Some Heretical Thoughts on Politics and Economics

econ of godby Glenn Fairman  6/18/14
The belief that the raw mechanics of Capitalism, uninformed by any moral penumbra of ethics, religion or philosophy, has alone caused the great material increase of the West — is of itself suspect. Indeed, the Protestant Work Ethic, the idea of fair play, the conception of noblesse oblige, respect for contracts and law, the forbearance of pleasure for industriousness, thrift, moderation, Christian charity, and a host of other ideals and virtues, have invariably tinctured capitalism’s character for better or worse. In the West, we have found that human excellence in the moral sphere translates into economic vitality among healthy societies; and conversely, unravels on the world stage when that vision fails. In the Post Christian epoch, we can see this occurring before our eyes as America and the European Social Democracies purge their Christian essence in pursuit of a secular redefinition. As a result, a mad deification of human equality and homogeneity has come at the expense of liberty, holiness and what were once the predominant classical virtues. And this transformation has led the West to grope for reasons to be fruitful as a civilization and productive economically. Instead, both are succumbing to exhausted irrelevance – a slow and sterile death on the installment plan.

As we tread haphazardly into the darkness, it might be efficacious to consider one of philosophy’s eternal questions: What political and economic conditions are optimal for humanity, and how does our conception of God play a meaningful part in the Good Life? Personally, I believe that our natural capacities for reason, self-deception and creativity result in an oftentimes egregious justification for injustice that invariably arises from our inordinate pursuit of self-interest. This being so, prudence would seem to dictate that given the complexity of our “nature,” the careful establishment of limitations and the cultivation of a sense of humility ought to govern our politics. Since we have a propensity for conceptualizing utopias, but are in grave disagreement on how to bring them about, caution should reign. Few would anymore disagree that our founder’s vision of restrained government flows from the notion that fallen beings should not be imbued with unmixed power and that a system that holds men in check and accountable is salutary to freedom and happiness. This is why strong Christian based republics were for a time healthy, solvent and stable — before they lost the vision which decimated their virtues. And due to our unchanging profligate nature, what is decadent in the man is expressed in the City.
In truth, every regime is doomed to decay: no matter how strongly their economic superstructures appeal to us theoretically or through appearance. With the Capitalist form, it is the moral quality of its participant’s desires that inform the multitude of transactions within a liberal society. The overall character and the ramifications of these free choices will determine societal vigor or atrophy. Healthy societies tend to make healthy choices in the aggregate; and insomuch as they are consistent with nature or the Tao (C.S. Lewis’ euphemism for natural law) societies are said to be in ascendance. Collectivism decays and falls because it thwarts human desire, aspiration and quashes love. It is contrary to nature for goods and children to be held in common (Plato, Strauss). Conversely, the Cosmopolitan City (ruled by untamed desire) eventually fails because it forgets its founding virtues and becomes voluptuous in its taste for gadgets and luxury and waxes indolent in its love of ease.

The fact that Capitalism is more amenable and consistent with nature (even a fallen one) than the collectivist models has been a tonic good for America, since it spurred men to work and find grace in self-sufficiency. But as we now witness, once a people’s unified vision and aristocratic moral virtues unravel, we are left with the instability of democracy, (an inferior form according to Plato and Aristotle) whose slippery slope tendencies will soon deliver us to either an oligarchical or tyrannical endgame — perhaps in short order. Ultimately, there is something unsatisfying in all human economic models and humanity seems suspended between Scylla on one flank and Charybdis on the other. This dissatisfaction, nevertheless, arises from something deeper that unfulfilled material desire.

Once the West had jettisoned its ideal of self-sufficiency for the safety of the collective, (along with the personal restraints that gave our economic structure vitality and purpose), we were left with only an empty shell; and the term “hollow” best describes our current bastardized hybrid that reeks of corporatist fascism. Moreover, how are we to evaluate the “free market” system that exists in Russia or China: systems with values far different than once sustained Western life? Capitalism is still the best system that the temporal world has to offer man as he is thus constituted. That it corresponds to man’s self-interested (and fallen) instincts and harnesses them for the public good is fortunate. But naked self interest alone is insufficient to provide for the Good Life. Both laudable ethics and worthy institutions must coexist harmoniously with free markets for the unimpeded flow of trade and to insure the continuity necessary for such a vibrant evolutionary system to thrive. Indeed, a sense of trust and a common belief in justice must abide in society for transactions to be risked. Also, it is imperative in a modern world to have a disinterested state that serves as an arbiter of fair play, mediates the “rules of the road,” and adjudicates the complications of avarice that flow from the inordinate desire for wealth that Capitalism exquisitely arouses. And finally, one should never forget that Capitalism, though primarily a salutary institution, is founded on usury. And whether or not one believes that the biblical admonition against its existence should be disregarded, qualified or redefined, as a system it has the explosive potential to unleash both tremendous gains and significant pains as by-products of its undirected marriage of freedom and passion. One thing can be said about it for certain: it appeals to man’s acquisitive nature and can bring out both the best and the ugliest in our human drama. But such is the nature of all freedom.

