leftism

Has America Always Been Leftist?

Dr. John J. Ray, writing at Dissecting Leftism, enraged some Americans with two recent posts about America and leftism. I’m grateful to Dr. Ray for publishing, in a subsequent post, a message that I sent to him about the two posts in question. Herein, I elaborate on the points that I made in my message to Dr. Ray.

In “America Has Always Been Leftist,” Dr. Ray asserts the following:

As most Americans learn around the time of Thanksgiving, America was founded by fanatical communists.  They forbad [sic] private ownership of land and insisted that all produce be shared communally.  If that’s not communism, nothing is.  They were such fanatics that a third of them had to starve to death before they decided that communism wasn’t such a good idea and went back to the way things had always been done in stodgy old England.

So what should we expect of a nation dominated by the descendants of fanatical communists?  What we should expect is exactly what we actually got, I submit.

But before I get to that, let me  ensure complete clarity about what the core of Leftism is.  The content of Leftism changes from time to time.  Before WWII, Leftists world wide were energetic champions of eugenics, for instance.  Leftists now abhor it.  So what is constant in Leftism?  Anger.  Leftists in all eras are so dissatisfied with the society in which they live that they want sweeping changes to it. And they thirst for power to achieve that.  That is Leftism.

Pace Dr. Ray, it is well known that the “fanatical communists” of Plymouth Colony quickly abandoned their experiment in communism; for example, Jerry Bowyer writes:

…America was founded by socialists who had the humility to learn from their initial mistakes and embrace freedom.

One of the earliest and arguably most historically significant North American colonies was Plymouth Colony, founded in 1620 in what is now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts. As I’ve outlined in greater detail here before (Lessons From a Capitalist Thanksgiving), the original colony had written into its charter a system of communal property and labor.

As William Bradford recorded in his Of Plymouth Plantation, a people who had formerly been known for their virtue and hard work became lazy and unproductive. Resources were squandered, vegetables were allowed to rot on the ground and mass starvation was the result. And where there is starvation, there is plague. After 2 1/2 years, the leaders of the colony decided to abandon their socialist mandate and create a system which honored private property. The colony survived and thrived and the abundance which resulted was what was celebrated at that iconic Thanksgiving feast….

It is, moreover, an exaggeration to say that America is “a nation dominated by the descendants of fanatical communists.” First, as I’ve just pointed out, the inhabitants of Plymouth Colony were hardly fanatical. If they had been, they would have chosen the sure impoverishment (and probable death) of communism over the relative prosperity (and liberty) that came their way when they abandoned their infatuation with communism.

Second, only a small minority of today’s Americans — even of today’s white Americans — can count themselves as “full blooded” descendants of the inhabitants of Plymouth Colony or other early settlers might also have harbored socialistic delusions. There have been too many immigrants from continental Europe and too much “miscegenation” for that to be true.

Third, and fundamentally, it is meaningless to generalize about “Americans,” as I’ve explained at length here. There are and have been individual Americans of many political persuasions, most of them confused and contradictory.

That said, I do agree, generally, with Dr. Ray’s characterization of the motivations underlying the War of Independence. In his next post, “Has America Always Been Leftist?,” Dr. Ray says this:

I did learn something very important from [the critics of "America Has Always Been Leftist"].  It was vividly brought home to me how impressive fine words are to most people.  When even patriotic American conservatives can be taken in by them, it shows why Leftists have so much influence. Leftists are nothing but fine words.  To me fine words are only provisionally important.  They have to be backed up by deeds and it is the deeds that matter.

An excellent example of how fine words impress even conservatives  is the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.  It is full of fine words and noble sentiments.  Most political documents are.  Stalin’s Soviet constitution also was a high-minded document proclaiming all sorts of rights for Soviet citizens  – rights which were denied in fact.

So once you look past the grand generalizations of the Declaration’s introduction and get to the nitty gritty of what the Yankee grandees really wanted fixed, you see that it is very mundane, if not ignoble.  What was really bothering them was restrictions on their powers to legislate.  They wanted more laws, not less!   Very Leftist.

And from THAT starting point you can see why the war was fought and for whose benefit.  The grandees concerned had a lot of influence and were good at fine talk so they could muster an army — and they did.  And who benefited from the war?  Was it the poor farmers and tradesmen who died as foot-soldiers in it?  No way!  It was the grandees who started the war.  They emerged with exactly what they wanted:  More power.

I am sorry if that account sounds offensive to people who still believe the original propaganda, but if you ignore the fancy talk and just look at the facts, that is what happened.

