Archive for the ‘Liberty’ Tag

Breaking Up   Leave a comment

President Trump has been in the Oval Office since January 20 and, have you heard, he hasn’t done anything substantive yet. This new Congress has been in Washington for even less time and … oh, my god, they haven’t passed a repeal-and-replacement bill for Obamacare yet, so clearly they don’t have a plan. (They do, but the one they’re going with right now is Obamacare-lite).

Image result for image of political breakup

President Trump has been compared to Hitler, Pot Pot, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the 911 terrorist attacks. The New Republic is theorizing that Trump is mentally unstable because of neurosyphilis.

Establishment furor over the two-month-old Trump administration is growing. Forget that 100-day honeymoon most presidents, even President Obama, get.  Talk of removing the Trumpster through impeachment, or opposing everything he does (the progressive “Resistance”), is commonplace. Some op-ed writers and European pundits have openly hoped for his death.

The American media hate Trump with a passion, the entrenched administrative state (called “deep state” by some), the Democratic Party, progressive activities and a fair slice of the Republican Party are all freaking out about his presidency.

Trump is undisciplined and brash, a New York businessman if ever there was one. He’s not the polished (some might say “fake”) Obama and he clearly doesn’t meet the standards of the high-society ruling elite, who have dismissed him as a rude idiot who should never have been elected … and wouldn’t have been if rural rubes weren’t allowed to influence elections, by gum.

They preferred Hillary Clinton, apparently unconcerned that her election would have resulted in a Bush or a Clinton being president for 24 years of the a 32-year span. Dynasty much! Why do we think that’s a good idea on any planet, ever?

This is reminiscent of another presidential campaign. In 1828, the wild and unruly Andrew Jackson was elected president because the rapidly expanding country had tired of the pretenses of the tidewater and New York elites. The tiny coastal establishment of the 1820s perpetuated the ancestry and background of the great but waning Founding Fathers such as George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. The difficulty with this was that the Founders’ lesser successors had not earned the status they had assumed. They were the grandchildren of the Founders or grandchildren of the Founders’ friends. Jackson won by exposing their pretenses.

What got the Donald elected was a similar popular outrage that the self-described best and brightest of our time are enjoying influence and power over the rest of us without real merit or visible achievement. Trump has at least built a business empire, even if it is based on debt and serial bankruptcy. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and most of the members of Congress have never held real jobs (no, being a law intern and community planner does not count as a real job), let alone created an actual job for someone else in their highly-publicized lives.

But who are all these angry elitists? Conservatives refer to them a lot and someone on Facebook or Twitter recently said they didn’t actually exist, that they were bugaboos used to stir up the masses. And, these folks wonder why some of us refuse to listen to their wisdom. Clearly, you are living in a bubble if you haven’t entered elitist trolls, at least of the liberal variety, but even of the Republic flavor.

In California, state planners and legislators spent three decades focused on outlawing plastic grocery bags and not killing rodents by curtailing cutting down flammable brush while California’s roads and dams slowly fell apart. The result is crumbling infrastructure that now threatens the very safety of the public. Powerful Californians with impressive degrees also came up with the idea of nullifying federal immigration law through sanctuary cities. I’m okay with the nullification part, but not with the illegal immigrants who kill or rob American citizens within those sanctuary cities.

In the last eight years, sophisticated Washington, D.C., economists produced budgets that increased U.S. debt from $10 trillion to $20 trillion, as economic growth reached its lowest level since the Hoover administration. And, they declared that to be victory for Barack Obama.

UN Ambassador Susan Rice lied repeatedly on national television about the Benghazi debacle, apparently unaware that the Internet had the video that would show she was lying. And the media backed her up, despite the Internet having the video that proved she was lying. Is it any wonder that Americans are now deeply skeptical of the media?
Over the last year, pollsters and “expert” media pundits assured the public that Hillary Clinton would be the next president … right up until she was overwhelmed by the Electoral College landslide. Were the polls just wrong or were they lying about the polls in an attempt to sway the election?
Elitism sometimes seems predicated on being branded with the proper degrees. Universities now embrace politically correct indoctrination as a measure for these degrees, so how can anyone with a modicum of sense believe that a costly university degree guarantees knowledge or inductive reasoning? Especially, when we’ve seen these degree-holders look like idiots on public television after we’ve told them that their ideas won’t work in the real world. And, by the way, I hold an advanced degree. I just didn’t stop learning after I collected it.

Elites like to believe that their ideology is defined by brilliant and proven theories and they certainly act as if that were true. Meanwhile, we’ve watched university-sired identity politics tear our country apart over the last eight years. Free speech or diversity of thought are not welcome on campuses. Progressive governments have mired most inner cities in deeper poverty.

The Western world is having a breakdown and perhaps a breakup. We’re all over the map on what the solution to our ills is. Is it socialism ala Bernie Sanders? Populism enjoys some fans as evidenced by Trump’s election, the Brexit vote and the spread of anti-European Union parties across Europe. Is the answer to be found in the total state of socialism or the total state of populism?

No! They’re remedies for symptoms, but don’t address the cause of the disease itself which stems from our false notion of elitism.

