Some Pigs are More Equal than Others   2 comments

The notion of human equality was always a hard sell. Experience teaches us that we are incredibly unequal in a myriad ways. I’m too short to be a basketball player, and there are people way smarter than I am. Oh to have the business acumen of Richard Branson or the moral integrity of Billy Graham. None of us is equal in all ways. Most of the Founders believed all men are made in the image and likeness of God, thus human equality resonated with them on a deep moral level. The rest yearned for equal treatment under British law because they had read John Locke.

It did not take long for their paradigm to be challenged by interest and “science.” In 1787, the delegates at the Constitutional Convention had been clear that they were setting up a system for the gradual elimination of slavery in the United States. That was the purpose of the apportionment of representation and even the southern delegates understood that. By the 1820s, the best London journals began promoting the idea that different breeds of animals and plants produce inferior or superior results and slave owners began citing the negroes’ deficiencies to argue that they should remain slaves indefinitely. Others were reading Ludwig Feuerbach’s rendition of Hegelian philosophy, in which Biblical injunctions reflect the fantasies of alienated human beings. Others were familiar with the young Karl Marx’s formulation that ethical thought is “superstructural” to material reality. By 1853, when Sen. John Pettit of Ohio called “all men are created equal” “a self-evident lie,” much of America’s educated class had already absorbed the “scientific” notion (which Darwin only popularized) that man is the product of chance mutation and natural selection of the fittest. Accordingly, by nature, superior men subdue inferior ones as they subdue lower beings or try to improve them as they please. While believing in freeing the slaves and improving them, many abolitionists also insisted that Southerners must be punished and Southern society reconstructed by force. As the 19th century ended, the educated class’s religious fervor turned to social reform, certain that man is a mere part of evolutionary nature, so could be improved, if they, the most highly evolved of all, were the improvers.

Thus began the Progressive Era. When Woodrow Wilson in 1914 was asked “can’t you let anything alone?” he answered with, “I let everything alone that you can show me is not itself moving in the wrong direction, but I am not going to let those things alone that I see are going down-hill.” Wilson spoke for the thousands of well-off and largely idle Americans progressives who imagined themselves the world’s examples and the world’s reformers. They gathered in Appalachian spas and Altantic boardwalk resorts to dream big dreams of establishing order, justice, and peace at home and abroad. They weren’t shy about their desire for power. Wilson was the first American statesman to argue that the Founders had done badly by depriving the U.S. government of the power to reshape American society.

World War I and the chaos at home and abroad that followed it discredited the Progressives in the American people’s eyes. Their international schemes had brought blood and promised more. Their domestic management had not improved Americans’ lives, but given them a taste of arbitrary government, including and especially Prohibition with all of its unintended consequences. The Progressives, for their part, found it fulfilling to attribute the failure of their schemes to something deeply wrong with America. The American people had failed them because democracy in its American form perpetuated the worst in humanity. The Progressives, if they didn’t already, began to look down on the masses, to look on themselves as the vanguard, and to look abroad for examples to emulate.

The cultural divide between the “educated class” and the rest of the country opened in the decades between the great wars. Some Progressives joined the “vanguard of the proletariat,” the Communist Party. Many more were deeply sympathetic to Soviet Russia and/or Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The Nation, the New York Times and National Geographic encouraged imitation of these regimes because they promised energetic transformation of their peoples’ traditions and to build “the new man.” Our educated class was bitter about America. In 1925 the American Civil Liberties Union sponsored a legal challenge to a Tennessee law that required teaching the Biblical account of creation. The ensuing trial was radio broadcasted nationally and then followed by the hit movie Inherit the Wind. It was a grand occasion for the spa class to drive home the point that Americans who believed in the Bible were willful ignoramuses. As World War II approached, some American Progressives supported the Soviet Union (and its ally, Nazi Germany) and others Great Britain and France, but they all agreed the approaching war should be blamed on the majority of Americans, because they had refused to lead the League of Nations.

Franklin Roosevelt brought the spa class into his administration and began the process that turned them into rulers. FDR described America’s problems in technocratic terms. He chose a “brain trust” to fix America’s problems and his New Deal’s solutions — the alphabet-soup “independent” agencies that have run America ever since — turned many Progressives into powerful bureaucrats who later became lobbyists.

They came to Washington to do good and stayed to do well.

As their number and sense of importance grew, so did their distaste for common Americans. Believing itself “scientific,” this Progressive class sought to explain its differences from its neighbors in “scientific” terms. The most elaborate of these attempts was Theodor Adorno’s widely acclaimed The Authoritarian Personality (1948). It invented a set of criteria to define personality traits, ranked these traits and their intensity in any given person on what it called the “F scale” (F for fascist), interviewed hundreds of Americans, and concluded that most who were not liberal Democrats were latent fascists. Herbert McCloskey’s Conservatism and Personality (1958) defined conservatism in terms of answers to certain questions, then defined a number of personality disorders in terms of other questions, and ran a survey that proved “scientifically” that conservatives were maladjusted ne’er-do-well ignoramuses.

Though few of today’s bipartisan ruling class ever heard of Adorno or McCloskey and cannot probably explain the Marxist notion that human judgments are “epiphenomenal” products of spiritual or material alienation, the notion that the common people’s words are mere signs of pain, pleasure, and frustration with little more meaning than grunts is axiomatic among our ruling class. They absorbed it without even realizing it from their education and companions.

Example: After Barack Obama described his opponents’ clinging to “God and guns” as a characteristic of inferior Americans, he justified himself by pointing out he had said “what everybody knows is true.” His is a confident “knowledge” that “some of us, the ones who matter,” have grasped truths that the common herd cannot. These truths direct the special class he belongs to, because grasping these truths entitles the ruling class to discount what the ruled say and to presume what they mean. This attitude is what made our Progressives into a class long before they took power.

2 responses to “Some Pigs are More Equal than Others

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  1. Reblogged this on Tin Foil Hat Book Club and commented:
    Well said!


  2. Reblogged this on aurorawatcherak and commented:

    I wrote this more than five years ago and yet nothing has changed. You can see the progressive arguments — their hubris and arrogance — in so many discussions today.


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