewart had a hard time satirizing the over-the-top leftist D-bagger Keith Olbermann. Which raises the question: Could Olbermann be the first post-satire leftist?

Note: Hit the box in the lower right-hand corner of the player to go fullscreen.

RedEye Slams MSNBC Election Coverage, Bonus: Hot Chick Discusses Tea Party Activities

Obama's Presidency: The Thrill is Gone

A new poll indicates that "the thrill is gone" out of the Obama presidency:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 25% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -18 (see trends).

Quote of the Day

The modern state is a hybrid of a medieval protection racket and a socialist utopia.

Vladimir Bukovsky

Kiss of Death: Obama To Campaign for Reid

First Obama jetted off to the New Jersey and Virginia Governor's races, then to Massachusetts for Mahtha Coakley, now this:

President Obama will appear with politically embattled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in Las Vegas next month, according to a White House official.

While it is not clear whether the appearance will be overtly political, any appearance by the president in Reid’s home state is likely to be seen as an effort to buck up Reid’s re-election effort.

Now with Chris Dodd out, and Harry Reid on the ropes in Nevada (due partly to an extremely strong tea party movement), we can only hope that Obama considers campaigning for "Shmucky" Chuck Schumer of New York and gives that smug jerk the kiss of death as well. Is there a miracle in store in 2010 that three of the slimiest Democrats in the Senate could be out in the same year? This Obama guy might not be such a bad fellow after all...

Helicopter Ben: Hanging By A Rope Ladder

From ABC Snooze:

Senate Dems Not Sure They Can Get Enough Votes to Reconfirm Bernanke

Amidst the voter anger at Wall Street and Washington, D.C., ABC News has learned that the Senate Democratic leadership isn't sure there are enough votes to re-confirm Ben Bernanke for another term as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Bernanke's term expires on Jan. 31.

The White House did not respond to many requests for comment. (?)

"The American people are disgusted with the greed and recklessness of Wall Street," Sen. Bernie Sanders, [Communist of Vermont], said in an interview with The Associated Press last month. "People are asking, 'Why didn't the Fed intervene at the appropriate time to stop the casino-type activities of large financial companies?'" [I don't know - because investment implies risk?]

Sanders, Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., have all put holds on Bernanke's nomination, requiring 60 votes to proceed to a vote.

Voter anger is of heightened concern to members of Congress given the surprise victory of Sen.-elect Scott Brown, R-Mass., who rode a tide of voter discontent and economic anxiety to an upset victory in a special election earlier this week.

Last month, the Senate Banking Committee voted in favor of Bernanke's nomination by a vote of 16-7, not exactly a reflection of overwhelming positive feelings towards the Fed chair given the fact that he was first appointed in 2006 by President George W. Bush and nominated by President Obama for a second term last August. [The End of Ben?]

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Leftist Strategy of Divide-and-Concur

Many conservatives recognize that leftists use a divide-and-conquer strategy of pitting groups against one another to reconfigure the political landscape as they see fit. What is less fleshed out is how the left stokes group conflict in American society and wields the weapon of "tolerance" and political correctness to bludgeon conservatives into submitting. One might call this ploy a "divide-and-concur" strategy.

In the ideological war in this country, the left engages in tactics of critical theory, which simply put is engaging in unending divisive criticism of America and Americans (specifically, white, male, Christian, middle-class, conservative Americans). The left then wields the weapon of political correctness, which psychologically intimidates those whom the left disagrees with, to wear down its opponents into essentially concurring with their own defeat.

To more effectively accomplish its goals, the left employs "culture" to create the Marxist ocean in which people swim, until conservatives essentially drown through lack of being able to effectively communicate their message. Conservatives, it is thought, will eventually give up in frustration and hopefully convert to the socialist religion. The left's enemies are thus defeated without a real fight.

Throughout this period of conflict, the left is held up as the compassionate "redeemers" of a contentious and heartless political culture. The left believes that after conservatives are sufficiently demoralized, the country will come to a crisis juncture where it will turn hard to the left, which will be empowered to rewrite the social, economic, and political rules as it sees fit. The left burns all conservative bridges leading back behind them.

Many would question how a presumably noble group like the leftists see themselves would ever want to ruin a country by promoting group conflict and crisis. It is the dream of leftists that after a nation destroys itself from within, they can step in and unify it under one banner, transforming it into their totalitarian dream-state. Since Americans are so well-armed, military conquest is nearly ruled out; what America's enemies need is for the nation to defeat itself. This can be accomplished through ideological warfare; specifically, detachment from reality, and voluntary submission of one's independence and freedom to the government.

The ultimate group that leftists imagine is one of completely malleable and docile people, who have no ideals or principles to cling to, and one that the state (and theoretically, a world government) can control through propaganda. After all states are subjugated as such, some even believe that all states will cease to exist, and the state itself will "wither away."