The public no longer believes that privilege and influence should be based on titles, brands and hype. They want to see demonstrable knowledge and proven character. The elites in the Beltway, Hollywood and Silicon Valley look down on the value of hard work, feeling that the 21st century culture should belong to the “experts” who live in the right zip codes and circulate in the proper social circles while garnering appropriate media admiration rather than from a demonstrable record of moral or intellectual excellence. Meanwhile, the public sees the brilliance that can be manifested in trade skills or retail sales, courage expressed by dealing with the hardship of factory work, or character found on an Indiana farm.

Donald Trump may not be one of those hard-working middle Americans, but he has tapped into the understanding that they don’t see themselves as idiots and they love him for that. It remains to be seen if he will keep his promises to them, but let’s be clear about one thing — Hillary Clinton promised to ignore them entirely … like the elitist paragon that she was. and remains.

I’m still holding out for an understanding that the elite need to be removed and not replaced. Let individuals decide for themselves what is good for us and reclaim the 19th century dynamism that truly made America prosperous. Doing that would require reclaiming the liberty that made that possible.

Can we do it? Yes, we can … if we will.

The Prehistory of the Alt-right | Jeffrey A. Tucker   Leave a comment

Reading “How I Left the Left” is a solid reminder that there’s not much intellectual heft remaining on that side of the fence. If an ideology sets out to isolate the locus of evil in people’s very identity, it is pretty well spent. This, in addition to the failure of the socialist model everywhere it has tried, explains why the Left has suffered so much at the polls and now faces a serious backlash in campus and public life.

Image result for image of alt rightHere we have a lineage of non-Marxist, non-leftist brand of rightist but still totalitarian thinking.

With the failure of action comes reaction, and now the Western world is dealing with something far less familiar to most people: the rise of the alt-right as the alternative. It is attractive to some young people due to its taboo-breaking, rebel ethos that so easily inflames teachers and protectors of civic conventions.The movement is more than that, however. It has a real philosophical and political history, one that stands in violent opposition to the idea of individual liberty. It has been largely suppressed since World War II and, because of that, most people assumed fascism (and its offshoots) was gone from the earth.

As a result, this generation has not been philosophically prepared to recognize the tradition, the signs, the implications, and the political application of the ideology so many are stumbling to embrace.

Here is a prehistory of what we call the alt-right today, which is probably better described as a 21st-century incarnation of what in the 19th century would have been called right-Hegelianism. I’m skipping over many political movements (in Spain, France, and Italy), and clownish leaders like George Lincoln Rockwell, Oswald Mosley, and Fr. Coughlin, to get right to the core ideas that form something like a school of thought which developed over a century.

Here we have a lineage of non-Marxist, non-leftist brand of rightist but still totalitarian thinking, developed in fanatical opposition to bourgeois freedom.

1820: Georg Friedrich Hegel published Elements of the Philosophy of Right, which spelled out the political implications of his “dialectical idealism,” an outlook that departed dramatically from the liberal tradition by completely abstracting from human experience to posit warring life forces operating beyond anyone’s control to shape history. It turns out that the politics of this view amounted to “the state is the march of God through the world.” He looked forward to some age in the future that would realize the apotheosis of State control. The Hegelian view, according to a 1952 lecture by Ludwig von Mises, broke into Left and Right branches, depending on the attitude toward nationalism and religion (the right supported the Prussian state and church, whereas the left did not), and thereby “destroyed German thinking and German philosophy for more than a century, at least.”

A champion of slavery and opponent of liberalism, Carlyle took aim at the rise of commercial society.

Image result for image of hegel1841: Thomas Carlyle published On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History, which popularized the “great man” theory of history. History is not about marginal improvements in living standards by using better tools, but rather about huge episodic shifts brought about through power. A champion of slavery and opponent of liberalism, Carlyle took aim at the rise of commercial society, praising Cromwell, Napoleon, and Rousseau, and rhapsodizing about the glories of power. “The Commander over Men; he to whose will our wills are to be subordinated, and loyally surrender themselves, and find their welfare in doing so, may be reckoned the most important of Great Men.” Carlyle’s target was Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment generally. Hitler’s biographers agree that the words of Carlyle were the last he requested to be read to him before he died.1841: On the continent, meanwhile, Friedrich List published The National System of Political Economy, celebrating protectionism, infrastructure spending, and government control and support of industry. Again, it was a direct attack on laissez faire and a celebration of the national unit as the only truly productive force in economic life. Steven Davies comments: “The most serious result of List’s ideas was a change in people’s thinking and perception. Instead of seeing trade as a cooperative process of mutual benefit, politicians and businessmen came to regard it as a struggle with winners and losers.” Today’s economic nationalists have nothing new to add to the edifice already constructive by List.

1871: Charles Darwin left the realm of science briefly to enter sociological analysis with his book The Descent of Man. It is a fascinating work but tended to treat human society as a zoological rather than sociological and economic enterprise. It included an explosive paragraph (qualified and widely misread) that regretted how “we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment… Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.” At the very least, he suggested, we should stop the weak from marrying. This is the “one check” we have to keep society from being taken over by inferiors. Tragically, this passing comment fired up the eugenicists who immediately began to plot demographic planning schemes to avoid a terrifying biological slide to universal human degeneracy.