As perhaps an addendum, this must also be kept in mind. The economies of the earth are posited on limited goods and services and all economics is an attempt to solve the problems related to scarcity and desire. The Economy of God, in a future redeemed earth, will feature no such deficiency and any inordinate yearning for material goods will one day cease as our psyches are healed. How ironic that paradise eventually emerges, not through the culmination of some historical process or as a function of a republic or herd, but through the authoritative power of a benevolent monarchy. Although we peek through a glass darkly now, one day we shall see and know clearly and face to face. The Economy of God is something we have never experienced before, except perhaps through the eyes of that first primordial pair. Nonetheless, it shall appear one day and be the source of a great human jubilation. As for me, I cherish that day’s approach.


Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca.
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26 Responses to Some Heretical Thoughts on Politics and Economics

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Limitations — the key to economic success. The free market is superior to any other form of economic organization, but (as Adam Smith noted) the businessmen who participate are always ready to conspire together to maximize their profits beyond what they should be. The problem with absolute laissez-faire is that it does nothing to protect people from the occasional predator; the problem with modern fascism (with its massive welfare state and overwhelming regulations) is that it forces business to pay so high a price to operate that business is discouraged.

    All one has to remember is that everything has a price, including freedom. It’s nice that the government can’t spy on us, even though by doing so they can occasionally prevent crimes. (There was an actual case in New England in the 1960s, when FBI wiretapping enabled them to warn some guy running an independent craps game whenever the local mob was going to hit him. When they had to stop wiretapping routinely, his luck ran out.) Regulations are (at least initially) well-intentioned, but they add costs — and eventually the cost is too high regardless of their merits. We have the right to arm ourselves for very good reasons, but this undoubtedly leads to some extra gun crimes (though it also prevents many, usually invisibly).

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Glenn, the Pope can’t get the story of free markets and liberty right. Neither can libertarians. The former seems to be unable to separate man’s inherent sinful nature from the market (blaming the market for such sins and proposing state control of the market as a solution — and not acknowledging that man’s sinful nature doesn’t go away simply because he is in government). The latter does not acknowledge any other factor but the market, including ethics. As far as Libertarians are concerned, the South had every right to keep slaves. It’s all about whatever the market supports.

    Michael Novak in The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism comes close, although I think he’s back-slid a little since this book came out.

    So, does the Fairman Doctrine do any better? Let’s see…

    The belief that the raw mechanics of Capitalism, uninformed by any moral penumbra of ethics, religion or philosophy, has alone caused the great material increase of the West — is of itself suspect. Indeed, the Protestant Work Ethic, the idea of fair play, the conception of noblesse oblige, respect for contracts and law, the forbearance of pleasure for industriousness, thrift, moderation, Christian charity, and a host of other ideals and virtues, have invariably tinctured capitalism’s character for better or worse.

    This is correct. What we are left to decide or deduce is how influential is that penumbra of ethics. In reality, the “free market” cannot exist without a preexisting condition of the respect for private property. It cannot exist if the work ethic, and the idea of work itself (historically belittled as beneath the upper classes), is denigrated (leading to it being lawfully forbidden). It cannot exist without a system of impartial law that everyone can know beforehand as opposed to the unpredictable landscape of a king or emperor (or unelected bureaucracy) intervening and perhaps wiping out entire industries as happened in ancient China.

    All of these aspects are significantly different from the mindset that man, and his “betters,” usually held. In Stark’s book, “How the West Won,” his premise is that the early Christian church, particularly in the guise of the capitalistic monasteries, gave legal and moral assent to the free market.

    We can say the words, “free market,” as many Libertarians do, and forget the moral impetus that allows for it. A “free market” does not exist in a vacuum. It requires a people who believe that they can better their circumstances through honest, hard work and trade instead of plunder — and, who with the support of law, can actually do so.