As intoxicating as such a utopian notion is, it is extremely dangerous because it substitutes fantasy for objective reality. Human beings have agency, and the implementation of ideas have real world consequences. There is a difference between idealistically engaging the world, and believing that the world is as malleable as ideas themselves. Since leftists fail to understand or even acknowledge human nature, all of their destructive designs are for nought. They are destroying the nation and Western civilization in vain.

To illustrate how the left promotes group conflict and attempts to engineer this crisis point, the following are a number of opposing groups in American society that leftists have concocted, patronized, or whose animosity they have fueled:

Blacks vs. Whites
Blacks are encouraged to blame whites for their trials and travails. Though slavery was formally dissolved as an institution 150 years ago, and the Civil Rights Act instituted nearly 50 years ago, the left continues to espouse the idea that America is a fundamentally racist nation and nothing ever changes that eternal fact. The election of Barack Obama, even in predominately white states in the Midwest, has done nothing to salve race relations in the eyes of the leftists. That is because the "racism" paradigm is a tactic that the left exploits to foster animosity between Americans, and for leftists to frame themselves as "defenders" of a presumably oppressed minority.

Men vs. Women
Radical feminism arose in the 1970s in the aftermath of the "sexual revolution." The feminist way of looking at history through the prism of the "silent woman" can be legitimate if not taken to extremes. Unfortunately, the hard left, which has clout in many universities and particularly in Women's Studies and Gender Studies departments, has propagated such radical theories that "gender" itself is a narrative and no real differences exist between the two sexes except for genitalia. Biologists, neurophysiologists, and mainstream child development experts contradict this narrative. The effect of radical feminism is an unnecessary antagonism between men and women.

Children vs. Parents
Rebellion against parental authority is glamorized in the culture through film and music. Furthermore, the youth are sexualized at an increasingly earlier age (according to radical theorists like Gyorgy Lukacs, this assaults the core of Christianity and leads to youth rebellion against parents). Children are encouraged to turn against their parents, which is no difficult task to begin with, admittedly. But most surprisingly, children can even be taught to assault their parents with leftist ideas like environmentalism, or even to "spy" on their parents.

The Family vs. The Nanny State
Children are increasingly raised in daycares, which tend to teach extremely elementary Marxist values such as "sharing." "Imagination" and "creativity" is inordinately emphasized in these daycares and kindergartens rather than subjects such as reading, writing, and arithmetic. The education system holds onto these children, effectively, for as long as possible - offering Pell grants and subsidized federal loans to nearly anyone who can enter a university (not a difficult task). The promulgation of perpetual youth leads to soft-minded young adults who are easily manipulated by narratives such as "hope" and "change," who are inclined to rebel against the status quo, and who look to the government as a parent-by-proxy. Why are children more frequently being raised by the state? This is a bit more complex to follow. Through the central bank, a key institution according to Marx's Communist Manifesto, the money supply is steadily devalued, and credit offered artificially easily. The effect is that, in general, two parents need to work at home just to make ends meet and to pay off easily acquired debt.

Heterosexuals vs. Homosexuals
The left has politicized sexual orientation in this country, even to the extent of creating special rules and regulations regarding homosexuals (such as housing and hiring laws, and military recruitment and retention policies). Those who question the normalization of homosexual behavior in America society, even in elementary schools, are cast as "homophobes." Gay marriage becomes a political issue, even as marriage is traditionally a religious issue (it is my view that it is none of the government's business who gets married). Groups such as the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) infiltrate our schools under the premise of keeping them "safe" (see "safe schools czar" Kevin Jennings), ostensibly in order to recruit more gays. Crimes that seem motivated by animus towards gays are labeled "hate crimes," which is very dangerous because it punishes a human being for having certain thoughts, and not for his objectively determined behavior. Sexuality is a private matter that should not be politicized, yet in progressive America, everything is politically charged and conflict becomes a ubiquitous fact of life.

Intellectuals vs. Working Class
One way that purported progressive intellectuals marginalize conservatives and middle America is by defining intelligence as agreement with the Marxist agenda. Marxism holds that "revolutionary consciousness" comes from recognizing that history is defined by "class struggle" between haves and have-nots. Yet the key Marxist element of dialectical materialism implies that men's thinking reflects their material environment. The proletariat, or the oppressed, are the future of world consciousness; this is supposedly because the internal contradictions of capitalism, such as the steady decline of wages towards subsistence, doom the system to collapse. Anyone who does not recognize this narrative as being true, particularly the working class or middle class, or who criticize it too spiritedly, are demonstrating "false consciousness." This is how the left effectively strips their intellectual opposition of agency, leading to anger and frustration among those who oppose them. How the intelligentsia themselves escape the dialectical materialist worldview, especially since many of them are upper middle class, goes unexplained. (I am explaining here how leftist intellectuals think, and not the Democrats who merely follow the progressive leadership without asking too many questions.)