1896: The American Economic Association published Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro by Frederick Hoffman. This monograph, one of many of the type, described blacks as intractable criminals who are both lazy and promiscuous, the influence of whom in national biology can only lead to a decline of the race. Their mere presence was considered an existential threat to “uncompromising virtues of the Aryan race.” Such views were embraced by Richard T. Ely, the founder of the American Economic Association, and came to dominate the academic journals of this period, providing academic cover for Jim Crow laws, state segregation, business regulation, and far worse.

1904: The founder of the American eugenics society, Charles Davenport, established the Station for Experimental Evolution and worked to propagate eugenics from his perch as Professor of Zoology at Harvard University. He was hugely influential on an entire generation of scientists, political figures, economists, and public bureaucrats, and it was due largely to this influence that eugenics became such a central concern of American policies from this period until World War II, influencing the passage of wage legislation, immigration, marriage law, working hours legislation, and, of course, mandatory sterilizations.

At this point in history, all five pillars of fascist theory were in place. 

At this point in history, all five pillars of fascist theory (historicist, nationalist, racist, protectionist, statist) were in place. It had a theory of history. It had a picture of hell, which is liberalism and uncontrolled commercial society. It had a picture of heaven, which was national societies run by great men inhabiting all-powerful States focused on heavy industry. It had a scientific rationale.Above all, it had an agenda: to control society from the top down with the aim of managing every aspect of the demographic path of human society, which meant controlling human beings from cradle to grave to produce the most superior product, as well as industrial planning to replace the wiles of the market process. The idea of freedom itself, to this emergent school of thought, was a disaster for everyone everywhere.

All that was really necessary was popularization of its most incendiary ideas.

Hitler loved the book and sent Grant a note praising the book as his personal bible.

1916: Madison Grant, scholar of enormous prestige and elite connections, published The Passing of the Great Race. It was never a bestseller but it exercised enormous influence among the ruling elites, and made a famous appearance in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Grant, an early environmentalist, recommended mass sterilization of people as a “practical, merciful, and inevitable solution of the whole problem” that should be “applied to an ever-widening circle of social discards, beginning always with the criminal, the diseased, and the insane, and extending gradually to types which may be called weaklings rather than defectives, and perhaps ultimately to worthless race types.” Hitler loved the book and sent Grant a note praising the book as his personal bible.1919: Following World War I, German historian Oswald Spengler published The Decline of the West, which met with huge popular acclaim for capturing the sense of the moment: the cash economy and liberalism were dead and could only be replaced by the rise of monolithic cultural forms that rally around blood and race as the source of meaning. Blood beats money all over the world, he argued. The interminable and foggy text broods with right-Hegelian speculations about the status of man and predicts the complete downfall of all lovely things unless the civilization of the West dispenses with its attachment to commercial norms and individualism and instead rallies to the cause of group identity. The book kicked off a decade of similar works and movements that declared freedom and democracy to be dead ideas: the only relevant battle was between the communist and fascist forms of state planning.

Mises called him “the Nazi Jurist” for a reason.

1932: Carl Schmitt published The Concept of the Political, a brutal attack on liberalism as the negation of the political. For Schmitt, the political was the essence of life, and the friend/enemy distinction is its most salient feature. Friends and enemies were to be defined by the State, and enemy-ness can only be fully instantiated in bloodshed, which should be real and present. Mises called him “the Nazi Jurist” for a reason: he was a party member and his ideas contributed mightily to the perception that mass death was not only moral, but essential to the preservation of the meaning of life itself.1944: Allied troops discovered thousands of death camps strewn throughout Nazi-captured territories in Europe, created beginning in 1933 and continuing through the duration of the war, responsible for the imprisonment and death of upwards of 15 million people. The discovery shocked an entire generation at the most fundamental level, and the scramble was on to discover all sources of evil–political and ideological–that had led to such a gruesome reality. With the Nazi forces defeated and the Nuremberg trials underscoring the point, the advance of fascist dogma in all of its brooding, racist, statist, and historicist timbres, came to a screeching halt. Suppression of the ideas therein began in Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States, creating the impression that right-Hegelianism was a mere flash in the pan that had been permanently doused by state power.

The same year as the death-camp discovery began, F.A. Hayek published The Road to Serfdom, which emphasized that it was not enough to reject the labels, songs, slogans, and regimes of Nazism and fascism. Also necessary, said Hayek, was the rejection of the ideas of planning themselves, which even in a democracy necessarily led to the end of freedom and the rise of dictatorship. His book was met with critical acclaim among a small group of remaining classical liberals (many of whom were involved in the founding of FEE two years later) but was otherwise denounced and derided as paranoid and reactionary by many others.

For the duration of the ensuing Cold War, it was the fear of communism and not fascism/Nazism that would captivate the public mind. After all, the latter had been defeated on the battlefield, right? The genesis and development of rightest totalitarianism, despite the earnest pleadings of Hannah Arendt, fell away from public consciousness.

Liberalism Not Yet

Look at your progenitors, Alt-right: do you like what you see?

The Cold War ended 25 years ago and the rise of digital technology has given liberal forms of political economy a gigantic presence in the world. Trade has never been more integrated. Human rights are on the march. Commercial life, and its underlying ideology of harmony and peace, is the prevailing aspiration of billions of people around the world. The failures of government planning are ever more obvious. And yet these trends alone do not seal the deal for the cause of liberty.With left-Hegelianism now in disgrace, political movements around the world are rooting around in the pre-war history of totalitarian ideas to find alternatives. The suppression of these ideas did not work; in fact, they had the opposite effect of making them more popular to the point where they boiled up from below. The result is what we call the Alt-right in the US and goes by many other names in Europe and the UK. (The transition from the 1990s to the present will be the subject of another essay.)