Dr. Ray’s sweeping use of “Leftist” aside, his main point is well taken. I made a similar observation in response to a post by Timothy Sandefur, who was then guest-blogging at The Volokh Conspiracy. Sandefur, writing about his book The Conscience of the Constitution, asserted that “The American founders held that people are inherently free—that is, no person has a basic entitlement to dictate how other people may lead their lives.” I responded:

Did they, really? All of them, including the slave owners? Or did they simply want to relocate the seat of power from London to the various State capitals, where local preferences (including anti-libertarian ones) could prevail? Wasn’t that what the Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation were all about? The Constitution simply moved some of the power toward the national capital, mainly for the conduct of foreign policy and trade. Despite that, the Constitution was a “States’ rights” document, and remained that way until the ratification of Amendment XIV, from which much anti-libertarian mischief has emanated.

In response to Sandefur’s next post, I wrote:

Why can’t you [Sandefur] just admit that the Declaration of Independence was a p.r. piece, penned (in the main) by a slave-owner and subscribed to by various and sundry elites who (understandably) resented their treatment at the hands of a far-away sovereign and Parliament? You’re trying to make more of the Declaration — laudable as its sentiments are — than should be made of it….

In sum, the War of Independence isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

And there’s no doubt that liberty suffered in the long run as a result of the North’s victory in the Civil War. I return to Dr. Ray’s “America Has Always Been Leftist,” where he says this:

“Only” half a million men died [in the Civil War].  And for what?  EVERY other country on earth abolished slavery without the need for a war.  Does that not tell us something?  It should.  In his famous letter to Horace Greeley [link added], Lincoln himself admitted that slavery was not the main issue.  The issue was the dominance of central government.  V.I. Lenin call your office.  Lincoln didn’t call it “dominance of central government”, of course.  He called it “the union” but the result is the same.

And just about everything Lincoln did was without a shred of constitional justification and in fact breached the constitution.  Hitler at least had the grace to get an “enabling act” passed by the German parliament.  Lincoln just marched on regardless. He destroyed the liberty of the press (there goes your first amendment) and locked up thousands of war opponents (there goes your 4th amendment).  But most centrally, Lincoln’s whole enterprise was a defiance of the basic American constitutional dispensation that the states are sovereign, not the federal government.  Lincoln turned that on its head.  The feds now became the main source of power and authority.  There is no doubt that Lincoln talked a good talk.  He even used to persuade me once.  But his deeds reek of Fascism.

A good example of the large gap between his deeds and words is that masterpiece of propaganda, the Gettysburg address.  Goebbels admired it for good reason.  In case anybody hasn’t noticed, Lincoln claimed that his war was to ensure “government of the people, by the people, for the people” — which was exactly what he had just denied to the South!  Only Yankees are people, apparently.  Hitler thought certain groups weren’t people too.

Overwrought? Perhaps, but if Lincoln wasn’t a left-statist, he at least set an example for extra-constitutional activism that inspired Theodore Roosevelt’s hyper-activism (e.g., see this and this). TR, of course, set an example that was followed and enlarged upon by most of his successors, unto the present day.

Another anti-libertarian legacy of the Civil War is the false belief that it “proved” the unconstitutionality of secession. Balderdash! Secession is legal, Justice Scalia’s dictum to the contrary notwithstanding. (See this, this, and this, for example.) And the ever-present threat of secession might have helped to keep the central government from overstepping its constitutional bounds.

I must conclude, however, that the American Revolution and Civil War have little to do with “left” (or “right”) and much to do with human venality and power-lust, which are found in persons of all political persuasions.

The genius of the Constitution was that it provided mechanisms for curbing the anti-libertarian effects of venality and power-lust. The tragedy of the Constitution is that those mechanisms have been destroyed. If Dr. Ray were to say that Americans have gradually lost their liberty through successive and cumulative violations of the Constitution, I would agree with him

And if Dr. Ray were to say that Americans have become the captives of a leftist state, and are likely to remain so, I would agree with him.