    But “free trade” itself is but an incantation if separated from this legal/moral/cultural framework. Those who make the free market a moral act unto itself are seen to be easily beguiled and confused by this misplaced ethic: For example, the typical libertarian excesses in this regard, whether apologizing for slavery because it is a “state’s right” or the belief that anyone should be able to own a store of anthrax or poisonous gas in their basement if they can afford to buy these products on the market.

    As usual, each one of Glenn’s paragraphs tends to be a topic unto itself. 🙂 And I haven’t time for a fuller analysis. But that’s stage one!

  3. Glenn Fairman says:

    Novak and Stark’s understanding in these matter should be required reading for undergraduates. That you are well versed in them is impressive.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    In the Post Christian epoch, we can see this occurring before our eyes as America and the European Social Democracies purge their Christian essence in pursuit of a secular redefinition. As a result, a mad deification of human equality and homogeneity has come at the expense of liberty, holiness and what were once the predominant classical virtues.

    It’s an interesting question as to whether the advent of secularism (a mild form of atheism, at best) is responsible for the embracing of Communism (or call it “Progressivism” if one is too squeamish). Certainly with the expunging of Christianity from civic life, the idea of living for something more than the “stuff” one can collect has gone mostly missing. And some would say (I certainly would say), that having expunged a deeper sense of life — and human beings, by nature, always seeking such a thing — you can see how so many people have made idols of nature, bending a knee at the Church of Global Warming, for instance.

    My impression of the emergence of the modern free market is that the positive traits of innovation, creativity, and striving to do well for oneself (outside of the ancient art of plundering through force) were reinforced and produced a feedback loop (along with methods of scientific inquiry) that gave us our modern material wealth and political freedoms (the essence of it being there cannot be economic freedom without political freedom).

    I certainly do view the modern mindset of secular-socialism (again, a mild form of atheism, at best) as a mental, psychological, and/or spiritual type of impoverishment — even it if exists in a sea of material wealth. But it should be noted that the one (material wealth) needn’t necessarily be at odds with the other (a richer internal life of greater depth and meaning). In other words, did material abundance necessarily usher in all these silly “Progressive” trifles that people obsess over?

    Many of the religious types tend to pooh-pooh the free market system seeing it as draining away man’s richer heritage. But this concept should be balanced with the fact that asceticism, although an important aspect of Christianity, was never meant to be the driving influence, no more than the smarmy “prosperity church” of the Joel Osteen types on the other end of the spectrum. Perhaps it is nearly impossible to articulate a baby-bear “just right” balance of these elements. But a wise balance is indeed the proper end.

    There’s nothing wrong with material riches. But when we make them the be-all, end-all of our existence, we will find ourselves impoverished. On the other hand, as much as some Christian ascetics have taught us (especially including St. Francis) about the real meaning of life, it’s silly to denounce the cure for some disease as being profane….or even the act of living in a nice house instead of a grass hut.

    What the free market does is give us our choice of how to live. It gives us an outlet for our creativity and a means to live a better physical life. Although most people, being sheep, cannot tear themselves away from keeping up with the Joneses, that is not the fault of freedom and the free market. I do not see Cultural Marxism as an inevitable result of material wealth, the idea being that we can afford (at least in the short term) to humor ourselves with really stupid ideas because we are so well off (even if this is exactly what we have done in this instance).

    But I would agree that without an eye toward some grander vision of human life than consumerism or political effervescence (gaining a sense of transcendence through one’s tribe or leader), material wealth certainly has the inherent power to turn us all into the kind of vapid people who wear their pants down around their ankles while mindlessly text messaging sweet nothings to the tattooed and pierced other. Without one foot at least in the idea of the Eternal, of a sense of being higher than the ringtone of an iPhone, we will be ugly creatures on the other end of the material spectrum. Dirty and diseased beggars living on dirt floors are not all that less undesirable than the kind of secular flake who is clean on the outside but contains very little of substance within.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I wouldn’t say that the modern leftists (whether you can them progressives or liberals or whatever) are the same as communists (though their fondness for communist icons such as Fidel Castro makes me suspect that this would be their ideal if they thought they could bring it about). Rather, it’s a mixture of various aspects of big-government philosophies, including progressivism (but that was a strongly Christian and moralistic movement, hence its role in the establishment of Prohibition), communism/socialism, fascism/Nazism, and at least a touch of collectivist anarchism.

      Partly this results from the necessity of combining a congeries of identity groups, each with its own agenda. There is an ideal government structure, but the first priority is satisfying each group’s demands. (Never mind that the demands of Muslims and homosexuals are incompatible. They’ll cross that bridge when they come to it, as Teddy Kennedy said to Mary Jo Kopechne. Only time will tell, which group is Teddy Bear and which is Mary Jo. There will eventually be other incompatibilities as well, of course, such as Muslims and women.)