Producers vs. "Parasites"
The welfare state has been around since at least FDR, who implemented dozens of alphabet soup programs and agencies to ameliorate the effects of the Great Depression. Yet when one retraces the history and political thinking behind many social welfare programs, they were: Typically sold as temporary safety nets, and then were never repealed; and were intended to create dependency and reliance on government, and more specifically, on the Democrat Party. The Democrats transformed the justification for government programs and policies from a legal-rational basis to a "compassionate" one. The Democrats then went after profitable businesses, in other words, successful ones, to take from them and give handouts to the less successful in order to grow their political base (why doesn't the left leave businesses alone so that they can hire the poor and cut out the middleman?). The Cloward-Piven strategy arose in the 1960s to grow the welfare programs of LBJ's "Great Society" to such a massive size that they might cause the capitalist economic system to implode. As the deficit from these programs escalates, and the national debt grows, taxes will inevitably increase. Increasing financial burdens foisted on them by the state fosters anger in the producers and pits them against the "parasites," or those who do not need welfare yet continue to take it. Welfare programs are almost never repealed once implemented, since being deprived of "entitlements" is infuriating to those who receive them and can lead to a politician's defeat.

Citizens vs. Illegal Immigrants
Following on the discussion of the welfare state is the problem of illegal immigration. Allowing aliens to enter the country without going through the proper immigration process is a sign of disrespect for the country's rule of law. Providing illegal immigrants with social welfare and benefits without them having to earn them or pay for them angers American taxpayers. In addition, the left's narratives of "diversity" and "multiculturalism" runs cover for illegal immigrants, who often gain concessions from schools and other government agencies, such as foreign language teaching. The sum effect of opening the U.S. to illegal aliens without making them going through the immigration process is a guarantee that tens of millions enter American society without any appreciation for the political, cultural, and social norms that the country is founded on. This leads to cultural weakening and political decay. Furthermore, illegal aliens take what used to be well-paying jobs from Americans, and they also depress wages. When the economy downturns (and the actions of the Federal Reserve guarantee that those downturns tend to be severe and protracted), extreme hostility between citizens and illegal immigrants is likely to flare up.

Secularists vs. Christians
The great majority of Americans are self-described Christians, yet they are continually mocked and ridiculed in the mainstream culture. Christians are marginalized in the courts and the schools, even to the point that their free speech and freedom to practice their religion are infringed. Although leftists will bend over backwards to make Muslims feel comfortable any way that they can, Christians are told to keep quiet, "don't dare" pray in public schools, or erect Nativity scenes - even on private property. The result is the Christians feel cornered politically and change their view that government is founded on freedom to one that it can be used as a vehicle for their religion (such as Bush's "compassionate conservatism" and his partnering with Christian charities - bear in mind I am against any government subsidies for non-governmental organizations or businesses). Both progressives and Christians viewing government in such instrumental terms guarantees political strife and misunderstanding between those Christians who seek to legislate their views, those who think that the government should be religiously neutral, and the leftists, who are aggressively anti-religion to the point of imposing on others' freedoms.

"Neoconservatives" vs. Muslims
It is clear in the historical record that the overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks since the 1960s have been committed by radical Muslims. Yet those Americans who support aggressively defending the United States from radical Muslim terrorists are brandished "neocons," a disparaging term for "neoconservatives." Neoconservatives are those political thinkers who propose using the United States as a vehicle to spread American values in the world, and may be completely different from those who seek a foreign policy of intervention in countries that are likely to prove a serious threat to American security, such as state supporters of radical Muslim terrorism. Muslims are held up as just another victim class of American imperialism, even as it is clear who the aggressors are in the war between America and radical Muslims. Even though the news media continually chide Americans for their supposedly discriminatory views against all Muslims, there have been few, if any, attacks on Muslims in the United States simply for the fact of one being a Muslim. Progressives, many of which ally with the inflammatory Council on Islamic American Relations or CAIR, exploit antagonism in order to paint Christians as reactionary "Islamophobes," and pose as the defenders of Muslims - even if that means risking our nation's security by allowing radical Muslims to escape warranted scrutiny.

"Progressives" vs. "Conservatives"
The narrative of "progressives," who see themselves as inherently more enlightened and advanced than their political adversaries, is that the world of the future is a classless one where conflict is obsolete through the equal distribution of wealth. Those who oppose or criticize this vision are de facto "conservatives" who are hence regressive and mentally inferior. This arrogance on the hard left inevitably leads to condescension and reaction. Yet progressives vary to the extent that they realize that their vision, whether based on the philosophies of Karl Marx or on those of his teacher G.W.F. Hegel (whom many neomarxists follow), is inherently faith-based (and thus does not reflect an "intellectual" position narrowly speaking). Some style that Marxism is "scientific," even despite the many contradictions to Marx's predictions (for example, that a Marxist revolution would first occur in an advanced capitalist state); while others believe that Marxism is simply a useful myth to advance the left's utopian vision.

