YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

July 9, 2013

Preconditions for “hard liberty”

mammon-euro-dollar1I asked my Facebook friends what were the preconditions for a functioning democratic republic. The most offbeat answer was “peace and quiet.” I can understand that frustration with the constant undeclared warfare between fragments of the American polity. It is difficult to think rationally in the eye of the storm brought about by a strident, loud, and intrusive public culture. It is not only noisy out there, but many of our young cannot tell the difference between “real” and “fake.” Giving up on that distinction would mark the end of the American Idea.

I had promised a blog about democratic republicanism, but changed my focus because I believe that the libertarianism promised by the Founders is on the defensive. So is their rationalist belief in empiricism, checks and balances, separation of powers, and a marketplace of ideas. Through such novel institutions, “the truth will out.” The notion that America is a collection of truth-seeking individuals has been supplanted by collectivist, organic notions of grouplets, group-think, and exaggerated “racial” or “ethnic” differences. Walls have been erected that not even the most skilled rock climbers can surmount: anti-imperialists and postmodernists control teaching in the humanities. (See http://clarespark.com/2013/07/02/groupiness-group-think-and-race/.)  The result? Most of us lack the tools (or the access) to determine who is lying to us, and who is not. Between such doctrines as “the pastness of the past” (i.e., the past is unknowable) and cultural relativism, a.k.a. radical subjectivism, we are left scratching our heads. If they are so lucky as to be able to read Moby-Dick, our young cling to “interdependent” Ishmael, not truth-seeking  and demystifying Captain Ahab.

Not surprisingly, irrationalism has supplanted the rationalism of the 18th century. It helps to remember that vanguard ideas like “hard liberty” are always threatened by traditional elites, who prefer “servile pomp” (quoting Mammon’s speech, Book II, Paradise Lost. I am not claiming that either John Milton or Herman Melville was unambivalent about digging to find the truth.)

[Hunting Captain Ahab, chapter 4: excerpt:]

Ahab’s uncracked militancy has been badly misread; it is Ishmael who deems him a monomaniac, Satanically driven to destroy God and his ship; the same insults were hurled at the abolitionists by proslavery apologists and utopian socialists or land reformers during the 1840s and 1850s. Rather, Moby-Dick relates one big moment in the West’s progress toward intellectual freedom and responsibility: the withdrawal of legitimacy from duplicitous or confusing authority. Just as the narrator Ishmael attacks Ahab in Moby-Dick, the narrator of Milton’s epic Paradise Lost (1667) initially presents Mammon as a gold bug plundering Mother Earth:

There stood a hill not far whose grisly top

Belched fire and rolling smoke; the rest entire

Shone with a glossy scurf, undoubted sign

That in his womb was hid metallic ore,

The work of sulphur. Thither winged with speed

A numerous brigade hastened. As when bands

Of pioneers with spade and pickaxe armed

Forerun the royal camp, to trench a field,

Or cast a rampart. Mammon led them on,

Mammon, the least erected Spirit that fell

From heaven, for even in heaven his looks and thoughts

Were always downward bent, admiring more

The riches of heaven’s pavement, trodden gold,

Then aught divine or holy else enjoyed

In vision beatific: by him first

Men also, and by his suggestion taught,

Ransacked the centre, and with impious hands

Rifled the bowels of their mother earth

For treasures better hid. Soon had his crew

Opened into the hill a spacious wound

And digged out ribs of gold. Let none admire

That riches grow in hell; that soil may best

Deserve the precious bane. (PL, I, 670-692, my emph.)

But during Satan’s council with the fallen angels, Mammon does not jibe with the greedy transgressor of Book I; rather, he demystifies Heaven and withdraws deference from an omnipotent yet darkly angry and inscrutable God. Has Milton turned about?

…how wearisome

Eternity so spent in worship paid

To whom we hate. Let us not then pursue

By force impossible, by leave obtain’d

Unacceptable, though in Heav’n our state

Of splendid vassalage, but rather seek

Our own good from ourselves, and from our own

Live to our selves, though in this vast recess,

Free, and to none accountable, preferring

Hard liberty before the easy yoke

Of servile pomp. Our greatness will appear

Then most conspicuous, when great things of small,

Useful of hurtful, prosperous of adverse

We can create, and in what place so e’er

Thrive under evil, and work ease out of pain

Through labour and endurance. This deep world

Of darkness do we dread? How oft amidst

Thick clouds and dark doth heaven’s all-ruling sire

Choose to reside, His glory unobscured,

And with the majesty of darkness round

Covers his throne; from whence deep thunders roar

Mustering thir rage, and Heav’n resembles hell?

As he our darkness, cannot we his light

Imitate when we please? This desert soil

Wants not her hidden lustre, gems and gold;

Nor want we skill or art, from whence to raise

Magnificence; and what can heaven show more?

Our torments also may in length of time

Become our elements, these piercing fires

As soft as now severe, our temper changed

Into their temper; which must needs remove

The sensible of pain. All things invite

To peaceful counsels, and the settled state

Of order, how in safety best we may

Compose our present evils, with regard

Of what we are and were, dismissing quite

All thoughts of war: ye have what I advise.[i] (PL, II, 247-283, my emph.)

Seventeenth-century readers would have understood Mammon’s mining as the insatiable curiosity of materialists; in the twentieth century, some influential anticapitalists claimed mining as a defining ingredient of the hated capitalist system.[ii] In his own eloquent voice, Mammon’s productivity was lustrous with moral effort and simplicity; “gems and gold” could signify radical enlightenment, for magnificent display had been tarnished as “servile pomp.” Mammon urges the rebel angels to abandon Satan’s war against God, to create a paradise on earth won by labor and endurance. Like Milton’s Mammon, the radical puritan Ahab has chosen hard liberty: if necessary, the artist will stand alone against evil emanating from Leviathan (the State) or an irrationally punitive God himself, but with his sturdy (Providential) God-given conscience intact. Mammon’s freedom does not lead to anarchy or chaos: the golden reward is self-respect. [End, book excerpt]

In order to respect oneself, there has to be a (relatively autonomous, striving) self. Too much of our current political culture has abandoned the very notion of the individual. It is not too late to take it back. (For a related blog see http://clarespark.com/2009/09/23/progressives-and-the-teaching-of-american-literature/. The “intolerable national egotism” is declared off limits to the moderate men. Also for more demonic characters in contemporary culture see http://clarespark.com/2011/05/20/the-mentalist-melville-blake-and-israel/. This links Ahab, Bruno Heller, Patrick Jane, and Bobby Goren. For more on the suppression of primary source materials during the Melville revival, see http://clarespark.com/2010/06/10/herman-melville-dead-white-male/.)