*     *     *

Related posts:
FDR and Fascism
The Modern Presidency: A Tour of American History
An FDR Reader
The People’s Romance
Secession
The Near-Victory of Communism
A Declaration of Independence
Tocqueville’s Prescience
Invoking Hitler
The Left
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
I Want My Country Back
Our Enemy, the State
The Left’s Agenda
The Meaning of Liberty
The Southern Secession Reconsidered
The Left and Its Delusions
Burkean Libertarianism
A Declaration and Defense of My Prejudices about Governance
Society and the State
Why Conservatism Works
Liberty and Society
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
A Contrarian View of Universal Suffrage
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
Defining Liberty
Conservatism as Right-Minarchism
“We the People” and Big Government
Parsing Political Philosophy (II)
How Libertarians Ought to Think about the Constitution
Romanticizing the State
Libertarianism and the State

Sorkin’s Left-Wing Propaganda Machine

Thanks (?) to Netflix streaming video, I’m watching episodes of The West Wing that I had missed the first time around. I missed the episodes because I had an inkling that The West Wing portrayed do-good Democrat meddlers in a favorable light. Several seasons into the show, I finally relented to my wife’s pleas to watch it. And so I became a regular viewer.

I endured The West Wing for its snappy dialogue and semi-accurate though cartoonish, depictions of inside politics. But by the end of the series, I had tired of the show’s incessant propagandizing for leftist causes.

Then, along came Roku and streaming video, and the opportunity to see the earlier seasons that we had missed because of my recalcitrance. My wife insisted, so here I am again, watching the same snappy dialogue and semi-engaging stories unfold in the service of bigger government. And, of course, bigger is better because Aaron Sorkin makes it look that way: a wise president, crammed full of encyclopedic knowledge; staffers whose IQs must qualify them for the Triple Nine Society, and whose wit crackles like lightning in an Oklahoma thunderstorm; evil Republicans whose goal in life is to stand in the way of technocratic progress (national bankruptcy and the loss of individual freedom don’t rate a mention); and a plethora of “worthy” causes that the West-Wingers seek to advance, without regard for national bankruptcy and individual freedom.

Thus far, I’ve watched the first thirteen episodes of the first season. What have I “learned”? Here’s a sample:

When persons of the Christian right refer to “New Yorkers” they mean “Jews.” This suggests excessive sensitivity on Mr. Sorkin’s part, not to mention a tin ear. In fact, there is ample evidence that a “New Yorker” is a pushy, obnoxious person, regardless of ethnicity. But Sorkin couldn’t waste an opportunity to paint persons of the Christian right as anti-Semitic bigots.

When an American military transport is shot down by a Syrian missile, the only choices presented to President Bartlett (the all-wise, all-knowing one) are a token retaliatory strike and a massive retaliatory strike that would kill thousands of civilians. Hmm… A lot of middle ground is omitted, including a decapitation strike, which at the time (1999) would have been timely and popular in the U.S. Well, the all-wise, all-knowing (AWAK) president somehow doesn’t come up with a middle-ground plan, so he wimps out and orders the token strike. An obvious defense of Clinton’s abject wimpiness in the wake of the bombings of two U.S. embassies in 1998.

It’s okay to use sampling in the decennial census because the Constitution doesn’t say how the census should be conducted. Well, that’s the line taken by Toby Ziegler — the irritating “New Yorker” who serves as the AWAK president’s chief speech writer. However, Mr. Z fails to quote the Constitution correctly when lecturing the evil Republicans whom he summons to the White House for the purpose of delivering Mr. Sorkin’s misleading version of the Constitution’s language about the census. Mr. Z conveniently omits the word “enumeration,” which clearly implies a count, not an estimate, and which occurs twice in the clause about the census (Article I, Section 2, clause 3). Mr. Z further makes a big deal about the part of that clause which (in the original Constitution) counts a slave as three-fifths of a person. He conveniently omits to mention that (a) the three-fifths rule was mooted by the ratification of Amendment XIV in 1866, and (b) the three-fifths rule was a political compromise that favored the non-slave North, not a statement about the worthiness or unworthiness of slaves as persons. All of this finagling is in the service of the not-very-subliminal message that anyone who opposes statistical estimation of the population must be a racist. (A prescient line, which is now recycled as “everyone who opposes Obama’s policies must be a racist.”)

Then there’s the WASP-y nominee for the Supreme Court whose name must be withdrawn by the AWAK president, who (unaccountably) doesn’t know that the nominee holds views similar to those of Robert Bork about the source of rights. A strange nomination for an AWAK liberal. But the undoing of it enables the same AWAK liberal to nominate a humble judge of Hispanic ethnicity, and to show the door to the WASP-y Bork-like creep. The fact that the WASP-y nominee was represents the true minority group goes unmentioned during the closing moments of the episode. Those are given to an unseemly demonstration by members of the White House staff as the Hispanic nominee-to-be is paraded from the Oval Office through the warren of staff offices (an unlikely route), to the obvious delight of a token Hispanic staff member.