Let us not be deceived. Whatever the flavor – whichever branch of Hegel we choose to follow – the cost of government control is human liberty, prosperity, and dignity. We choose mega-states, strongmen, national planning, or religious and racial homogeneity at our deep peril.

For the most part, the meme-posting trolls who favor stormfront-style profile pics on their social accounts, and the mass movements calling for strongmen to take control and cast the other from their midst, are clueless about the history and path they are following.

If you are feeling tempted toward the Alt-right, look at your progenitors: do you like what you see?

What is the alternative to right and left Hegelianism? It is found in the liberal tradition, summed up by Frederic Bastiat’s phrase “the harmony of interests.” Peace, prosperity, liberty, and community are possible. It is this tradition, and not one that posits intractable war between groups, that protects and expands human rights and human dignity, and creates the conditions that allow for the universal ennoblement of the human person. (For more on the history of despotic ideas in the 20th century, I suggest Mises’s epic 1947 book Planned Chaos, now available in epub.)

The last word on the correct (freedom-loving) path forward was framed by the great English historian Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1830, a statement that would be loathed by every fascist in history:

“It is not by the intermeddling of an omniscient and omnipotent State, but by the prudence and energy of the people, that England has hitherto been carried forward in civilization; and it is to the same prudence and the same energy that we now look with comfort and good hope. Our rulers will best promote the improvement of the nation by strictly confining themselves to their own legitimate duties, by leaving capital to find its most lucrative course, commodities their fair price, industry and intelligence their natural reward, idleness and folly their natural punishment, by maintaining peace, by defending property, by diminishing the price of law, and by observing strict economy in every department of the state. Let the Government do this: the People will assuredly do the rest.”

Source: The Prehistory of the Alt-right | Jeffrey A. Tucker

Posted March 18, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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What Is Liberty   Leave a comment

Frédéric Bastiat was a contemporary with Alexis de Toqueville and they both came from France. Both were admirers of the United States who noted risks to that wonderful experiment in constitutional republicanism with democratic features. While Toqueville focused on the United States in the most familiar of his writing, Bastiat focused on France while touching on the United States system.  I find Bastiat’s writing to be prescient. He spoke to his own time and society, but he could have been addressing his comments to American circa 2017.

To read the entire series, here is the Table of Contents.

Image result for image of liberty cryingThe socialists were in ascendancy in France in Bastiat’s day, which was the primary purpose he wrote this essay The Law. Bastiat hoped to convince his fellow citizens that socialism was a bad, bad mistake. He actually managed that for a while, until people stopped reading his essay and started listening to socialists again. Lela

 

On the other hand, society is the human race. The human race, then, is to receive its impulse from Mr. Louis Blanc. It is at liberty to do so or not, it will be said. Of course
the human race is at liberty to take advice from anybody, whoever it may be. But this is not the way in which Mr. Louis Blanc understands the thing. He means that his project should be converted into law, and consequently forcibly imposed by power.

In our project, the State has only to give a legislation to labor, by means of which the industrial movement may and ought to be accomplished in all liberty. It (the State) merely places society on an incline (that is all) that it may descend, when once it is placed there, by the mere force of things, and by the natural course of the established mechanism.
But what is this incline? One indicated by Mr. Louis Blanc. Does it not lead to an abyss? No, it leads to happiness.

Why, then, does not society go there of itself? Because it does not know what it wants, and it requires an impulse. What is to give it this impulse? Power. And who is to give the impulse to power? The inventor of the machine, Mr. Louis Blanc.

We shall never get out of this circle—mankind passive, and a great man moving it by the intervention of the law. Once on this incline, will society enjoy something like liberty?
Without a doubt.

And what is liberty? Once for all: liberty consists not only in the right granted, but in the power given to man to exercise, to develop his faculties under the empire of justice, and under the protection of the law. And this is no vain distinction; there is a deep meaning
in it, and its consequences are imponderable. For when once it is admitted that man, to be truly free, must have the power to exercise and develop his faculties, it follows that every member of society has a claim upon it for such education as shall enable his faculties to display themselves, and for the tools of labor, without which human activity can find no scope. Now, by whose intervention is society to give to each of its members the requisite
education and the necessary tools of labor, unless by that of the State?

Thus, liberty is power. In what does this power consist? In possessing education and tools of labor. Who is to give education and tools of labor? Society, who owes them. By whose intervention is society to give tools of labor to those who do not possess them? By the intervention of the State. From whom is the State to obtain them?

It is for the reader to answer this question, and to notice whither all this tends.
One of the strangest phenomena of our time, and one that will probably be a matter of astonishment to our descendants, is the doctrine which is founded upon this triple hypothesis: the radical passiveness of mankind,— the omnipotence of the law,—the infallibility of the legislator:

this is the sacred symbol of the party that proclaims itself exclusively democratic. It is true that it professes also to be social. So far as it is democratic, it has an unlimited faith in
mankind. So far as it is social, it places mankind beneath the mud.

