The Clare Spark Blog

January 25, 2016

Is the US Constitution “godless”?

flag-cross-elephantI had always assumed that economist and social theorist Friedrich Hayek was interchangeable in his philosophy with Milton Friedman, until I reread Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty (1969) in which he gave all honor to the English antecedents of the Founders, consigning the French philosophe input to the disreputable rationalist tradition and the horrid French Revolution that it spawned.

It was not until I read a trade book The Godless Revolution: A Moral Defense of the Secular State (by Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore, Norton, 2005) that I understood the longstanding gap between defenders of the Christian Commonwealth idea (exemplified by Hayek and his admired predecessors Edmund Burke and Lord Acton) and those Jeffersonians who defended religious pluralism/the secular state.

Kramnick and Moore’s book is a full throated attack on the “religious Right” from the New Deal left-liberal side of the political spectrum, and takes its place as a major tool in the culture wars. To be fair, the authors take care not to be confused with atheists; religion should take its place in public policy debates, as long as theocracy is not advocated, but it is clear where their morality lies: in Big Government programs, including environmentalism and other compassionate legislation, such as feminist abortion rights, and the single payer health plan. They acknowledge that Jefferson’s minimalist state was suited for an agrarian society, but assume that the Industrial Revolution initiated a new system of morality. (They might have mentioned those who transformed Jefferson’s negative state to a positive state, a.k.a. Big Government, historian Carl Becker’s input is MIA.)

Their book is a boilerplate left liberal argument: dropping the name of Milton Friedman, the advocate of free markets, but ignoring his theme of upward mobility made possible by laissez-faire economics. (See https://clarespark.com/2015/12/29/milton-friedmans-capitalism-and-freedom-1962/.)

Their heroes include John Locke, Jefferson, FDR, JFK, and the Clintons; their villains are such as James Dobson, Ralph Reed, Lyndon Johnson (!, who went too far? or was it Viet Nam?) and George W. Bush who ostensibly made his conversion from scapegrace to piety the major theme of his 2004 campaign. (Which is odd, because the authors clearly want to convert the readers from laissez-faire economics to the positive, hyper-moral state.)

As proper pluralists, they frown on public displays of the Ten Commandments, for the first four laws are too Jewish; i.e., not inclusive.

friedman

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August 6, 2009

The “Money Power,” material forces versus leader decision-making, separatism as strategy for women and minorities, and misogyny/antisemitism

 This blog is an expanded answer to “Michael” who wrote a lengthy comment to one of my recent blogs (see the comments on this site). First, Michael thinks that I am asking readers to ignore money altogether. This is a crucial point. It is not the power of money itself that determines our prosperity or poverty, but appropriate monetary policy, as economic historian Niall Ferguson has shown in book after book, most recently The Ascent of Money, but also in The War of the World (the latter work arguing that the first and second world wars are better seen as one continuous global conflict). Also, if you saw the recent Bill Maher show on HBO with Ferguson as panelist, he vigorously defended “the Fed” against the ignorance and misconceptions of populists. You might want to read John Maynard Keynes book, The Economic Consequences of the Peace on the question of monetary policy after the Great War. Had different arrangements regarding German reparations been made during the post-armistice settlement  subsequent history would have been different, and there would have been no Nazi victory. For one who is concerned about mass death, as Michael obviously is, this book is crucial.

     What I have implied in my various blogs is that “the Jews” as some kind of cabal should be left out of discussions of the source of the most recent and previous financial crises. Criticize capitalism and either its flaws or its corrupt operatives to your heart’s content, but do it with the tools of material analysis, not with the manipulation of negative images. As long as the image of a fat Jewish plutocrat battening on the misery of “the goyim,” or King of Jews Rothschild with his claws encircling the globe or, the carnal Jewish whoremaster, with his hypersexuality, polluting innocent Christian or Muslim womanhood, inhabits the political imagination, there can be no amelioration in the lot of the poor and deprived,  any more than the belief that this world, unlike the next, is controlled by the Devil. And do not underestimate the salience of the Devil to the historical narratives propagated by the “Christian Right” and other authoritarian ideologies opposed to science, the rule of law, and the materialist analysis attributed to the Jews by their most extreme nativist, white supremacist proponents or other premoderns.
    Second, Michael raises the question of “material forces” as the primary source of historical change. This sounds like standard Marxist boiler plate to me. To be sure, material conditions and conflicts are very important, but so are the decisions made by individual leaders. Had Woodrow Wilson used his influence at the Versailles conference to stop the self-serving ambitions of France and the U.K., there might not have been a second world war with all its horrific suffering and lingering effects. Or to take a different case, in thinking about diversity in the multicultural university, administrators could have, but did not, integrate the history of women and minorities into the general curriculum. Because they chose segregated departments of Women’s Studies or Ethnic Studies, they relieved white male professors of the necessity of thinking about these movements in a rigorous way and then teaching their students appropriately. (And moreover, many professors had already incorporated the travails of women and minorities and labor into their syntheses.) So instead of creating a new synthesis, the more retrograde historians could ignore the woman question or the history of various peoples if they chose, for some other course would make up for their deficiencies. The most we got was “whiteness studies” that were no more than covers for Leninist anti-imperialist orthodoxy and yet another capitulation to anti-Western cultural nationalism (see the lethal influence of triumphalist black liberation theology, and its shameless annexation of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the side of his bitterest enemies in this vast and influential body of pseudo-scholarship).
    As for the power of motherhood that Michael mentions briefly, this is one of the great lacunae in the work of scholarship. The issue of separation from the supposedly omnipotent good/bad mother is one of the themes most ignored by theorists of the psyche, and I refer the reader once again to my essay on panic attacks that summarizes recent thought among professionals on the subject, along with some references to reactionary modernism,  Goldfinger, Pandora’s Box, film noir, and Captain Ahab’s “monomania.”  I have thought a lot about this issue as Herman Melville is obsessed with the mother-son attachment in his much-abused novel PIERRE, OR THE AMBIGUITIES (1852) There is an obvious link between misogyny and antisemitism that has not gotten the attention it should. I would add here that feminists do not always recognize that men feel women, especially modern women, like Jews or other advancing groups, have too much power over their lives, and put cotton in their ears when feminists speak. Meanwhile some women use their sexual/maternal power to advance themselves at the expense of other women and give weight to the claims of misogynists. It is a huge subject that I suppose a few others have explored at greater length than I can here, but I did notice as I researched my book on the revivers of Herman Melville between the world wars that the most conservative of them were terrified of modern women and felt themselves to be puppets manipulated by these castrating and ever-changeable scheming women, leading to my slogan that “Woman is the Jew of the home.” Think about it. Captain Ahab as the Bad [Jewish] Mother.

     Finally, I would note that the feminists of the 1960s and 1970s were acceptable as long as they joined the anti-imperialist Left, and that meant that they did not subsequently defend “the West” but instead attacked it (along with Israel, often), notwithstanding the deplorable condition of women in non-Western societies. This gave the Christian far Right a great excuse to attack feminism as such.

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