Mammon

NOTES.


[i] 30. Melville owned John Martin’s print of Satan Presiding At The Infernal Council (the setting for Mammon’s speech). Mammon has described the “peace and prosperity” that Henry Murray would accurately associate with the promises of “Communism” (not capitalism!), contrasting communism with militaristic, power-mad fascism in his 1943 report on Hitler’s psyche. Milton’s ambivalence is explored in Christopher Hill, Milton and the English Revolution (New York: Viking, 1977), but without discussion of Mammon’s speech. For a nineteenth-century reading, see David Masson, The Three Devils: Luther’s Milton’s and Goethe’s (London: Macmillan, 1874), 26-27. Masson revealingly distorts the text: “…some of the Angels appear to have been ruminating the possibility of retrieving their former condition by patient enduring…Mammon was for organizing their new kingdom so as to make it as comfortable as possible.”Cf. Carolyn Merchant’s use of Milton’s Mammon as arch-destroyer of the earth in The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution (New York: Harper and Row paperback, 1983), 39. The “radical subjectivity” that stems from the fortunate fall has been seen as the beginning of “the power of positive thinking,” or “bourgeois order”; see Herman Rapaport, “Paradise Lost and the Novel,” Approaches to Teaching Milton’s Paradise Lost, ed. Galbraith M. Crump (New York: Modern Language Association,1986), 141; Rapaport teaches PL and M-D together; in a richly ambiguous remark he notes Milton’s “satanic leviathan” as an influence on Melville.

 

[ii]31. See W.P. Witcutt, “The Future of Capitalism: A Note on Werner Sombart,” American Review 5 (Oct. 1935): 531-535. Comparing Hilaire Belloc and Sombart, Witcutt wrote (praising Sombart for his “objectivity”), “By Capitalism Sombart, like Belloc, does not mean the régime of private property, as opposed to Socialism. He does not give any formal definition of Capitalism, but indicates certain constituent elements which may be gathered under the following headings. The Capitalist system consists: (1) of a society stratified into possessors of capital, entrepreneurs, and workers, pure and simple, possessing nothing–proletarians; (2) in the intensive utilization of mineral wealth. “The exploitation of riches beneath the earth’s surface and modern Capitalism are at bottom different aspects (natural and social) of one and the same phenomenon” (531-532). Cf. A.J. Penty, “The Centrality of Money and Machinery,” American Review 6 (Nov. 1935): it is the financiers who first destroyed the stability of peasant life and property. The merchants were the “haves,” the peasants the “have-nots” (2-3).

September 14, 2012

Ron Paul: Anarchist-in-Chief

This is a guest blog by Phillip Smyth that logically follows the series of recent blogs of mine that describe, in broad strokes, populist demagoguery and its role in the current campaign for President. (See http://clarespark.com/2012/09/10/index-to-blogs-on-populist-demagoguery/.)  I have been interested for years in the overlap between anarchism of the Left and Right, for both had a strong presence at KPFK-FM in Los Angeles, the local Pacifica Foundation radio station. Perhaps the most salient characteristic of the radio station and Pacifica stations in general, was the overwhelming “rage against the machine”. By this, I refer not only to an aversion to technocratic society and to scientific expertise, but to the very notion of equality before the law. Lawlessness (anti-statism, anti-Americanism, anticapitalism) was the very air we breathed, and that I, as Program Director,  could only weakly resist, given the composition of our programmers and the counter-culture audience.

Phillip Smyth is a journalist and researcher. His work has appeared in The American Spectator, The Daily Caller, Haaretz, Middle East Review of International Affairs, National Review Online, and PJ Media. His essay follows:

“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature. If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to government, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In forming a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” –James Madison, The Federalist No. 51

An Anarchist By Any Other Name

Ron Paul has had a number of titles attached to his name and his campaigns for president; “true conservative”, “libertarian maverick”, and according to the Week Magazine he is a, “self-described ‘strict constitutionalist’”.  Rarely, is the term “anarchist” applied to the ideology and philosophical base of the Paul campaign.

In 2007, Dean Barnett called Paul the “crank-in-chief” and wrote that, “he’s as close to an anarchist as we’re likely to see in presidential politics.” Barnett was correct, actual anarchist philosophy runs deep in the Paul movement. Though, Paul’s anarchists are not just a motley crew of naïve kids wearing black T-shirts with red “circle-A” symbols. Often broadly referred to as anarcho-capitalists, these anarchists are part of a small and radical wing in the libertarian movement and their influence on Ron Paul has been monumental.

Unlike most anarchists of the left, the anarcho-capitalists utilize a number of different methods to win recruits and are willing to accept slowly phasing their radicalism into the mainstream. Just because anarcho-capitalists aren’t lobbing Molotov cocktails into a Banana Republic, that doesn’t mean their views are any less insidious or radical than their more violent leftist cohorts.  This minor yet extremely vocal faction of libertarianism embraces a near pathological hatred of any form of the state, even in the most minimal form; abounding in all varieties of anti-Constitutional, anti-limited government, and anti-conservative manner of thought.

Rothbardian Influences

Enter “Austrian-school” economist Murray Rothbard, founder of modern “anarcho-capitalist” theory. Paul’s connection to anarchy begins with the late Rothbard. Rothbard was no fan of even the most limited government, noting in his book, “The Ethics of Liberty” that there were, “fatal flaws and inconsistencies in the concept of limited, laissez-faire government”.

Paul called Rothbard a “down-to-earth genius” and in an action of hero worship reminiscent of Maoist China or Stalin’s Russia, hung a portrait of Murray Rothbard in his congressional office. Following his 1995 death, Rothbard was described by Ron Paul in an obituary as one of America’s “greatest men”. Paul recounted that, “[Rothbard] told me he enjoyed meeting a Congressman who had not only read his books, but used them as a guide in his votes and legislation … he urged me to run for office again … he said, our side [my emphasis] needs an uncompromising anti-statist voice in Washington, D.C.” By “anti-statist”, Rothbard meant the term to convey complete sense of an anarchist.

In keeping with the anarchist narrative, traditional and extremely influential conservative economists have been written-out by the Rothbard-influenced Paul. The Economist wrote that Milton Friedman was “a revered figure in right-of-centre circles”—Not so for Ron Paul. Frum Forum’s J.D. Hamel took issue with Paul’s removal of Milton Friedman from Paul’s new narrative of conservatism, in favor of the anarcho-capitalist views of the marginal Murray Rothbard. For Paul, Rothbard is to his ideology, what Mao is to Maoism.