Finally, for now, there is a Matthew Shepard-like victim whose murder (like the real one) justifies the passage of thought-crime legislation. (The motive for the killing of Matthew Shepard probably wasn’t his homosexuality, though his homosexuality proved convenient to the purveyors of thought-criminalization.) In a twist that’s meant to shame critics of homosexuality, the victim’s father turns out to be a staunch defender of his late son’s “lifestyle.” This gives the father a chance to mouth off about the AWAK president’s namby-pamby approach to “gay rights” issues, such as the nominal ban on homosexuals in the armed forces. (A slam at Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.) Well, leave it to a “New Yorker” like Sorkin to glorify the practitioners of disgusting physical acts that serve to spread AIDS and other dread diseases, and which bear no relation to the evolutionary purposes served by male organs and orifices. (Evolution is okay with lefties, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of debauchery or lead to disparities in intelligence.)

But the dialogue is snappy.

The View from Here

You know what happens when a law is enacted to protect a “minority,” don’t you? The minority acquires privileged status in the eyes of the law. Any action that is claimed to deprive the “minority” of its rights brings the wrath of the state down on the purported offender. And the same law enables members of the “minority” to attain jobs, promotions, and university admissions for which they are otherwise unqualified.

My opening paragraph is prompted by the likely passage of a “gay rights in workplace” bill by the U.S. Senate. The bill is unlikely to be approved soon by the U.S. House of Representatives, but I won’t say “never.” Many members of the GOP are eager to seem “nice,” and enough of them might vote with Democrats to pass the bill and send it to B.O. for signature. Such an act of appeasement will, of course, go unrewarded by voters of the left. But panicked lawmakers are immune to logic, and devoid of principles.

The “gay rights” issue is only a symptom of America’s decay. The official elevation of gays to privileged status is of a piece with several other developments: the very possible failure of efforts to derail death-dealing Obamacare, the equally likely failure of efforts to curb murderous abortion (the gateway to involuntary euthanasia), the ever-growing dependence of Americans on an unaffordable welfare state, an unchecked regulatory apparatus, feminized and gutted defenses, groveling before enemies, and the suppression of dissent in the name of “rights,” “social justice,” “equal protection,” and other Orwellian catch-phrases.

It is altogether evident that America soon will be an irreversibly effete, statist, inhumane, and appeasing realm. In it, every truly beneficial impulse — like those that energized America’s revolution against Britain, the framing of a Constitution that promised the preservation of liberty, the defeat of oppressive regimes in wars hot and cold, and the creation of the world’s most dynamic and productive economy — will be squelched.

The barbarians within, and their willing dupes, are in the saddle. It can happen here, and it is happening here. America is about to become the land of the unfree and the home of the weak-kneed.

*     *     *

Related reading: Joe Herring, “I Am Now a Dissident (and You Should Be Too!),” American Thinker, November 6, 2013

Related posts:
Diversity
Putting Hate Crimes in Perspective
The Cost of Affirmative Action
Why Not Just Use SAT Scores?
The Face of America
Affirmative Action: A Modest Proposal
Race, Intelligence, and Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy
Affirmative Action, One More Time
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Same-Sex Marriage
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage
The Course of the Mainstream
A Contrarian View of Segregation
Much Food for Thought
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Black Terrorists and “White Flight”
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part IV (with links to earlier parts of the series)
Timely Material
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited
It’s the Little Things That Count
A Footnote to a Footnote
Let Me Be Perfectly Clear…
FDR and Fascism
An FDR Reader
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Is There Such a Thing as Society
The People’s Romance
Intellectuals and Capitalism
Fascism
Conspicuous Consumption and Race
An Honest Woman Speaks Out
Fascism with a “Friendly” Face
The Interest-Group Paradox
Parsing Political Philosophy
Is Statism Inevitable?
Inventing “Liberalism”
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
A New, New Constitution
Fascism and the Future of America
The Indivisibility of Economic and Social Liberty
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
The Perils of Nannyism: The Case of Obamacare
More about the Perils of Obamacare
Health-Care Reform: The Short of It
The Real Constitution and Civil Disobedience
The Near-Victory of Communism
Tocqueville’s Prescience
First Principles
The Shape of Things to Come
Accountants of the Soul
Invoking Hitler
Is Liberty Possible?
The Left
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
A Moral Dilemma
A Conversation with Uncle Sam
Society and the State
I Want My Country Back
The “Forthcoming Financial Collapse”
Undermining the Free Society
Our Enemy, the State
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
Government vs. Community
The Evil That Is Done with Good Intentions
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
About Democracy
Externalities and Statism
Taxes: Theft or Duty?
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
The Meaning of Liberty
The Left’s Agenda
Substantive Due Process and the Limits of Privacy
In Defense of Marriage
The Left and Its Delusions
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
A Declaration of Civil Disobedience
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Society and the State
Are You in the Bubble?
Defense as an Investment in Liberty and Prosperity
Our Perfect, Perfect Constitution
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Not-So-Random Thoughts (III)
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
Don’t Use the “S” Word When the “F” Word Will Do
Liberty and Society
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
The Capitalist Paradox Meets the Interest-Group Paradox
Genetic Kinship and Society
How Not to Cope with Government Failure
Riots, Culture, and the Final Showdown (revisited)
Where We Are, Economically
The Economic Outlook in Brief
Is Taxation Slavery?
Obamanomics: A Report Card
Well-Founded Pessimism
A Declaration of Independence
The 80-20 Rule, Illustrated
America: Past, Present, and Future
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
America: Past, Present, and Future
Restoring Constitutional Government: The Way Ahead
Economic Horror Stories: The Great “Demancipation” and Economic Stagnation
The Fallacy of the Reverse-Mussolini Fallacy
“Conversing” about Race
Economics: A Survey
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
Why Are Interest Rates So Low?
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Spending Inhibits Economic Growth
America’s Financial Crisis Is Now
The World Turned Upside Down
“We the People” and Big Government: Part I
“We the People” and Big Government: Part I (continued)
“We the People” and Big Government: Part II (first installment)