Environmentalists vs. Polluters
Radical environmentalism really took off in the 1970s, most notably with the consecration of the first "Earth Day" in 1970. Although the conservation movement began during the Progressive Era in American politics, famously with Theodore Roosevelt's creation of national parks and wildlife preserves, conservationism should not be confused with environmentalism. While conservationism is about humans being good stewards of their environments, environmentalism is a paranoiac view of the world that sees mankind as inherently destructive of the environment. As such, radical environmentalism can take on aspects of a religion, making its adherents resistant to rational debate on the merits of actual science. The exposure of the faux science of the environmentalist movement with "Climategate" has shaken the hold of the myth of manmade climate change with the public at large. But radical environmentalists remain as committed as ever, since their movement was never about science to begin with, but about promoting their radical agenda and making huge profits while doing it.

The Individual vs. The Collective
One of the main struggles between the left and right is that of the individual versus the collective. The left poses a mystical "greater good" or "common good" as the justification for many supposedly progressive policies. This implies that the individual must put "the community" first, and himself always second (or not at all). The ethic of altruistic sacrifice is held as the most noble aim of a person's life, and any resistance to the left is criticized as "selfish" (see the writings of Ayn Rand for more on the opposition of altruism and selfishness). This puts the individual who wants to better himself and make a profit in an inherently defensive position. It follows that private property and individual rights are compromised in the interest of "democracy." The result is the atomization of those who seek to be "their own men" and the praising of followers and "joiners" of progressive causes.

Democrats vs. Republicans
America's founding fathers despaired of the possible sabotage of the Constitutional republic due to the rise of political parties. Political parties artificially split the electorate up into blocks since they run on quite ideologically and principally disjointed platforms, essentially forcing Americans to make political preferences according to "best fit" or the choice of "lesser evils." Political parties can greatly polarize a nation, since people are identified with the party they support, whether or not they agree with all the planks of that party's platform. A country strongly dominated by party politics is not conducive to rational public discussion of the issues. Parties are a natural consequence of electoral politics, but since the welfare state is assumed, they are now used as interest groups that loot the public's treasury for particular goals, as politicians do so for specific constituencies. The result is an interlocking democratic political system of "winner takes the spoils"; the Constitution is disregarded as merely a barrier in the way of ransacking the nation and creating political fiefdoms within and outside of government. In many ways, the tea party movement is a centrist movement seeking to end the partisan politics by restoring constitutionally limited government and obviating the strictures of party politics (though practically this involves co-opting the Republican party and putting it in the service of this cause).

"Nationalists" vs. Anti-Americans
Patriots and others supporters of American patriotism are often branded as reactionary nationalists. Yet patriotism is defined as a "love of country" and implies reverence for the institutions, traditions, and ideals that are the foundation of one's country. Nationalists, on the other hand, are seen by the left as inherently dangerous obstructers of the internationalist project; they range from xenophobes and bigots, to Nazis and fascists. This cross-association is the background to the idea that those who love and cherish America are something akin to fascists, though what America stands for and what the Nazis stood for are not adequately differentiated. The burning of the flag, and the caricature of those who support and defend America against its enemies as akin to Hitler is a powerful illustration of the leftists' warped mentality. The anti-war movement will unveil any weapon it can find to suppress what it views as virulent "nationalism"; it will call America colonialist and imperialist, it will fault-find and attack the U.S. military, and it will ridicule anyone who is pro-American by invoking any vulgar epithet it finds effective.

What is needed to counteract the leftists' destructive divide-and-concur strategy is a renewed engagement with philosophy, and particularly, objectivism. Objectivism is a firewall that prevents ideological manipulation because it focuses on the individual, rationality, and an engagement with objective reality. Practically speaking, what is immediately needed is a vigorous defense of America, the family, and the Constitution, including freedom of religion; as well as an exposure of corrupters of the courts, the schools, the universities, the news media, the entertainment industry, and the government. (Andrew Breitbart has the right idea with his group of "Big" websites: Big Hollywood, Big Journalism, and Big Government.)

American conservatives can never rest when looking to defeat the ideological subverters of this nation's founding principles of freedom, liberty, and Constitutionally limited government. Thomas Jefferson had it right more than two hundred years ago when he wrote,"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." We will never have a conflict-free nation; but we can have one where we understand who is cunningly stoking the flames of passion and manipulating people to achieve naive and dangerous ends. This can only happen if we thoroughly know the nature of the enemy, as well as its plans. In a war of ideas, just as in any war, this is fundamental to formulating any effective strategy. We must unify in defense of America, that nation that was birthed in freedom and independence. We must never be intimidated by those who seek to exploit us.