Penetrating the Fringe

Rothbard’s methods for achieving his “libertarian” anarchist utopia were broadly outlined in one confidential memo, where he praised Leninist methods of spreading their ideals. Rothbard wrote: “[w]e are, in this sense, revolutionaries–for we are offering the public a radical change in their doctrinal views…Our objective is, of course, to advance our principles—to spread libertarian-individualist [anarchist] thought (from now on to be called “libertarian” for short) among the people and to spread its policies in the political arena.” (P.20)

Rothbard continued, saying that a hardcore of anarchists needed to be groomed and infiltrated into slightly similar groups: “For one of the reasons behind the idea of ‘infiltration’ is that we can probably never hope to have everyone a hardcore man, just as we can never hope to have everyone an intellectual. Since the hard core will always be relatively small, its influence must be maximized by giving it ‘leverage’ through allied, less libertarian ‘united fronts’ with less libertarian thinkers and doers.”

Thus, Rothbard was making an argument similar to the proverbial, “Throwing as much muck against the wall to see what sticks”. This method was combined with infiltration of quasi-like-minded groups. Whatever stuck could be used by the vanguards of anarcho-capitalism in an effort to further their ideology—Slowly changing the ideological make-up of the groups they had influenced. In an effort to spread the anarcho-capitalist gospel, Rothbard also endorsed and supported a litany of candidates. For Rothbardians, pragmatism is a primary tactic to push their brand of radicalism.

In July 1992, Rothbard, the founding father of anarcho-capitalism endorsed George H.W. Bush. Ron Paul’s official blogger, Jack Hunter wrote, “does anyone think that because Murray Rothbard endorsed President George H.W. Bush in ’92, that everything else Rothbard stood for, wrote and believed simply evaporated? Does anyone think Rothbard endorsing Bush represents the be-all-end-all of his political legacy?” And Rothbard did not.

Rothbard and Paul have also reached out to white supremacists, who needless to say, are hardly libertarian.  Earlier in January 1992, Rothbard backed white-supremacist, neo-Nazi, and anti-Semite, David Duke. Duke ran as a Republican for governor of Louisiana in 1991, leading to President George H.W. Bush to say he would vote for the Democratic candidate. When Duke tried to run for president on the Republican ticket in 1992, party officials tried to block him out. Rothbard claimed his backing of Duke rattled “the Establishment” and that “Right wing populism” should be supported:  “for the entire Establishment”, said Rothbard, “the ruling elite, was at stake, and in that sort of battle, all supposedly clashing wings of the Establishment weld together as one unit and fight with any weapons that might be at hand… [T]he proper strategy of libertarians and paleos [paleoconservatives] is a strategy of ‘right-wing populism,’ that is: to expose and denounce this unholy alliance, and to call for getting this preppie-underclass-liberal media alliance off the backs of the rest of us: the middle and working classes.”

As with David Duke, Paul and the anarcho-capitalists continued to back fringe players and establish more links. As an extension of Rothbard’s support for “Right wing populists”, Paul also did work for Pat Buchanan. In 1992 he served as the chairman for Buchanan’s Economic Advisory Committee. Buchanan is/was well-known for his anti-Semitic views. William F. Buckley addressed Buchanan’s anti-Jewish demagoguery in a seminal essay (which later became a book) in 1991.

Salon’s Steve Kornacki mentioned the Buchanan-Paul connection: “When Buchanan ran in ’92, he embraced a Paul-like platform — vehemently anti-tax and heavy on warnings about unsustainable empire and encroaching world government — although the two men differed (and continue to differ) in some policy areas. ‘It was the ‘Come home, America,’ message,’ Buchanan recalled in an interview this week. ‘George McGovern was out there saying it in 1972, but it was the right thing to do in ’92.’”

The connection to the white-supremacist fringe has been a constant in Ron Paul’s clique. In fact, a major split in libertarianism—One which led to the Cato Institute to disassociate itself from Paul—was caused due to Paul and his supporters courting of white nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations. Speaking to the New York Times, the founder of the Cato Institute said, “It was just something that we found abhorrent, and so there was a huge divide”.

Paul’s infamous newsletters were replete with praise for David Duke, placed blame for the 1993 Islamist bombing of the World Trade Center on Israel, and racist statements about blacks. Additionally, some Paul associates told the Washington Post that Paul actively signed off on the documents. Paul also took donations from white supremacists and was unwilling to reject the money. While Ron Paul attempted to publically distance himself from appearing to kowtow to white-supremacist interests, it was later revealed that his connections to these types ran deep.  In February, 2012, the hacker-group Anonymous released E-mails showing extensive connections between the white-nationalist American Third Position and Paul’s campaign.

Paul’s connection to the Constitution Party (CP), a firmly paleoconservative entity, is another vestige of Rothbard’s “Right Wing Populism” path (note: the CP absorbed the segregationist American Independent Party).  After Paul dropped out of his 2008 race for the Republican Party’s nomination, he endorsed Chuck Baldwin, who became the CP’s 2008 Presidential candidate.  Baldwin, a New World Order conspiracy-theory promoter, was also a former staffer for Ron Paul, and had originally endorsed Paul in 2007.

When held up to Nazi-types, Paul’s connections to the Libertarian Party (LP), and general definition as a “Libertarian” stand in stark contrast. Paul was the 1988 LP candidate for president and still maintains a very loyal following inside the party. After the 2012 Republican National Convention, Paul’s supporters, ignoring the fact that the LP had already held their convention, selected Gary Johnson as their nominee, and that such a move would go against the bylaws, attempted to get the LP to make Paul their presidential or vice presidential candidate . When asked about Johnson’s campaign, Paul stated he, “can’t imagine endorsing anyone else.” Though, Paul’s campaign staff later announced that he, “[W]ill not endorse Gary Johnson”.

Paul has also reached out to the conspiracists at the John Birch Society (JBS), maintaining close links to the group. In 2011, Paul spoke at the 50th Anniversary for the JBS and also appeared in a 1990 JBS “documentary” about a UN plot to take over the U.S.

Beyond the paleoconservative, racist, and right-wing conspiratorial, Paul has reached out to other third parties. In 2008, Paul called together Cynthia Mckinney, Ralph Nader, and Chuck Baldwin to issue statements critical of the two-party system. Paul had the trio agree to a neo-isolationist foreign policy, a push to audit the Federal Reserve, and a number of other widely held views Paul had been pushing for years. It is important to note that McKinney and Nader can hardly be described as conservative—Both espoused far-left ideologies.

Infiltration of the G.O.P.