The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union

As empires die, the barbarians usually gather at the gates, preparing a final rush. Unfortunately our savages are already inside. They are in the public schools, the universities, and downtown in the cities. They make our movies, set social policy from afar, instill appropriate values in our children. They do not know that they are savages. They now rule us, and there is nothing we can do about it.

Except watch. Vast disasters make splendid theater. This one is going to be a doozy.

– Fred Reed (Nekkid in Austin, iUniverse, 2002)

Reed is right. He must be right because he agrees with me about America’s future. (See “Well-Founded Pessimism” and “America: Past, Present, and Future.”) Reed also agrees with me about the causes of that future.

Some would say that “we” have done it to ourselves. But that is wrong. The truth is that some of “us” have done it to the rest of “us.”

Who are the doers? Reed gets it partly right, but he (like most social observers) overlooks the “secret” ingredient: leftist lying and treachery. (Though he is alert and scathing about one of its powerful instruments: political correctness.*)

Leftists lie to themselves and to others. The purpose of these lies is to advance collectivism, and to do so at the expense of America’s economic and military security.

By collectivism, I mean not just the obvious things (e.g., government control of the economy, income redistribution). Collectivism also embraces forced egalitarianism, regardless of differences in ability, skill, and effort — and to the detriment of freedom of speech, freedom of association, and property rights.

As for the willingness (eagerness) of leftists to forgo economic and military security, consider just a few examples: It is the left that opposes free trade. It is the left that constantly calls for higher taxes on “the rich,” to punish success and deter growth-producing investments. It was the left that sniveled about Reagan’s “dangerous and provocative” arms buildup — the buildup that brought the USSR to its knees. It is the left that, since the “McGovern revolution” of 1972 has turned the Democrat Party into a party of military weakness and appeasement — appeasement of Soviet and Chinese Communism, of Islamic terrorism, and of any other “ism” but American patriotism.

Leftists lie to themselves (engage in magical thinking) in order to justify (to themselves and the gullible) their upside-down woldview. Thus, for example, they embrace the pseudo-sciences of climatology and macroeconomics, which justify costly and aggrandizing state action (e.g., limitations on the use of fossil fuels, the conscription of scarce resources by government in the name of “stimulus”). Perhaps the biggest lie that leftists tell themselves is that they really believe in collectivism and egalitarianism, when they patently do not.

Leftists lie to others — usually deploying the lies they tell themselves  — in order to advance egalitarian collectivism and weaken America. There are the straightforward lies about policy matters as the need to combat man-made global warming by adopting expensive and inefficient “solutions” (think “green” energy, for example), and the effectiveness of “stimulus” spending. Beyond that, there are hoaxes and the Big LIe about Communism, the effects of which burden America more than two decades after the purported demise of Communism. (Note to reader: Hitler, inventor of the Big Lie, was a leftist — not a demented conservative, as later Big Liars would have you believe.)

Before I elaborate on the Big Lie and its accompanying treachery, I will set the stage by say a bit about a kind of “little lie” that appeals to leftists: the hoax.