Are political rights under discussion? Is a legislator to be chosen? Oh, then the people possess science by instinct: they are gifted with an admirable discernment; their will is
always right; the general will cannot err. Suffrage cannot be too universal. Nobody is under any responsibility to society. The will and the capacity to choose well are taken
for granted. Can the people be mistaken? Are we not living in an age of enlightenment? What! Are the people to be forever led about by the nose? Have they not acquired their rights at the cost of effort and sacrifice? Have they not given sufficient proof of intelligence and wisdom? Are they not arrived at maturity? Are they not in a state to
judge for themselves? Do they not know their own interest?

Is there a man or a class who would dare to claim the right of putting himself in the place of the people, of deciding and of acting for them? No, no; the people would be free, and they shall be so. They wish to conduct their own affairs, and they shall do so. But when once the legislator is duly elected, then indeed the style of his speech alters. The nation is sent back into passiveness, inertness, nothingness, and the legislator takes possession of omnipotence. It is for him to invent, for him to direct, for him to impel, for him to organize. Mankind has nothing to do but to submit; the hour of despotism has struck. And we must observe that this is decisive; for the people, just before so enlightened, so moral, so perfect, have no inclinations at all, or, if they have any, these all lead them downwards towards degradation.

And yet they ought to have a little liberty! But are we not assured by Mr. Considerant that liberty leads fatally to monopoly? Are we not told that liberty is competition? and that competition, according to Mr. Louis Blanc, is a system of extermination for the people, and of ruination for trade? For that reason people are exterminated and ruined in proportion as they are free—take, for example, Switzerland, Holland, England, and the United States?

Does not Mr. Louis Blanc tell us again that competition leads to monopoly, and that, for the same reason, cheapness leads to exorbitant prices? That competition tends to drain the sources of consumption, and diverts production to a destructive activity? That competition forces production to increase, and consumption to decrease—whence it
follows that free people produce for the sake of not consuming; that there is nothing but oppression and madness among them; and that it is absolutely necessary for Mr.
Louis Blanc to see to it?

What sort of liberty should be allowed to men? Liberty of conscience?—But we should see them all profiting by the permission to become atheists. Liberty of education?—
But parents would be paying professors to teach their sons immorality and error; besides, if we are to believe Mr. Thiers, education, if left to the national liberty, would cease to be national, and we should be educating our children in the ideas of the Turks or Hindus,
instead of which, thanks to the legal despotism of the universities, they have the good fortune to be educated in the noble ideas of the Romans. Liberty of labor? But this is
only competition, whose effect is to leave all products unconsumed, to exterminate the people, and to ruin the tradesmen. The liberty of exchange? But it is well known that the protectionists have shown, over and over again, that a man will inevitably be ruined when he exchanges freely, and that to become rich it is necessary to exchange without liberty. Liberty of association? But according to the socialist doctrine, liberty and association exclude each other, for the liberty of men is attacked just to force them to associate.
You must see, then, that the socialist democrats cannot in conscience allow men any liberty, because, by their own nature, they tend in every instance to all kinds of regradation and demoralization.

Seeds of Terror   1 comment

Frédéric Bastiat was a contemporary with Alexis de Toqueville and they both came from France. Both were admirers of the United States who noted risks to that wonderful experiment in constitutional republicanism with democratic features. While Toqueville focused on the United States in the most familiar of his writing, Bastiat focused on France while touching on the United States system.  I find Bastiat’s writing to be prescient. He spoke to his own time and society, but he could have been addressing his comments to American circa 2017.

To read the entire series, here is the Table of Contents.

The socialists were in ascendancy in France in Bastiat’s day, which was the primary purpose he wrote this essay The Law. Bastiat hoped to convince his fellow citizens that socialism was a bad, bad mistake. He actually managed that for a while, until people stopped reading his essay and started listening to socialists again. Lela

 

Bastiat wanted his readers to know where their socialists had gotten their ideas and he found evidence that this sort of mind set was the primary driver of the 1789 French Revolution. “No sooner was the old system destroyed than society was to be submitted
to other artificial arrangements, always with the same starting point—the omnipotence of the law.

Louis Antoine Leon de Sainst-Just was a military and political leader during the French Revolution and became a major leader of the government of the French First Republic. He spearheaded the execution of Louis XVI and later drafter the radical French Constitution of 1793. He wrote this:

The legislator commands the future. It is for him to will for the good of mankind. It is for him to make men what he wishes them to be.

Maximilien Robespierre as a French lawyer and one of the most outspoken advocates for democratic institutions and a champion of the poor, abolition of slavery in the French colonies who arranged for the execution of Louis XVI and became a primary figure of the Reign of Terror. He wrote:

The function of Government is to direct the physical and moral powers of the nation towards the object of its institution.

Although not as well known as some of his contemporaries, Jacques Nicolas Billaud-Varenne was an instrumental figure in the Reign of Terror. He wrote this:

A people who are to be restored to liberty must be formed anew. Ancient prejudices must be destroyed, antiquated customs changed, depraved affections corrected, inveterate vices eradicated. For this, a strong force and a vehement impulse will be necessary. . . . Citizens, the inflexible austerity of Lycurgus created the firm basis of the Spartan republic. The feeble and trusting disposition of Solon plunged Athens into slavery. This parallel contains the whole science of Government.