The theme of infiltrating and transforming the Republican Party was a regular occurrence with Ron Paul’s campaign and among his supporters. Before ceasing his 2012 run for president, Paul held a rally in Florida announcing, “We are the future [of the Republican Party]”.  Paul’s attempt to become the GOP’s nominee shined a light on how deeply his members had burrowed into the Republican apparatus and how they felt their convictions needed to become those of the big-tent Republican Party.

Take the case of Virginia state Republican delegates who were slated to vote during the Republican National Convention. Many of those delegates were Ron Paul supporters and refused to vote for Mitt Romney despite Paul’s clear loss, state party rules, and a pledge they signed.  Adam Cassandra, Chairman of the Fauquier County (Virginia) Republicans rejected the Paul-supporters underhanded disavowal of the rules, stating they, “did a disservice to the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) and have betrayed the members of their districts who elected them.” For diehard Paul supporters, their leader’s ideology was more important than an electorate or the rules.

Paul supporters didn’t stop there when it came to promoting their particular candidate. Three Ron Paul-backing Republican electors for the Electoral College (the body which states send to Washington, D.C. in order to formally elect the President and Vice President) announced they would refuse to vote for Romney, even if he won the states they represent. On September 14, 2012 one Paul supporting elector resigned her position in protest. The Associated Press (AP) noted, “The defection of multiple electors would be unprecedented in the last 116 years of U.S. politics.” The AP added, “In Nevada, for example, Paul’s forces seized control of the state convention and won a majority of delegates. They also placed four Paul supporters among the state’s six electors.”

Bedecked In Confederate Grey

Another unusual connection for Paul and the anarcho-capitalists has been their links to neo-Confederates. Neo-Confederates often push apologetics for the short-lived Confederate States of America (CSA), bash the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, and some have even called for a revival of the CSA. Ron Paul and his ideological cohorts have hardly masked their admiration for the Confederacy. Paul even gave a speech offering revisionist history regarding the Civil War while standing in front of a Confederate battle flag—also mentioning Lysander Spooner (see the “History & Politics From An Anarchist’s Perspective” section below).

If connections to quasi-fascistic entities, racist groups, paleoconservatives, libertarians, and far-leftists was not enough to demonstrate the anarcho-capitalist’s odd alliances, why would a collective of people who identify with the semi-libertarian, individualist-anarchism, back the side which fought for the preservation of slavery? Moreover, would the backing of the CSA not amount to encouraging the formation of another government entity?

For some, the Paul/anarcho-capitalist love of southern secessionism and hatred of Lincoln demonstrated a deep-seeded racism within Paul’s ranks. Of course, this would be logical with the connections Paul shared with numerous racist figures and publication of offensive newsletters. In their report on Ron Paul’s invitation of Thomas DiLorenzo—a neo-Confederate and anarcho-capitalist writer—to testify on Capitol Hill, the Southern Poverty Law Center highlighted DiLorenzo’s publications and his membership in certain organizations to demonstrate his “[E]xtremist connections”. The Daily Kos pinned most criticism on Paul’s, “long history of wacky, racist views.” Writing for The New Republic, James Kirchick assessed that, “Paul’s alliance with neo-Confederates helps explain the views his newsletters have long espoused on race.”

However, the base analysis that racist-links were the main reason for Paul and his fellow ideologues had for embracing the Confederacy, misses the very anarcho-capitalist philosophy Paul has embraced. For the anarcho-capitalist, secessionism is key for the completion of their goals. Hans-Herman Hoppe, an anarcho-capitalist heavyweight, pushed for a second American revolution through secession.   Hoppe notes that the experience of the CSA is a negative example in terms of achieving eventual anarchic goals noting,

“[I]t appears strategically advisable not to attempt again what in 1861 failed so painfully — for contiguous states or even the entire South trying to break away from the tyranny of Washington, D.C. …Rather, a modern liberal-libertarian strategy of secession should take its cues from the European Middle Ages…Europe was characterized by the existence of hundreds of free and independent cities…By choosing this model and striving to create an America punctuated by a large and increasing number of territorially disconnected free cities — a multitude of Hong Kongs, Singapores, Monacos, and Liechtensteins strewn out over the entire continent — two otherwise unattainable but central objectives can be accomplished. First, besides recognizing the fact that the liberal-libertarian potential is distributed highly unevenly across the country, such a strategy of piecemeal withdrawal renders secession less threatening politically, socially, and economically. Second, by pursuing this strategy simultaneously at a great number of locations all over the country, it becomes exceedingly difficult for the central state to create the unified opposition in public opinion to the secessionists that would secure the level of popular support and voluntary cooperation necessary for a successful crackdown.”

Thus, a more positive memory of the CSA would be required in order to establish a historical precedent to encourage further secessionist actions. The ideological thinking behind this process, was that when completed, the smallest entity would be the individual, “self-governing” him or herself—anarchy. Hoppe wasn’t alone in his support for an anarchist future via secessionism. Writing for Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Clifford Thies proclaimed in a 2009 piece entitled, “Secession Is in Our Future”, “[T]here no longer is any pretense of federalism in which domestic policy is left to the states of the Union.”

Murray Rothbard also explained this belief in his piece, “Nations By Consent: Decomposing the Nation State”: “A common response to a world of proliferating nations is to worry about the multitude of trade barriers that might be erected. But, other things being equal, the greater the number of new nations, and the smaller the size of each, the better.” (P.6)

The Ludwig Von Mises Institute, the most prominent anarcho-capitalist think-tank, has its webpage littered with numerous articles both backing the Confederacy and pushing for secessionism. The search-term “Secession” provides 1,430,000 results. Included is a collection of essays, “Secession, State & Liberty”. In a way to obfuscate from the clear pro-slavery of the South during the Civil War, the narrative of abolitionists backing the Confederacy is promoted.

In this clip we see Ron Paul backing the right of secession (linked to the Wilsonian idea of “self-determination”): http://youtu.be/2_NP7ikl7Ps

“True” Constitutionalists

Rothbard’s anarchism also extended to his trashing of the Constitution, stating it “has been a hollow shell and mockery for many decades.” In another piece, where Rothbard came out in support of the “direct democracy” the Founding Fathers abhorred, he described the Constitution as “quaint and obsolete”.  Despite Rothbard’s 1995 death, his microscopic movement did not end. The anarchic ideological base he helped create is the core of many Paul-affiliated groups. This core mainly finds its intellectual home among those of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Ron Paul’s chief of staff from 1978-1982, editor (and possible author) of the racist Ron Paul newsletters, and maintainer of the eclectic LewRockwell.com, Llewellyn “Lew” Rockwell, has been called a close friend and has served as an adviser to Ron Paul for decades. It should come as no surprise that Rockwell is an avid supporter of Paul’s bid for the presidency. This is despite the fact that this proud anarchist once penned:

 “[t]he presidency must be destroyed. It is the primary evil we face, and the cause of nearly all our woes… The presidency — by which I mean the executive state — is the sum total of American tyranny. The other branches of government… are mere adjuncts.”