What kind of political gain accrues to a hoax? Sympathy for a favored “minority group” — usually blacks, women, and persons suffering from real or feigned gender confusion. Beyond sympathy, of course, there is the hope of favored treatment through changes in social norms, forced and reinforced by codes of conduct, and statutes. Favored treatment means more-than-equal treatment for a “minority group” and less-than-equal treatment for persons not in the “minority group” — for example, the erosion of rights (property, speech, and association), and the loss of jobs, promotions, and university admissions.

Prominent, politically inspired/exploited hoaxes of recent times include:

  • The “rape” of Tawana Brawley, a black female
  • The fatal beating of Matthew Shepard, supposedly because of his homosexuality (more here)
  • The “rape” of a black female members of Duke University’s lacrosse team

What about the Big Lie? Well, the aim is the same: to twist the truth and advance the left’s domestic agenda:

the repudiation of ordered liberty of the kind that arises from evolved social norms, and the replacement of that liberty by sugar-coated oppression. The bread and circuses of imperial Rome have nothing on Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Obamacare, and the many other forms of personal and corporate welfare that are draining America of its wealth and élan. All of that “welfare” has been bought at the price of economic and social liberty (which are indivisible). (For a broad enumeration, see this post.)

In foreign affairs, the left’s agenda is the erosion of America’s military and economic might, because (insert one or more of the following morally relativistic-politically “realistic” positions):

  • No other country [at present] poses a military challenge to the U.S. [As if this were a permanent condition which would survive prolonged decimation of America's armed forces.]
  • it is wrong for America to attack other countries. [Always? Even when those other countries are hotbeds of terrorism?]
  • Other countries (e.g., Iran) ought to have nuclear weapons if they want them; after all, the U.S. has them. [Well, why didn't we offer the A-bomb to Japan instead of using it to end World War II and save millions of lives?]
  • America is nothing special and doesn’t deserve to be stronger and richer than other countries. [Easily said when you are protected by America's strength and benefit from its quasi-free and still potent economic system, but would you really weaken and impoverish America -- and yourself -- just to be "no better" than, say, a sub-Saharan country?]
  • “We” must rely in international institutions instead of being the word’s policeman and/or bully. [Rely on 'international institutions' even if they are controlled by states that wish ill on America, states that promote ideals other than America's (professed) ones of liberty and equality of opportunity.
  • The inevitable "convergence" of Communism and capitalism will lead America down the path of socialism and accommodation with the USSR, so we might as well relax and enjoy it.

Reasonable people may disagree about the necessary size and shape of America's defenses. Reasonable people may disagree about the wisdom of a particular military operation. Reasonable people may disagree about the threat posed by Iran. But reasonable people will not hold the preceding convictions as absolutely and fervently as they are held by leftists, without regard for the facts or the consequences for the liberty and prosperity of Americans.

For decades, the left indulged in one of its biggest Big Lies -- a lie perpetrated with the clear purpose of fostering collectivism and military weakness -- anti-anti-Communism:

... Whittaker Chambers experienced this [Big Lie] at its punishing extreme. Chambers, probably the most famous American ex-Communist ever, was a former courier for Soviet military intelligence, subsequently an editor at Time magazine, and, in passing, curiously, the English translator of the 1923 Austrian novel Bambi, which became the 1942 Disney cartoon. His exceedingly wise decision to retain hard evidence attesting to his espionage work in the 1930s helped convict, most sensationally, Alger Hiss— the Ivy-educated, well-connected former State Department official and progenitor of the United Nations, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and all-around poster boy of the Liberal Establishment. Starting in 1950, Hiss served four years in jail for perjury charges related to Soviet espionage.

Then what happened? Did a thankful President Truman crown Chambers in laurels and congratulate him on behalf of a grateful nation for exposing a Communist conspiracy metastasizing at the highest levels of the federal government?

Never has a simple “no” been less adequate…. At one point in his testimonial [Witness], Chambers encapsulates the physics of anti-anti-Communism this way: “I had been warned repeatedly that the brunt of official wrath was directed, not against Alger Hiss as a danger, but against me for venturing to testify to the danger.”

It bears restating: Officialdom was enraged not by the danger posed by Hiss, a Soviet military intelligence agent “continuously since 1935,” but by Chambers for testifying to the danger….