      • Glenn Fairman says:

        Harry Jaffa used to say that at least Communists were systematic enough in their theories so that they could be debated coherently. The liberal intellectual builds his structures in mid-air and never takes into account what moral-political sub-structures must exist for liberalism to thrive. Liberalism is like the guy who believes that the world was created out of whole cloth on the day he was born, and consequently, passes away when he closes his eyes. Like a thankless vampire, it drains life from societies and turns up its lip at the long chain of sacrifices that were made to bring about the current quality of life that succors it, even as it defecates upon the civilizational host that spawned it. It is motivated by unsustainable dreams of perfection and petulant to the point that any attempt to tame its fury is met with the emotionalism of a spoiled and precocious child—–it wants what it wants and it wants it now.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Considering that liberal atheists react to the Cross the way that vampires are said to, the comparison is very apt.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I wouldn’t say that the modern leftists (whether you can them progressives or liberals or whatever) are the same as communists (though their fondness for communist icons such as Fidel Castro makes me suspect that this would be their ideal if they thought they could bring it about). Rather, it’s a mixture of various aspects of big-government philosophies, including progressivism (but that was a strongly Christian and moralistic movement, hence its role in the establishment of Prohibition), communism/socialism, fascism/Nazism, and at least a touch of collectivist anarchism.

        It is indeed a mix of influences and ideologies. But one thing to note is that these movements try to hide what they are. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…

        It’s generally understood, for example, that what energizes the environmental-wacko movement is Communism, spiced up by anti-humanism (which, really, is nothing new to Communism having killed 100 million people last century). The environmental-wacko movement hates people. It hates private property. It hates business. And it wants a Communist-style all-encompassing government to control us all.

        I make no apologies for calling a spade a spade. David Horowitz has long noted that “Progressive” or “Liberal” were the words that the Communists were hiding behind. That there are legions of useful idiots who are ignorant of what the leadership is up to, and who they really are, is a given. But it doesn’t change the very thrust of the movements themselves. If you consider what their end goal is, you can understand them as being capital-C “Communist” movements.

  5. Glenn Fairman says:

    It is doubtful whether any libertarian would assent to slavery because of some iron law of markets. But for many, there is nothing in their animating philosophy to forbid it. Freedom is a great thing…but it is ambiguous unhinged from an end. Does my freedom to own human chattel trump the notion that no man exists for another? We require something more essential in a political system than raw self interest, since there are a myriad of views on how men shall live. It is curious how libertarianism begins with platitudes about liberty, but eventually settles in on justifications for vice or the economic reductionism of markets. It is too thin to survive on its own in a cold cruel world without the sword and shield of “the Good” to guard its tender throat.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’m convinced that Libertarianism makes you stupid. Regarding the free markets, they will tend to trot out the “non-coercive” rule. That sounds nice. But the devil is in the details.

      Is it wrong for the state to coerce the illegality of slavery? According to libertarians, it would be. The free market is this ill-considered fuzzy bunny who solves everything and just floats on the fumes of nice thoughts and feelings. And as long as the free market stays in the realm of an ideal (an idol, really) — left unexamined by reasonableness — you can make the “non-coercion” law seem palatable as an absolute.

      Libertarian doctrine is to basically have no government, sharing the Communist idea that man will always act for the better if certain aspects are expelled from society. For the Communist, that aspect is capitalism itself. Once the proletariat is in control, there will automatically be peace and economic justice.

      This is analogous to the Libertarian idea that if only we get rid of the “coercive” elements in society, we could live in harmony and peace. But Libertarians are unable to answer the question of who will coerce the elements in this anarchic society who intend to get their way by force (and such forces will inevitably arise). Never have I heard an answer to this. And any organized force that arises or is organized to deal with this aspect is de facto government….necessarily coercing. That is, Libertarians haven’t the slightest clue as to the reasons why society is organized as it is now. They are therefore in no position to create a better one.

      So, as I’ve found, Libertarianism does indeed make you stupid. And I see little difference between the notion of not assenting to slavery and not forbidding it. Given the ideological confusion and bankruptcy of libertarianism, slicing a distinction this thin is, in practice, meaningless. They can’t even grasp the thick slices.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      This is why John Stossel can’t bring himself to see anything wrong with what happens to Brendan Eich or Donald Sterling. The market worked, after all, and he can’t see any other ethical value, such as the determination of a small group of militant fag-boys to intimidate anyone who disagrees with them, and what that means for effective free speech in the not-very-long run.