During his twenty minute speech at the 2008 Ron Paul sponsored “Rally For the Republic”, Rockwell stated, “there comes a time in the life in every believer in freedom when he must declare without any hesitation to have no attachment to the idea of conservatism”.

Paul can claim many appearances on Rockwell’s radio show and his innumerable amount of articles on Rockwell’s website. In addition to being an anarchist, Rockwell is an anti-Constitutionalist.  He once noted in a piece praising fellow anarchist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “what was the effect of the Constitution? To restrain government? No. It was precisely the opposite”. Statements such as this are nothing new in the Paul campaign; they’ve just been overlooked or obscured in the interconnected web of Paul supporting websites and articles.

In the view of mass media, Paul shrugged off his anarchist supporters. During a 2007 ABC News interview, the then 2008 presidential candidate indicated that his, “typical supporter is non-descriptive…I liked to kid that we get a few anarchists that come to our rallies”. Nevertheless, around his diehard clique, Paul allowed his true base-anarchistic ideals to be known. In a 2009 interview with the anarcho-capitalist/libertarian Motorhome Diaries, Paul was asked by an interviewer, “I know you stand for the Constitution, but what do you say to people who stand for self-government [another term for individualist-anarchism] rather than a return to the Constitution?” Paul followed-up with, “I think that’s really what my goal is…If you have a government, they will want us all to be socialistic.” Ron Paul has also described himself on Russia Today’s pro-Paul “Adam vs. the Man” program as a voluntaryist. “One of the most significant signs to the Anarchist is the steady growth of the principle of voluntaryism” noted the early 20th century anarchist publication, Free Society. To the voluntraryist, taxes, voting, laws, and even the Constitution aren’t voluntary because individuals didn’t agree to them.

Pushing the Agenda

There have been a number of spinoff groups created via Paul’s largess. One of these groups includes a youth-wing called the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), formerly known as Students for Ron Paul.  Additionally, the Campaign for Liberty (often referred to as C4L) was also founded in the wake of Paul’s 2008 run for president.

Anthony Gregory, a noted anarchist from the Independent Institute serves as the Editor-in-Chief for the C4L. The C4L claims that neither major political party, “treats the Constitution with anything but contempt”. However, the C4L’s hypocrisy regarding the Constitution is evident by the featuring of articles and speeches from anti-Constitutionalist anarchists such as Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Gary North. and wrote that the Constitution, “rather than being a legitimate source of pride” was instead a, “a fateful error”.  North claimed in his book, that the framers of the Constitution were simply out to centralize government and take power from the people, noting, “what they did was illegal”.

The YAL claims in their mission statement, they “welcome limited government conservatives, classical liberals, and libertarians.” Yet they also concede their anarchic ideological purpose by stating in the same document that, “government is the negation of liberty”. Taking this statement to its logical extreme automatically opens the door for anarchist thought.

Despite the claim of being a conservative open-tent, the YAL is full of pro-anarchist commentary critical of the Constitution. Instead of being a haven for conservatism, classical liberalism, or even limited-government libertarians, YAL hosted speakers such as anarchist economist Robert Murphy and Thomas E. Woods, a neo-Confederate and anarcho-capitalist from the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Woods authored a June 15 article on Rockwell’s site entitled, “Why Even An Anarchist Should Vote for Ron Paul”. In the YAL official magazine, the Young American Revolution, anarchists such as David Gordon find space for their views. In one article anarcho-capitalist Walter Block is referred to as a “titan of the freedom movement”. Matt Cockreill, the host of the official YAL internet based radio show, the “Matt Cockerill Show”, has stated that, “the only practical libertarian system—is anarcho-capitalism.” The vast majority of the figures the show has played host to are fellow anarchists including, Walter Block, David Henderson, Stephan Kinsella, Mary Ruwart, Justin Raimando, and even the ultra-leftist anarchist Noam Chomsky. Chomsky was described in the show as a, “world renowned academic and social activist”.

Ironically, in 2009 the YAL claimed that Constitution Day was our largest national event to date!” In October of that same year the YAL interviewed (and continues to laud) Stephan Kinsella, the same man who asked people to dawn black armbands for Constitution Day and proclaimed “Down with the Constitution.”

There’s also an almost never ending stream of pro-anarchy posts found on the official YAL blog. Even Bonnie Kristian, a self-proclaimed minarchist and YAL communications director, “also identif[ies] with Christian anarchy.”

History & Politics From An Anarchist’s Perspective

In Paul’s books, The Case for Gold: A minority report of the U.S. Gold Commission, Liberty Defined, Freedom Under Siege, and even on Fox News he has paid homage to a little known 19th century abolitionist, anarchist, and member of the Karl Marx led First International, Lysander Spooner. One of Spooner’s most famous writings was entitled “No Treason” where he attempted to make the case (in a post-Civil War environment) that Confederate soldiers had not committed treason. Like modern-day anarchists Spooner didn’t just disregard the Constitution, he threw it away. Spooner wrote that, “The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation … And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago.”

In Liberty Defined, Paul writes that Lysander Spooner’s argument (interestingly quoting from the Mises Institute’s compilation on Spooner, Let’s Abolish Government) about the nullity of the Constitution as, “an interesting argument, but it’s not likely to make much headway at this stage in our history. Enforcing the Tenth Amendment is a big enough challenge to us now.” For a so-called Constitutionalist to write positively and bestow legitimacy on such an argument’s goals is rather odd. It’s not hard to interpret Paul’s implication he accepts Spooner’s arguments and is instead arguing for a more incremental approach to an anarcho-capitalist Shangri-La.

Conclusion: Sly Indoctrination

John Samples of the Cato Institute told the Houston Chronicle that, “In his two presidential campaigns, Ron Paul ran to educate”. This new education is attempting to alter the meaning for traditional terms such as “libertarian”, “conservative”, “liberty”, and “constitutionalist”.    If “education” is the goal and the lessons potential new conservatives and libertarians are receiving is actually one in anarchism. That outcome doesn’t look positive.  While it is [highly] unlikely that the Rothbardian utopia will be reached, its legitimization by mixing it with classical concepts in American governance and conservative philosophy will result in more misinformed, highly ideological followers, whom have no concept of the “ordered liberty” of the Founders, extol radical anti-state values, and praise nihilistic concepts of amorphous liberty.  It may be hard to contemplate that a septuagenarian with a Texas drawl might be a chameleon launching a radical crusade, but it is imperative for mainstream libertarians and the broader conservative movement to put Paul with other anarchists: In a distant dustbin of history. [Clare: for a video demonstrating the confusion of a Paulbot who thinks that Tom Morello sponsors his faction, see http://www.dailypaul.com/213503/tom-morello-gives-ron-paul-a-thumbs-up-video. I find this video alarming.]