… When did anti-Communism itself— the philosophical and political drive against state domination of the individual— become a radioactive inheritance of perceived bigotry and mass hysteria to be passed down, gingerly, generation to generation? …

The so-called McCarthy Era is the obvious place to search for answers, since the narrative we can all recite tells us that the Red-hunting Republican senator from Wisconsin was himself singlehandedly responsible for the evisceration of ideological opposition to Communism— anti-Communism— rendering said anti-Communism into a kind of disease. The remedy was said to be a steadying dose of anti-anti-Communism, despite the often heavy pro-Communist side effects. McCarthy accomplished all of this, the same narrative goes, with his crude zealotry and wild overreach, hectoring and destroying American innocents who had the misfortune to be dragged before his investigatory Senate committee for nothing. “Name one Communist or Soviet agent ever identified by McCarthy,” goes the perpetual challenge to this day, regardless of evidence from both Soviet and American archives that corroborate FBI reports, sworn testimonies, and other facts amassed in support of innumerable McCarthy investigations into the Soviet penetration of the federal government…. (Diana West, American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character, St. Martin’s Press, 2013**)

What was the Big Lie of anti-anti-Communism? The story line went like this: Communism stands for a noble ideal (regardless of what Communism invariably looks like in practice), and the Soviet Union’s expansionism is merely defensive. Any criticism of the Soviet Union — including criticism of its espionage and infiltration of the U.S. government — is therefore bad. Anti-Soviet (anti-Communist) views must therefore be discredited.

This story line was advanced by Communist agents working inside the U.S. government, with the help of the usual suspects: academics, show-biz types (with a few notable and ostracized exceptions), and politicians and bureaucrats — many of whom agreed with the story line and others of whom sought election and advancement by placating the left and, at the same time, adopting the “sophisticated” posture of moral relativism and political realism.

By 1995, when the collectivist cause needed no special protection — having advanced from FDR’s New Deal to LBJ’s Great Society, and having been consolidated in the years since — the U.S. government finally released materials amassed by the Venona project,

a long-running secret collaboration of the United States and United Kingdom intelligence agencies involving cryptanalysis of messages sent by intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union, the majority of them during World War II….

During the initial years of the Cold War, the Venona project was a source of information on Soviet intelligence-gathering activity that was directed at the Western military powers. Although unknown to the public, and even to Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, these programs were of importance concerning crucial events of the early Cold War….

… Sometime in 1945, the existence of the Venona program was revealed to the Soviet Union by the NKVD agent and United States Army SIGINT analyst and cryptologist Bill Weisband….

To what extent the various individuals were involved with Soviet intelligence is a topic of dispute. While a number of academics and historians assert that most of the individuals mentioned in the Venona decrypts were most likely either clandestine assets and/or contacts of Soviet intelligence agents, others argue that many of those people probably had no malicious intentions and committed no crimes [emphasis added].

Well, of course, “many of those people” were innocent. But many were not. Among the many non-innocents:

And that’s just a sample of a long list of known Soviet agents. Did you notice the presence on the list of the Rosenbergs, as well as a large number of government officials (Alger Hiss among them)? Protestations and “proof” of the innocence of the Rosenbergs, Hiss, and others were key components of the Big anti-anti-Communist Lie.

America’s hollow victory in the Cold War brought with it the end of anti-Communism and anti-anti-Communism as political preoccupations. But the Big Lie lives on, in the service of a collectivist and weak America. How could that have happened if America “won” the Cold War? The bitter truth is that every living person of influence in the U.s. was raised during the reign of the Big (anti-anti-Communist) Lie or in the succeeding generations that were (and are) dominated “educators” who persist unto this day in spreading  the gospel of collectivism at home and weakness abroad. (It is not a sign of strength to kill a few terrorists at long distance with armed drones or to back with words and deeds the efforts of anti-American insurgents aiming to replace one kind of tyranny with their own.)

The lamentable truth is that America’s political elites, their enablers in the academy and the media, their financial backers, and their constituents and dupes (the “masses”) have together succeeded in yoking America with “soft” despotism:

Soft despotism is simply a more polite term than fascism (or socialism) for pervasive government control of our affairs:

Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by “a network of small complicated rules” might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called ‘hard despotism’) in the sense that it is not obvious to the people. Soft despotism gives people the illusion that they are in control, when in fact they have very little influence over their government. (Source: Wikipedia.)

Soft despotism is “soft” only in that citizens aren’t dragged from their houses at night and executed for imaginary crimes against the state — though they are hauled into court for not wearing seatbelts, for smoking in bars, and for various other niggling offenses to the sensibilities of nanny-staters.