  6. Glenn Fairman says:

    Rousseau and Marx believed that Man in his original state of nature was generally an amiable brute, but it took society to make him into a real stinker. From this we derive that a magical education to virtue will augment his natural creativity and social morality at the end of history–where government will wither away and we shall live in abundance through our redeemed nature. That this will occur without the transformation of a Higher Power is indicative of the Communist’s secular audacity. Compare this with the Gospel message and tell me that the dream of the Secular City is not religious in nature.

    Libertarians generally are silent on the soul and its perfectability. They seem to believe that the individual’s propensity for significant evil can be restrained by a minimalist government, but how this is to come about is vague. The ruling meme is a moral notion that a man’s freedom stops at his neighbor’s nose…..yet what is to compel such a categorical restraint is fuzzy. The notion of billions of little atoms roaming about, propelled by some personal guiding star is an embarrassment, given what we know about our unrestrained natures. Any system that constructs itself on anything other than this truth builds it’s house on sand.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      That this will occur without the transformation of a Higher Power is indicative of the Communist’s secular audacity.

      Exactly, Glenn. In essence, in this scheme, man will be redeemed by the Department of Motor Vehicles, or the equivalent thereof.

      Libertarians generally are silent on the soul and its perfectability. They seem to believe that the individual’s propensity for significant evil can be restrained by a minimalist government, but how this is to come about is vague.

      It’s difficult to gauge what is behind that. Sometimes naive dogma is just naive dogma. But I can’t help thinking that the recent words I read of Theodore Dalrymple are apt. In essence, we deconstruct and find fault with what is in order to be able to have the license to satisfy our every whim (further disguised by simply labeling it “freedom”). That is, it’s a function of self-deception, man’s amazing ability to slap a veneer of clever rationalizations upon what he wills to do just because he wills to do it.

      I recognize that there can be no such thing as law if law simply and ultimately derives from the human mind, for the human mind is typically guided by what to me is the insanity of serial rationalizations — whether driven by political desires or the murky and deceptive veneer of disguising one’s untempered will. (Nice timing on doing the symposium on the 9th Commandment.)

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Paragraph 2:

    Few would anymore disagree that our founder’s vision of restrained government flows from the notion that fallen beings should not be imbued with unmixed power and that a system that holds men in check and accountable is salutary to freedom and happiness.

    Few amongst ourselves would disagree. But society has turned into a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Forget about sophisticated thinking or even just subtle thinking. Its “wham” and “bam” with animated stars swirling around from dealing with the facile slogans that we are constantly being hit over the head with in place of even the most basic thinking or reasoning.

    Our culture has been made stupid and shallow by the Left. If you’ve gone to college (and perhaps even if you have not), you have learned these things:

    + Religion is nothing more than unsubstantiated superstition and thus can not only be ignored but can be depended upon to always aim in the wrong direction — it’s motivations and thought processes having inescapably corrupted its adherents.

    + The Left doesn’t have to justify the rightness of its policies or beliefs. (See above.) It merely needs to know that the other guys are backward and wrong.

    And therefore this is the only way it can make sense to me that a college-educated scientist once told me “I don’t believe in limited government.” This rather idiotic belief (for who in their right mind could possibly believe in unlimited government?) depends for its existence upon “Not that.” That is, it makes no deep claim on reason. It simply bounces off the supposed fact that anything “the Christian right” believes in is wholly wrong.

    Thus we add one more bullet point to the above:

    + To be “secular” in this day and age is not simply to have decided not to adopt a religion out of preference; it’s to have been shaped by anti-religious bigotry.

    I was at a birthday party the other day. And I knew I was in at least a slightly liberal crowd. One of the people there, quite out of the blue, mentions some Mormon who came to his door and how stupid such people are. And, yes, I find door-to-door sellers of religion to be generally a pain. But it was clear from what I heard that this guy brought up the subject (again, quite out of the blue) because it is one of the “safe” points of discussion amongst liberals. It’s one that (oddly) gives them a sense of comfortable orientation (not that). And, like any cult, it’s a point that requires constant reinforcement. Outside of repeating wafer-thin bumper sticker slogans, liberals will rarely try to give a reasoned rationale for their ideas. It’s enough for them to simply dismiss the other side as backward, superstitious, ignorant, and unenlightened.