Louis-Michel le Pelletier was a French aristocrat who managed to live through the French Revolution by becoming a revolutionary. His main interest of reform was education and he promoted a Spartan education that called for both males and females to be taught in state-run schools aimed at indoctrinating them in revolutionary ideas rather than history, science, mathematics, language and religion. He wrote this:

Considering the extent of human degradation, I am convinced—of the necessity of effecting an entire regeneration of the race, and, if I may so express myself, of creating a new people. Men, therefore, are nothing but raw material. It is not for them to will their own improvement. They are not capable of it; according to Saint-Just, it is only the legislator who is. Men are merely to be what he wills that they should be.

Image result for image of government totalitarianismBastiat explains that “[a]ccording to Robespierre, who copies Rousseau literally, the legislator is to begin by assigning the aim of the institutions of the nation. After this, the Government has only to direct all its physical and moral forces towards this end. All this time the nation itself is to remain perfectly passive; and Billaud Varennes would teach us that it ought to have no prejudices, affections, nor wants, but such as are authorized by the legislator. He even goes so far as to say that the inflexible austerity of a man is the basis of a republic.” If people refuse to change, Mably recommends a dictatorship, to promote virtue.

This doctrine has not been neglected. Listen to Robespierre:

The principle of the Republican Government is virtue, and the means to be adopted, during its establishment, is terror. We want to substitute, in our country, morality for self-indulgence, probity for honor, principles for customs, duties for decorum, the empire of reason for the tyranny of fashion, contempt of vice for contempt of misfortune, pride for insolence, greatness of soul for vanity, love of glory for love of money, good people for good company, merit for intrigue, genius for wit, truth for glitter, the charm of happiness for the weariness of pleasure, the greatness of man for the littleness of the great, a magnanimous, powerful, happy people, for one that is easy, frivolous, degraded; that is to say, we would substitute all the virtues and miracles of a republic for all the vices and absurdities of monarchy.

Robespierre had an almost godlike view of the rest of mankind. In his arrogance, he was not content with expressing a desire for a great renovation of the human heart. He didn’t think ordinary government could accomplish it, so he intended to do it himself, by the means of terror. He meant to impose his own morality upon the people, regardless of what the people might want.

Bastiat remarked:

Truly it would be well if these visionaries, who think so much of themselves and so little of mankind, who want to renew everything, would only be content with trying to reform themselves, the task would be arduous enough for them.

But the Socialists, though they drew their inspiration from these past writers, didn’t wish to be associated with the Reign of Terror, so they wanted instead to design the law to accomplish their purposes and then they could merely say they were only obeying the law.

Bastiat continued:

No wonder this idea suited Bonaparte so well. He embraced it with ardor, and put it in practice with energy. Playing the part of a chemist, Europe was to him the material for his experiments. But this material reacted against him. More than half undeceived, Bonaparte, at St. Helena, seemed to admit that there is an initiative in every people,
and he became less hostile to liberty. Yet this did not prevent him from giving this lesson to his son in his will

“To govern is to diffuse morality, education, and well-being.”

 

Valor Above & Beyond   1 comment

Brad and I were rooting for Hacksaw Ridge to win just about every Academy Award last night because, aside from its superb acting and stunning cinematography, it provides a thoughtful treatment of the wartime role of a famous conscientious objector. We knew Moonlight would win — weren’t even surprised by the “mistake” at the end — because Hollywood liked its messages better, but we both still say “Hollywood is full of immoral idiots who are drunk on the PC koolaid.”

Enough said on that topic!

Desmond Doss InfographicMy father was a conscientious objector in World War 2, but he was just past the draft age in 1942 and already in the Merchant Marines when FDR nationalized that service for the war effort. He could have used his CO status to ask for a release from service, but he stayed on to support his country even if he didn’t support killing other people in a war. Unlike Desmond Doss, Dad was not a pacifist. He would have picked up a gun if the ship he was on had been invaded by enemy forces who were shooting and killing the crew. He just never had to make that decision. Dad was a cook, so he didn’t become famous and probably wouldn’t have wanted to be anyway. Of course, I think the subject of Gibson’s film might not have wanted to be famous either, but he did some amazing things, so he deserved the credit.

 

Gibson’s film faithfully tells the true-life story of Virginia-born Desmond Doss (1919-2006), a medic and US Army corporal who distinguished himself at the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. He was a Seventh-Day Adventist who from his childhood days detested the thought of taking the life of another. Doss could have avoided military service by accepting a deferment offered him because of his vital work at the Newport News, Virginia shipyard. Some accounts mistakenly claim he was drafted. The fact is that he enlisted in spite of the deferment offer but refused to carry a weapon or to kill an enemy soldier.

Doss was the first and only conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II.

For his unconventional views, Doss was initially shunned and ridiculed by some of his fellow soldiers, bullied by others, and suspected of cowardice by his superiors. They were all wrong! In 1944, he earned the Bronze Star for providing assistance under fire to wounded soldiers on Guam and in the Philippines. The next year, on Okinawa, Doss performed an unbelievably herculean feat: he saved the lives of 75 infantrymen amid one of the most hellish environments imaginable. He was wounded four times in the process.

For his valor above and beyond the call of duty, he became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor, and the only one to earn that venerable distinction during all of World War II. In keeping with his faith and character, the quiet and humble Doss was never known to boast about or cash in on his exploits.