Paul, Browne, Rothbard

April 26, 2012

Responding to neo-isolationists

Illustrated: Theo Van Gogh, assassinated filmmaker, as seen in Amsterdam Museum slide show

What follows is a guest blog by Phillip Smyth,  journalist and researcher. His work has appeared in The American Spectator, The Daily Caller, Haaretz, Middle East Review of International Affairs, and PJ Media.

Phillip Smyth

Lately, the terms “noninterventionism” and “isolationism” have been thrown around like a baby seal between two rambunctious orcas. The roots of these two terms finding their way back into American political discourse have much to do with the rise and spread of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and his quasi-libertarian ideology.

Often, Paul’s foreign policy is termed “noninterventionism”— A policy that encourages free trade but also encourages the U.S. to abandon military engagements, bases, and engage in a policy of noninterference with any foreign state’s affairs.

However, noninterventionism is little more than a rehashing of isolationist principles. Instead of the promised prosperity and peace, the policy would result in little more than further problems for the United States.

Over a small period of time, I’ve noticed that those followers of what could be termed, neo-isolationism have developed a number of arguments defending their views. They range from the benefits of their strategy for trade, reasons why their ideological belief is not isolationism, attempts to connect “noninterventionism” with America’s founding fathers, together with a revisionist view, supportive of neo-isolationism when dealing with enemies we face today. It’s my hope that through this writing some of these neo-isolationist’s myths will be dispelled.

Isolationism By Any Other Name

Noninterventionism actually finds its roots in libertarian ideology—Namely the work of John Stuart Mill and latter day anarchists operating under the banner of libertarianism–called anarcho-capitalists. Far from being, in the words of Ron Paul, “The Original American Foreign Policy”, this form of isolationism was simply an anarcho-capitalist ideological concept rebranded as “noninterventionism”.

Serving as the ideological godfather for anarcho-capitalist thought, Murray Rothbard was–even before Ron Paul stood on the political stage–an ardent advocate for isolationism. In terms of influence, Rothbard was the most important element in developing the contemporary push for isolationism-as-noninterventionism in the United States.

Rothbard’s influence was particularly heavy on Ron Paul and the set of ideologues that would later come to push neo-isolationism. Rothbard described Paul as, “that rare American, and still rarer politician, who deeply understands and battles for the principles of liberty.” In an obituary Paul wrote for the late Rothbard, Paul felt that, “With his death, all who cherish individual rights and oppose the welfare -warfare state, are  the  poorer…one of the most fascinating human beings I’ve ever met…[A] down-to-earth genius.”

Even today, Paul is proud of his protégé status vis a vis Rothard; hanging  Rothbard’s photograph on his congressional office’s wall and posting quotes from him on his official congressional website.

In 1959 Rothbard wrote an unpublished piece for the National Review entitled, “For A New Isolationism”. In the piece Rothbard proudly proclaims the need for the United States to re-adopt isolationism (especially in military and foreign affairs) but still trade with friend and foe alike:

The basis of all trade is benefit to both parties. There is no need for the traders to like each other for each to gain by the trade. There is no reason, therefore, why the Communists, even if in charge of most of the world, would not be willing to trade with us, just as they are willing and eager to trade now.

Rothbard expanded on this further in a 1973 interview:

“[Isolationism is] [i]n other words, complete abstinence from any kind of American military intervention and political and economic intervention… abstinence from government intervention. It was the idea of isolationism. The sneer against isolationism always was that isolationists were parochial, narrow-minded characters who don’t know that there is a world out there and want to hide their heads in the sand. In fact it’s the opposite – the true principle of isolationism is that the government should be isolated, the government should do nothing abroad and people who trade, interchange, and engage in voluntary travel, migration, and so forth should be allowed to peacefully do so. The idea is to isolate the government, not to isolate the country.

By the early 1980s, Rothbard started placing isolationism in quotes and instead utilized the term “noninterventionism”. Even Rothbard’s wiki-entry for the Ludwig von Mises Institute (the primary think-tank for anarcho-capitalists) sidelines his fervent isolationism, placing it under the header of “noninterventionism”. This tactic was followed up by a number of articles by his ideological allies attempting to disassociate isolationism from noninterventionism. Nevertheless, despite the change of terminology, the main ideas originally set forth by Rothbard were retained.

In essence, Rothbardian isolationism is the same exact policy Ron Paul and other so-called “noninterventionists” propose; A policy of “free trade with all” but sans any form of foreign engagement. Paul states:

Noninterventionism is not isolationism. Nonintervention simply means America does not interfere militarily, financially, or covertly in the internal affairs of other nations. It does not mean that we isolate ourselves; on the contrary, our founders advocated open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy with other nations.”

The Founder’s Interventionism

For many neo-isolationists, they believe that America must “return” to a “noninterventionist” foreign policy. Only then will the United States be free from attack, confusing overseas engagements, and see a new prosperity.

Yet, this belief is predicated on a mistaken belief that America’s founding fathers only practiced this foreign policy. Normally, these assertions are backed-up by cherry-picked quotations by the founders.  Perennial favorites include a line from George Washington’s farewell address, “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world” and another line from Thomas Jefferson’s 1801 inaugural, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none.”

Writing for The Future of Freedom Foundation, neo-isolationist Gregory Bresiger noted when, “Thomas Jefferson, took office in 1801, he, too, paid homage to Washington’s foreign-policy advice. Jefferson, despite his differences with the Federalists, promised no ‘entangling alliances.’ Isolationism, or non-interventionism, was, for a short time, the established policy of the United States.”

However, Bresiger’s view, along with those of his ideological allies, is largely a myth.

George Washington was hardly a noninterventionist. During the Revolution, Washington and the Continental Congress attempted to incorporate Canada into the United States. When French Canadians didn’t respond to congressional invitations to join the thirteen colonies, Washington opted to militarily conquer the entity.[1]

As president, speaking to his understanding of protecting what were considered American interests (e.g. fear of wide scale slave revolts in the United States), Washington “advanced France $726 million in debt payments and sold arms to the planters” in the French colony of Saint Dominigue (Haiti) in 1791.  Both Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton supported the decision to “interfere” in what many a neo-isolationist would consider a French problem.