    As I’ve noted before, the Left is (so far) a peaceful variant of The Master Race syndrome (outside of abortion, of course). They really do think they are a better sort of people. Libertarians breathe these same fumes. Instead of doing the work (and having the courage) to figure out what is really going on, they fall back on self-serving cliches, trite slogans, and vapid conceits.

    The entire idea of man having a sinful, imperfect, of fallen nature is another point of “not that.” It’s just assumed that because the knuckleheads on the religious side believe this that therefore the opposite is true. And, believe me, Libertarians think we are knuckleheads just as much as the Left does. They therefore needn’t examine their own principles in any detail. They just need to know that we are ignorant knuckleheads (or also, in the case of Libertarians, “statists” in disguise).

    The “Progressive” believes that anything is possible if government will just set about doing it with like-minded people in charge. Those people who wanted “limited” government were simply greedy capitalists who needed a weak government in order to enslave the working class or run their businesses roughshod over the environment. And although your college-educated man or woman who works in business (and perhaps even owns his own business) isn’t in the habit of reciting this Marxist dogma consciously in such form, he supports it unconsciously because of all the prejudices he has soaked up about “the right.” He is thus walled off from the solutions to most of our problem because, as Thatcher said, “The facts of life are conservative.” He is stuck as a useful idiot.

    For anyone on the Left, their inflated sense of intellectual and moral superiority makes it very very hard for them to admit that they are wrong. And if you have enough of these people in insular places (as they often are) back-slapping each other, they all become the equivalent of Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

    Your typical American (at least under the age of 65) has been significantly uprooted from the rationale for the founding principles of this country. This has become so endemic that he, to the extent he has remained religious, has turned Christianity into a parody of itself, substituting Karl Marx (social justice, diversity, multiculturalism) for Jesus.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Make that “largely peaceful”. Labor union thugs and Occupiers certainly aren’t very peaceful (though the latter have pretty much disappeared), and there’s still a cadre of animal rights and environmentalist fanatics blowing things up here and there. The black/blue/brown/green/purple shirts aren’t yet the threat they were for the 1920s through the 1940s, but they’re around, always ready to be unleashed when needed.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Libertarians breathe these same fumes. Instead of doing the work (and having the courage) to figure out what is really going on, they fall back on self-serving cliches, trite slogans, and vapid conceits.

      What I find particularly despicable about Libertarians is the fact that they are either too stupid or dishonest to admit that, if their pet policies regarding sex, drugs and rock-n-roll are enacted, overall freedom will be contracted and not expanded. This is particularly the case given the present political climate i.e. the fact that we are in a nanny welfare state which has been around for over fifty years so it’s not like there is a snowball’s chance in hell that anything approaching their economic and social laissez-faire utopia will come about.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I think Moses was talking to the Libertarians as well as the Hebrews when Charlton Heston said, “Without the law, there is no freedom.”

        For those with naive and romantic Rousseau-ian notions of human nature, the law can ever only be “coercive” and interrupt man’s party-time. And if man always acted for the good of himself and others — balancing the needs of himself and others to a reasonable and sane extent, careful not to fall into any zealotry, mindful of the pillars and ethics that hold up any good community — law would not be necessary. As Madison sagely noted, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

        These words are generally contrary to the most basic beliefs of both Libertarians and those on the Left. There can be no freedom without the law because man, if left to his own devices, will oppress other men. A just law that applies to all restrains those who need restraining and frees those from the clutches of the unscrupulous or just plain violent. The naive utopian aspirations of both libertarians and Leftists deny this reality.

        And as you said, given the Zeitgeist that exists now, throwing a million drug-addled people into the mix isn’t going to reduce the size of government. It would expand it.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Liberty without virtue will result in anarchy. Any serious person with an emotional maturity above an eight year old’s will understand this.

          And throughout history, people have accepted oppressive governments after a time of lawlessness which arises from anarchy.

  8. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    The black/blue/brown/green/purple shirts aren’t yet the threat they were for the 1920s through the 1940s, but they’re around, always ready to be unleashed when needed.

    In the summer of 1973, a group of us visited East Berlin. There happened to be a World Communist Youth Festival in progress. Angela Davis was one of the featured speakers.

    Virtually everyone was wearing a royal blue shirt. (A little ironic that) Somehow, we ended up speaking to an old man, probably in his late sixties or seventies, and someone made a remark on how amazing it was that all these people would wear those nice blue shirts, to which the old man spit and said, “forty years ago they wore brown.” I took the point to be that there will always be a mob ready to follow the next tyrant or horrible ideology. That the “Fest” was being held in the capital of the former Third Reich made his remark particularly apt.