The movie doesn’t delve into Doss’s post-war life. If it did, it would have revealed a continuing life of courage, perseverance, and humility. Doss’s extensive injuries prevented him from returning to work as a carpenter.The tuberculosis he contracted in the Pacific eventually claimed a lung and four ribs. He was honorably discharged in 1951 with 90 percent disability. Then, while still under Army treatment, he was accidentally administered an overdose of antibiotics that left him completely deaf for 12 years until cochlear implants restored some semblance of hearing. Through it all, he raised a family on his Virginia farm and died at the age of 87, barely a decade ago.

Though he never fired a shot, Desmond Doss shines as one of the best exemplars of General Douglas MacArthur’s remark, “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

I am not as anti-war as some of my fellow libertarians are. I believe that sometimes war is inevitable and to not stand against those who oppose you might even be evil. World War 2 was one of those wars. However, I completely support the conscientious objection standard. It’s not something you hear a lot about these days because we have a volunteer military. If someone objects to war in general, a particular war, or to killing another human being … or just has things they’d rather be doing … they can simply choose to do something else or they can voluntarily serve in a non-combat role. In Doss’s day, conscription to the front lines was the norm. Qualifying as a conscientious objector took quite a lot of effort and Doss had qualified. Further, he qualified for a deferment because of his work in the shipyards. This was similar to my dad working in the Merchant Marines. At 27, the Army really couldn’t touch Dad, but he was still free to volunteer. He chose to remain in the Merchant Marines because it was in support of the war effort, but not in a direct combat role.

Doss actually declined a double deferment and volunteered to serve in the front lines, which prompted military authorities to void his conscientious objector status, but he still refused to touch a gun.

My 18-year-old son signed up for selective service a few weeks ago, not because he plans to ever join the military but because he is required to do so by the law. He and I have been discussing what it means to be a conscientious objector. It may never come about that he needs to ask for a deferment, but many people who support a volunteer military make an exception if a nation’s freedom, legitimate security interests, or very existence are at stake, and the more we poke other nations, the more likely we are to set off a big war that meets those criteria and the day such a war is announced, my son will file his objector paperwork.

By the way, America’s freedom, legitimate security interests or very existence were not at stake when Doss volunteered; that would come later when the Nazis began patrolling of the East Coast of the United States with submarines. While we now know that the Nazis were doing horrible thing that required a response, neither Germany or Japan were actually threatening to invade the United States.

Back to the topic. I don’t make a conscription exception. There’s never any excuse to force people to become killers. If a war is truly justified, men will rise to fight it. My son would take up arms if North Korea invaded Alaska … though maybe not if they invaded Hawaii, but probably if they invaded California since that is his sister’s current base of operation. He’s not a pacifist either. Unlike Doss, he has (still-evolving) standards for when he would kill another human being. His standard is higher than the President of the United States told him “the vital interests of the United States are at stake” in a war on the other side of an ocean against a country that hasn’t got the means to invade the United States mainland. The government shouldn’t force anyone to kill others in violation of their conscience … which is what you’re choosing to do if you take a combat role in a war. If government truly thinks a war is worthwhile, it needs to make a case for why people should volunteer to die or kill in it. Let’s remember that Americans were mostly conscientious objectors until Japan attacked Hawaii and then many of them changed their minds and volunteered for military service.

The conscientious objector says to authority, “You haven’t made your case for why I should violate my conscience.” Although I would be persuaded by a whole lot less than my Dad or Doss were, I respect that stance because of my dad, who sailed through mined waters on unarmed ships that were occasionally strafed by enemy aircraft to bring needed supplies to those who, willingly or unwillingly, took up arms against some of the worst regimes on the planet. Anyone who equates those actions with cowardice must reckon with the stories of Desmond Doss and many other men and women in American history. Those stories go back as far as the Quakers in 17th Century colonial America, as demonstrated in the 2002 book edited by Peter Brock, Liberty and Conscience: A Documentary History of the Experiences of Conscientious Objectors in America through the Civil War.

In Brock’s book, I found this passage from an 1818 document of the Massachusetts Peace Society. It stands as a compelling defense of conscientious objection:

If a man should urge the plea of conscience in favor of liberty for burning his neighbor’s house, or murdering his family, or promoting sedition, insurrection and havoc in society, there would be no reason for a law to tolerate such outrages; but if a man conscientiously desires to be exempted from every species of war, and from every requisition which in his opinion is inconsistent with following the Prince of Peace … he ought to be not only tolerated but respected. Such men will never blow the coals of strife, nor seek the overthrow of our government … Those who cordially adopt the principle that “it is better to suffer wrong than do wrong” are not the men by whom our government will be demolished, or the public tranquility endangered. Those who may be disposed to despise, oppress or abuse such men, on account of their pacific principles, are themselves far more dangerous members of society, notwithstanding all their boasted patriotism and their readiness to fight for liberty. Their love of country, their love of liberty, or at least their consistency, may justly be suspected while [or so long as] they are disposed to trample on the rights of conscience in the case of peaceable and inoffensive brethren.

Doss got some recognition for his efforts because of what he did in Okinawa, but many of these others are unsung heroes for being willing to put your unarmed ass on the line in a defensible war for the sake of your fellow citizens.

Eclipse of Liberalism   3 comments

The following was printed in the newspaper “The Nation” on August 9, 1900. Special thanks to the Molinari Institute for preserving this essay.