In 1823, Founding father James Monroe along with John Quincy Adams, son of founding father and second president John Adams, conceived of The Monroe Doctrine. The Doctrine restricted European powers from influencing or attempting to recolonize either North or South America. To the doctrinaire neo-isolationist, America setting policy for, or extending a security umbrella to South America would be unthinkable.

Thomas Jefferson’s war against Barbary pirates in North Africa is another regularly cited example regarding the anti-isolationism of the founding fathers. Of course, the attack against the Barbary pirates subverted the recognized Ottoman authority over these states, thus breaking a cardinal rule of “nonintervention” for many a neo-isolationist. It also involved America entering into an alliance with Sweden.

However, the additional gritty details of how this war was executed and the very “interventionist” nature of the campaign against the pirates, is often forgotten. Not only did Jefferson go against adopting the isolationist position, he instead opted for a tactic many would ascribe to modern-day leaders: A military coup to gain a strategic ally. Historian John Carter notes Jefferson’s “interventionist” approach:

“…in the summer of 1801 James Cathcart, the U.S. consul to Tripoli, presented Secretary of State James Madison with a proposal to attempt to overthrow the Pasha’s government. As Cathcart explained, his plan called for enlisting the assistance of the Pasha’s older brother and rival for political power, Hamet Karamanli. Hamet was living in exile in the neighboring Barbary State of Tunisia. Cathcart proposed that an American military effort could be masked by Hamet’s participation to appear to be merely a local political uprising. If the action succeeded in replacing the Pasha with his brother, then America would gain an important ally in the Mediterranean region. Cathcart had already instructed the American consul at Tunis, an adventurer named William Eaton, to explore the depth of Hamet Karamanli’s political ambition for the throne of Tripoli as well as to make an assessment of the sort of resources that might be necessary to mount a coup…the administration paid Hamet a stipend of $2000 in 1802…In the end Jefferson settled on a two track diplomatic initiative that employed both a limited use of American naval force in the region and Cathcart’s covert plan for a coup to put Hamet Karamali on the throne.”[2]

Now juxtapose Jefferson’s (and the Seventh U.S. Congress’s) 1801 strategy with comments by Ron Paul about current situations.

Regarding Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, an American ally hardly “installed” by Washington, but supported for the sake of regional stability and furthering American interests:

[T]hey’re [the Egyptian people] upset with us for propping up that puppet dictator for all those years. Now to add insult to injury, where do you think the money went? To Swiss bank account, that family, the Mubarak family had $40, 50, 60 billion–nobody knows–stashed away in other countries, other areas of your money and that is true.

In relation to the U.S. War in Afghanistan and the 1953 British and American organized coup in Iran:

We already hear plans to install and guarantee the next government of Afghanistan…nation building is quite another. Some of our trouble in the Middle East started years ago when our CIA put the Shah in charge of Iran.

If anything, it would seem that the neo-isolationists are actually out of step with the pragmatic, interest-based, and at times “interventionist” foreign policy established by the founding fathers.

Isolationism & America’s Interests

Pulling American forces out of our numerous overseas bases and engagements is another policy goal for neo-isolationists. Many of these isolationists speculate that if the United States suddenly pulled its forces back from every foreign base and slashed defense budget costs, the global engine of trade would not only keep running, but would actually be kicked into high gear. [3]

However, this ignores historical and contemporary reality. In an piece covering the importance of a strong American military and need for power projection to protect American trade interests, Marion Smith notes, “Their [the neo-isolationists] mistake lies in thinking that commerce and security are separate issues. Nothing could be more at odds with the experience of American statecraft.”

Many neo-isolationists believe American influence on other powers is illegitimate. Yet with the removal of American forces to project power over key players, one of the great checks on stability and conflict would actually be removed.

Take the case of Israel countering Iran’s nuclear program. In the words of Ron Paul, if Israel attacked Iran, “That’s their business, but they should suffer the consequences.” The same concept could be applied to any military action by any state. It’s not America’s business, we should continue trading with both parties, and all will be well.

The fact of the matter is that in our globalized environment with its vast interconnections, it’s not simply “their business”.  Regional actors’ actions would have a direct effect on the U.S. Simply consider the variety of American interests in the Middle East, namely oil. Needless to say, the U.S. is a country reliant on cheap oil and a disruption would be quite costly.

Michael C. Lynch of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, told the NY Times, “If we get some kind of explosion — like an Israeli attack or some local Iranian revolutionary guard decides to take matters in his own hands and attacks a tanker — than we’d see oil prices push up 20 to 25 percent higher and another 50 cents a gallon at the pump”.

The price of oil and gas in the U.S. is often driven by speculation. With the possibility of increased regional war and terrorism, the risk would only grow.  Imagine what a Persian Gulf security vacuum would look like without the American security umbrella, how an empowered OPEC oil cartel might toy with international oil prices, or what emboldened irredentist entities might attempt in the Persian Gulf’s strategic waterways. Certainly, free-trade abroad and economic prosperity at home would be directly altered.

An even bigger question is which powers would take over the U.S. role? Oil starved China? Would there be a litany of small navies often battling one another for hegemony? Anarchic conditions may also exist to the detriment of international trade. One only needs to review how Somali pirates (regularly checked by U.S. and other fleets) plague trade routes.

Many neo-isolationists believe American influence on other powers is illegitimate. Yet with the removal of American forces to project power over key players, one of the great checks on stability and conflict would actually be removed.

Neo-Isolationists & Jihad

Intertwined with the issue of pulling out American forces from many global engagements, is our war against radical Islamism in Afghanistan and across the globe. As witnessed among the Sunni jihadists of al Qaida and the Shia Islamist theocratic regime in Iran, there is no denying that the numerous forms of messianic Islamism exist as coherent ideologies. What is more, is the jihadist worldview, one that it is locked in an existential battle against the United States and the West.[4]

Often, neo-isolationists will pin blame on Islamist attacks against the West by stating they were due to Western occupation. Rothbardian and Ron Paul backer, Professor Walter Block went so far as to say, “Terrorists do not put us in the cross hairs because we have rock music, mini-skirts and freedom.”

Yet time and time again, through Islamist discourse, it can be seen that concerns over military occupation(s) hardly encompass the entire picture. Disgust with Western lifestyles, freedoms, and the denial by many of those living in the West of accepting Islam served as extremely potent motivations for conflict.

In the words of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “So long as the American empire based in the White House has not been overthrown, we have work to do.”