    That has stayed with me for the last forty years. By the way, the old man was pretty brave to express such sentiments to a bunch of American strangers.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      He may have meant that more literally. Many Communists moved quite readily into the Nazis, especially the SA. The term for them was “beefsteak Nazis” — brown on the outside, red on the inside. (The connection to most enviro-fanatics is no accident. Incidentally, the Nazis were very environmentalist-minded, as well as adopting much the same policies on smoking that we have today. I highly recommend The Nazi War on Cancer by Robert Proctor.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        He may have meant that more literally. Many Communists moved quite readily into the Nazis, especially the SA.

        Possibly, but that would have been a bit much for most 19-20 year olds to grasp. I tend toward the idea that he was also condemning the propensity of a large percentage of the German people to follow authority figures.

        The Nazis were very environmentalist-minded,

        The German speakers are well known to have a special veneration for nature. Don’t forget, the Greens of Europe started in Germany. As I only half-jokingly say, the “Germans are Pagans”. And as we know pagans worshiped nature. Trees and forests were especially feared and honored. Be careful those wood-sprites.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          The German speakers are well known to have a special veneration for nature. Don’t forget, the Greens of Europe started in Germany. As I only half-jokingly say, the “Germans are Pagans”. And as we know pagans worshiped nature. Trees and forests were especially feared and honored. Be careful those wood-sprites.

          That’s more of the “Not that” principle at work. The media, the education Marxists, and others, have done a fair job programming yutes into a hatred of tradition — and if not an actual hatred, at least to consider it uncool, stupid, or unenlightened to do as your elders did.

          So you really do have this somewhat bizarre state of affairs that Mark Steyn talks about in Europe. You have a bunch of people who are materialists inside and out, who have given the important decisions of their lives over to the state, and who have nothing left for their shriveled souls than to hug a tree and pretend to each other that this means more than it does.

          As Dennis Prager says, they worship the mere created instead of the Creator. And however one thinks of the Creator, it is logically obvious that the Cause of nature is larger or more basic than nature. To say that mankind is a part of nature is fine. But we are not only nature. And it is the dogma of the secularists who have actually shrunk man’s horizons, despite their smarmy self-labeling of themselves as “Progressives.” They live a lie while others grapple with a grand mystery, perhaps even taking part in the Eternal.

  9. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Capitalism is still the best system that the temporal world has to offer man as he is thus constituted. That it corresponds to man’s self-interested (and fallen) instincts and harnesses them for the public good is fortunate. But naked self interest alone is insufficient to provide for the Good Life. Both laudable ethics and worthy institutions must coexist harmoniously with free markets for the unimpeded flow of trade and to insure the continuity necessary for such a vibrant evolutionary system to thrive. Indeed, a sense of trust and a common belief in justice must abide in society for transactions to be risked. Also, it is imperative in a modern world to have a disinterested state that serves as an arbiter of fair play, mediates the “rules of the road,” and adjudicates the complications of avarice that flow from the inordinate desire for wealth that Capitalism exquisitely arouses. And finally, one should never forget that Capitalism, though primarily a salutary institution, is founded on usury. And whether or not one believes that the biblical admonition against its existence should be disregarded, qualified or redefined, as a system it has the explosive potential to unleash both tremendous gains and significant pains as by-products of its undirected marriage of freedom and passion. One thing can be said about it for certain: it appeals to man’s acquisitive nature and can bring out both the best and the ugliest in our human drama. But such is the nature of all freedom.

    That’s a great summing up of our freedom-based way of life.

    Anyone expecting human flaws to not be expressed even in the best of systems is a fool. And Marxists are clearly fools. Instead of praising the abundance created by this system (let alone the benefits of freedom itself), they damn it for not meeting their utopian goals. And, of course, there is some kind of personal animosity being expressed through these politics. The Left is the home of the aggrieved, the moochers, the deceivers, and most of all those who, for whatever reason, feel alienated.

    I’m not a natural optimist, so perhaps that is why I’m not a member of the Christian religion proper. G.K. Chesterton said in his biography of St. Thomas:

    Now nobody will begin to understand the Thomist philosophy, or indeed the Catholic philosophy, who does not realise that the primary and fundamental part of it is entirely the praise of Life, the praise of Being, the praise of God as the Creator of the World.

    I tend to think life is a mixed bag, often being pretty shitty, and not simply because of man’s sins. So an overly optimistic appraisal of reality escapes me.