 

Found on Foundation of Economic Education (FEE.org)

Edwin Godkin

As the nineteenth century draws to its close it is impossible not to contrast the political ideals now dominant with those of the preceding era. It was the rights of man which engaged the attention of the political thinkers of the eighteenth century. The world had suffered so much misery from the results of dynastic ambitions and jealousies, the masses of mankind were everywhere so burdened by the exactions of the superior classes, as to bring about a universal revulsion against the principle of authority. Government, it was plainly seen, had become the vehicle of oppression; and the methods by which it could be subordinated to the needs of individual development, and could be made to foster liberty rather than to suppress it, were the favorite study of the most enlightened philosophers. In opposition to the theory of divine right, whether of kings or demagogues, the doctrine of natural rights was set up. Humanity was exalted above human institutions, man was held superior to the State, and universal brotherhood supplanted the ideals of national power and glory.

These eighteenth-century ideas were the soil in which modern Liberalism flourished. Under their influence the demand for Constitutional Government arose. Rulers were to be the servants of the people, and were to be restrained and held in check by bills of rights and fundamental laws which defined the liberties proved by experience to be most important and vulnerable. Hence arose the demands for Constitutional reform in all the countries of Europe; abortive and unsuccessful in certain respects, but frightening despots into a semblance of regard for human liberty, and into practical concessions which at least curbed despotic authority. Republics were established and Constitutions were ordained. The revolutions of 1848 proved the power of the spirit of Liberalism, and where despotism reasserted itself, it did so with fear and trembling.

Image result for image of liberty distortedTo the principles and precepts of Liberalism the prodigious material progress of the age was largely due. Freed from the vexatious meddling of governments, men devoted themselves to their natural task, the bettering of their condition, with the wonderful results which surround us. But it now seems that its material comfort has blinded the eyes of the present generation to the cause which made it possible. In the politics of the world, Liberalism is a declining, almost a defunct force. The condition of the Liberal party in England is indeed parlous. There is actually talk of a organizing a Liberal-Imperialist party; a combination of repugnant tendencies and theories as impossible as that of fire and water. On the other hand, there is a faction of so-called Liberals who so little understand their traditions as to make common cause with the Socialists. Only a remnant, old men for the most part, still uphold the Liberal doctrine, and when they are gone, it will have no champions.

True Liberalism has never been understood by the masses of the French people; and while it has no more consistent and enlightened defenders than the select group of orthodox economists that still reverence the principles of Turgot and Say, there is no longer even a Liberal faction in the Chamber. Much the same is true of Spain, of Italy, and of Austria, while the present condition of Liberalism in Germany is in painful contrast with what it was less than a generation ago.

In our country recent events show how much ground has been lost. The Declaration of Independence no longer arouses enthusiasm; it is an embarrassing instrument which requires to be explained away. The Constitution is said to be “outgrown”; and at all events the rights which it guarantees must be carefully reserved to our own citizens, and not allowed to human beings over whom we have purchased sovereignty. The great party which boasted that it had secured for the negro the rights of humanity and of citizenship, now listens in silence to the proclamation of white supremacy and makes no protest against the nullifications of the Fifteenth Amendment. Its mouth is closed, for it has become “patriot only in pernicious toils,” and the present boasts of this “champion of human kind” are “To mix with Kings in the low lust of sway, Yell in the hunt, and share the murderous prey; To insult the shrine of Liberty with spoils From freemen torn, to tempt and to betray.”

Nationalism in the sense of national greed has supplanted Liberalism. It is an old foe under a new name. By making the aggrandizement of a particular nation a higher end than the welfare of mankind, it has sophisticated the moral sense of Christendom. Aristotle justified slavery, because Barbarians were “naturally” inferior to Greeks, and we have gone back to his philosophy. We hear no more of natural rights, but of inferior races, whose part it is to submit to the government of those whom God has made their superiors. The old fallacy of divine right has once more asserted its ruinous power, and before it is again repudiated there must be international struggles on a terrific scale.

At home all criticism on the foreign policy of our rulers is denounced as unpatriotic. They must not be changed, for the national policy must be continuous. Abroad, the rulers of every country must hasten to every scene of international plunder, that they may secure their share. To succeed in these predatory expeditions the restraints on parliamentary, even of party, government must be cast aside. The Czar of Russia and the Emperor of Germany have a free hand in China; they are not hampered by constitutions or by representatives of the common people. Lord Salisbury is more embarrassed, and the President of the United States is, according to our Constitution, helpless without the support of Congress. That is what our Imperialists mean by saying that we have outgrown the Constitution.

I suspect Godkin would send a copy of this essay to the current editor of “The Nation” were he alive today. Lela

Posted February 23, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Liberty, Uncategorized

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Let’s Reward Truth Tellers   3 comments

Edward Snowden broke US law in the interest of justice, which demanded that America’s people know that their government was spying on them without their permission or knowledge.

I’m doing a study in Bastiat’s “The Law” right now and to paraphrase this brilliant writer – if the law supports injustice, the law has been perverted.

So, President Trump, if you’re serious about showing that you’re not Barack Obama, that you are not beholding to the miltiary-surveillance complex — if it’s really true that Russia is sending Edward Snowden back to the United States —

GREET HIS PLANE WITH A FULL PARDON!

Posted February 12, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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