In fact, the very policy of unilateral withdrawal simply emboldens our Islamist enemies. Osama bin Laden himself cited the examples of the U.S. pullout from Beirut (due to a Hizballah bomb attack in 1983) and the Somali “Black Hawk Down” incident of 1993 as proof that Americans were cowardly and needed to be attacked more.

When America pulled its Marines out of Lebanon following the bombing by the Iranian backed Shia Islamist Hizballah, a spate of additional bombings, hijackings, and kidnappings of Westerners and Western targets ensued.

In 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh wasn’t assassinated in retaliation for Western occupation, but for “insulting Islam”. Danish cartoonists who depicted pictures of Mohammed with a bomb fashioned to his head were threatened with death. This also resulted in radical Islamists targeting Denmark.  In 2008 Ayman al-Zawahiri, then the number two in al-Qaeda threatened Denmark:

“Denmark has done her utmost to demonstrate her hostility towards the Muslims by repeatedly dishonouring our Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him salvation. I admonish and incite every Muslim who is able to do so to cause damage to Denmark in order to show your support for our Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him salvation, and to defend his esteemed honour. We prefer to live underground [i.e. dead] rather than accepting the limited response of boycotting Danish dairy products and goods.”

One month after the statement, a car bomb exploded outside of Denmark’s embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. Eight were killed.

Essentially, the simple and very libertarian exercise of freedom of speech prompted the attacks. These individuals and the very societal norms they embraced were seen as threats by Islamists.

NOTES.


[1]See: Gustave Lanctôt, Canada & the American Revolution, 1774-1783, (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1967).

[2] John J. Carter, Covert Operations As A Tool of Presidential Foreign Policy In American History From 1800 To 1920: Foreign Policy In The Shadows, (New York, The Edwin Mellen Press, 2000), P.23.

[3] Ron Paul, The Revolution: A Manifesto, (New York,Grand Central Publishing, 2008), pp. 56-57.

[4] My own article for the Daily Caller has other examples. See: http://dailycaller.com/2011/02/21/ron-pauls-poor-policy-and-poorer-defenders/

June 2, 2011

The Mass Culture Problem

There is a Humanities-Net list devoted to the period between 1918-1945 that has been discussing modernity, mass culture, and assimilation. For some, “nativists” are viewed as perpetrators of racism.  I started a glossary to see if we could come to agreement on the terms we used in debating this premise.

Public library luring readers with Captain Ahab "sea food"

Modernity: some  scholars start it with the age of expansion. I see modernity as starting with the Reformation, nascent capitalism in England on the land and then in finance, the invention of the printing press and growing mass literacy and numeracy, the Scientific Revolution, then the  speedup in industrialization, long distance transportation, and the settling of great cities in the West. Other scholars prefer to start with expansionism/imperialism alone. When the postmodernists seemingly burst upon the scene, I noted that there was little agreement about when modernism began or ended. Some seemed to be irrationalists echoing the
widespread horror at the casualties of the Great War.

Racism: Recent scholars have frequently erased “class” by collapsing it into “race” or “ethnicity.” Scientific racism and the intertwined notion of national character is best traced to the German Romantics of the late 18th century, following Herder. I blogged about the latter and others here:

http://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism,
also http://clarespark.com/2010/04/08/racism-modernity-modernism/.

Race” as a concept that predicts mental and other psychological characteristics was challenged in the mid-1930s, as was “ethnicity” insofar as these were held to be predictors of character, as opposed to physical variations within one species. It is my view that “antiracists”today use a racialist discourse while disavowing “racism.”

Assimilation:  the Left in general interprets this as adjusting to ugly nativism, and the nativists are supposedly chauvinistic believers in “American exceptionalism” by which they supposedly agree that America is the greatest country in the history of the world, based upon American military power. It is my view that assimilation in America requires no more than learning the customary language and obeying the laws of the land, by which I mean internalizing the novel idea of equality before the law and limited government. (It is true that the quietism of immigrant ancestors may cause rifts in families.)  As for “American exceptionalism” it once referred to “careers open to the talents” as opposed to a rigid class and caste society. America, lacking a hereditary aristocracy, was the land of upward mobility for all, and after the civil rights movement and the laws that followed, such mobility was offered to the descendants of slaves and even women.

Secularism: many cultural historians characterize the modern world as primarily “secular”.  This term is hotly contested in the culture wars.  “Traditionalists” abhor “secularists” who, they believe, have opened the flood gates of diabolism, degeneracy and every type of “unrest.”  The traditionalists insist that no separation between Church and State was intended by the Founding Fathers, who believed in America’s Providential mission. It is my position that religious and intellectual pluralism were institutionalized in the First Amendment to the Constitution. The culture war positions point to the unfinished revolutions, about which I wrote here:  http://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/.

Organic conservatives:  These persons tend to reject the “anomie” of the modern world, also the notion of irreconcilable conflicts between persons,  nation-states, religions, and so on. They prefer social models, either state-imposed or religious, that unite warring factions or individuals through mystical bonds, not congruent material interests. Examples are the Catholic essayists de Maistre and  Bonald after the French Revolution.  But many of the corporatist liberals (i.e., conservative reformers of the New Deal) also posit mystical bonds of blood and soil. Here are to be found the ethnic nationalists and some regionalists.

Organic conservatives may be found throughout the political spectrum. They are not to be confused with libertarians, who tend to be materialists, and expect competing (free) markets to produce social well-being and a rising standard of living for all. The dread homo economicus is described here: http://clarespark.com/2009/10/10/ralph-bunche-and-the-jewish-problem/.

Mass Culture: This is a term much used by the Frankfurt School critical theorists, who, as I have shown elsewhere on this website, attribute Hitler’s appeal to “the revolt of the masses” in tandem with the one-sidedness of an increasingly technological society and a Kafka-esque bureaucracy. They blame the Enlightenment for the Holocaust. I reject both their counter-Enlightenment views and their explanation for the rise of Hitler, which is a culturalist one only, and is historically inadequate to explain such a multi-faceted phenomenon. Modernity and “consumerism” are seen by the critical theorists (Frankfurters) as bourgeoisifying a social class that should be transcending capitalism and bringing in a form of libertarian socialism. These refugees from Germany were linked to left-liberals who themselves did sykewar for the Roosevelt administration and its social psychologist allies. There is a related category: mass politics, which signifies the type of log cabin politics initiated by the administration of Andrew Jackson. Mass politics are said by left-wing academics to have replaced “the politics of deference” and the rule of the best families. Hence the novel catering to “public opinion” in our political culture, and the fascination with propaganda as the primary mover of political choice.

[Added 6-3-11:] Don’t miss the two interesting comments by CatoRenasci below. Read #3 first, then #1.

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