    And yet honesty demands me to admit that the pessimistic philosophy of the Left is a cancer. Ultimately Western Civilization, warts and all, is based on the optimistic philosophy that man’s life is meaningful, that he can progress on this earth, and that he can get closer to the Divine, including by increasing our understanding of this natural world. Accord to Stark in “How the West Won,” this is what separated the West from the rest of the world. There was indeed a moral imperative to some extent to progress. At the very least, unlike in Islam, there was not a society-wide prohibition against it.

    But now the philosophy of pessimism predominates. We shit on the good because it’s not perfect. And instead of seeing this wonderful system of freedom (both political and economic) and setting our children out on a healthy path to live a fruitful life in it, we instead tell them that those who have gone before and made a success of themselves are the guilty ones. They are the “exploiters.”

    Believe me when I say that I understand the full darkness of the Left, of collectivism. I have not even slightly rose-tinted glasses.

    We can, and should, delve into the strengths and weaknesses of our freedom and productivity-based system that underpins the West. But we should understand what evil force it is (in the name of “good”) that is trying to replace it. What is called “good” now is a sense of being entitled to the property of others. And there is an evil organization leading this cause, otherwise known as the Democrat Party. And not far behind are the Establishment Republican collaborators.

    As Rush said, the only people who stand for protecting this great nation is the Tea Party and other like-minded people. “Good” in the minds of many people now means feeling guilty over having played by the rules, worked hard, and done well. This same “good” also then means sanctifying those who declare themselves victims by virtue of declaring that our hard-earned wealth was ill-gotten, that they therefore are now due our life and property. And this method of thought unleashes a mob.

    And that is what the basis of our country is becoming. We are changing from a constitutional republic to a mob-ruled system (aka “democracy”). And there are far too many people (and far too many Christians) who think they are the most compassionate of the compassionate for buying into this ideology of “social justice.”

    No wonder it is said that “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way.” Certainly the path of deceit, narcissism, and ignorance is a 4-lane highway by comparison.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I have pessimistic tendencies myself, which made it ironic when I had to give a speech to the Optimists Club when I was in high school. Of course, one can realize that optimism is useful and desirable even if you don’t share it, and certainly I’m not as pessimistic as some people I’ve known.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        One of the heresies I carry, Timothy, is that it’s not just a matter of asking for God’s forgiveness. It’s a matter of forgiving God for having such a shit-filled universe, at least at times. And not all of it is due to man’s sin. It’s just the nature of the beast. We are beings who suffer pain, grow old, know many misfortunes, and then die.

        I believe this reality can lead to a thorough and ingrained sense of alienation whereby one is trying to rectify one’s lot in life. And I don’t mean by improving it by the usual means of building something. I mean that one is rebelling against reality itself.

        Hillary Clinton is a good case of this. No matter how much power and influence she has, she’ll always be a sour bitch. When you’re clawing back at the injustices of infinity, you’ve got a long way to go.

        And this is what “social justice” ultimately is. It’s about man trying to set right the cosmic scales as he supposes they should be. Remember, the key to understanding “social justice” is to understand that inherent to the idea is that some cosmic injustice has been committed that must be put right.

        I fall somewhere in the middle. Yeah, life can suck, but it does absolutely no good howling at the moon. Eventually you must make lemonade out of lemons, see the glass as half full, and be thankful for what you can do, not stay focused on what you can’t. This must be so, for there is no end to grievance. A man presented with a vast fortune, perfect health, a beautiful wife, and all the fame he could hope for will always find something more he could have. And that means finding fault with what he already has got.

        I see the free market as a method, not an end in itself. And it’s a good method, but the ends it can produce are not automatically good just because the mechanism inherently involves free choice.

        There is more to the world than making choices. In fact, I ran into a wonderful passage just now from Dalrymple’s “In Praise of Prejudice”:

        The precocity encouraged by too-early an assumption of the responsibility for making a choice, as if children were the customers of their parents rather their offspring, is soon followed by arrested development. A young child, constantly consulted over his likes and dislikes, learns that life is, and ought to be, ruled by his likes and dislikes.

        Something tells me that I smell the roots of the modern libertarian movement.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I know what you mean about people aggrieved with reality, having once known a woman who felt shat upon by the universe (which, given her many physical problems, was a reasonable conclusion). This left her with a very ungracious attitude toward those who were willing to help her, and a tendency to blame them if anything went wrong while they were doing so — at which point they would never help her again. (This happened to me, as it happened to so many others.) Eventually she ended up in a series of nursing homes, moved from one to another (according to a friend who was another of those who had helped her) because of illness — the staffs kept getting sick of her.

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