Despite the absence of arbitrary physical punishment, soft despotism is despotism, period. It can be nothing but despotism when the state holds sway over your paycheck, your retirement plan, your medical care, your choice of associates, and thousands of other details of your life — from the drugs you may not buy to the kind of car you can’t drive, from where you can build a house to the features that your house must include.

“Soft despotism,” in other words, is too soft a term for the regime under which we live. I therefore agree with Tom Smith: “Fascism” is a good descriptor of our present condition, so I’ll continue to use it.

Consider Obamacare, which — unlike Hillarycare — may survive:

When Obama was campaigning on behalf of his health care law one mantra was repeated ad nauseam: If you like your current plan, you can keep it. To put it gently, this hasn’t turned out to be the case, as more and more employers are opting to drop health coverage for their employees, pushing them onto the insurance exchanges…. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Instead of subsidizing retiree health premiums directly, IBM will give retirees an annual contribution via a health retirement account that they can use to buy Medicare Advantage plans and supplemental Medicare policies on the exchange, as well as pay for other medical expenses. Retirees who don’t enroll in a plan through Extend Health won’t receive the subsidy. [...]

Few employees can now count on big companies to provide retirement health care. Only 28% of large companies that offer health benefits to employees offered retiree coverage in 2013, down from 34% in 2006 and 66% in 1988, according to a 2013 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

This is huge. Far from being a status quo law, Obamacare has become a weapon of mass destruction against traditional employer plans…. (“Obamacare Is Destroying Employer-Based Health Plans,” Via Media, September 9, 2013)

Anyone who knew anything about the likely effects of Obamacare knew that it was sold with this purpose in mind: To undermine employer-based plans and, thus, to garner support for single-payer (i.e., government-provided) health insurance. That, in turn, would practically complete government’s takeover of health care in the U.S., given its control of everything else involved in health care through regulation and the power over providers that accompanies Medicare and Medicaid. (This, too, probably shall not pass.)

And healthcare is but one aspect of an economy that has been commandeered by government spending and regulation, in the name of and for “the people.” For it is well known that most Americans oppose government spending and regulation, in the abstract, while supporting those very things when push comes to shove. (See, for example, this and this.)

Not that the state of the economy will matter much when America is no longer able to effectively defend its citizens and their legitimate overseas interests:

… The fate of the free world no longer rests with the US. It now rests with Putin. He and the mullahs in Iran, presented with the spectacle of the preening narcissist in the White House gazing in rapt adoration at his own reflection, are surely laughing fit to bust.

And why shouldn’t the First Narcissist preen? For he has achieved precisely what he wanted, his true goal that I described in this blog when Obama first ran for President: to extend the reach of the state over peoples’ lives at home, to emasculate the power of America abroad, and to make the free white world the slave of those he falsely characterised as the victims of that white world’s oppression…. (Melanie Phillips, “Putin Checkmates America,” Melanie’s Blog, September 15, 2013)

(Norman Podhoretz delivers a more elaborate version of Phillips’s thesis at “Obama’s Successful Foreign Failure,” The Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2013.)

And the Big Lie continues, transmogrified from anti-anti-Communism to anti-anti-Islamism:

[S]hortly after 9/11, a time when some among us were beginning to realize that what we were all hearing 24/7 on cable, on NPR, in The New York Times, from all the experts … was out of sync with what we were watching before our eyes. In other words, the narrative—“ Islam is peace”— was not supported by the evidence: Islam is violence. Islam is slavery (Sudan). Islam is forced conversion (Egypt). Islam is child rape (Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, South Yorkshire, too). Islam is pillage (Somalia). Islam is religious cleansing (Iraq). Islam is death for apostasy (Swat Valley, Harvard University, too8). Islam is censorship (everywhere). Islam is conquest (Cyprus, Israel, Kosovo, Philippines, the 751 government-ID’d no-go zones of France). Such fact-based observations, of course, trigger charges of that sin of sins—“ Islamophobia” (“ racism” being its domestic twin)— but does mere name-calling (“ Islamophobe”) make these serious crimes and their real victims go away? In our world, yes. Over nearly a century of Big Lies we have learned to discount fact and disable logic. As in a frustration dream, the crimes, the victims, and their suffering vanish in today’s magic word, “Islamophobia.” What remains— slanderous allegations of “prejudice,” permanent brands of “bias”— triggers the revulsion reflex in the postmodern brain, still programmed to be vigilant against racism, lynch mobs, the KKK, and the like.

Extant or not, functional or not, these usually faux stimuli create outrage Islam exploits as “Islamophobia.” … This pattern is very old. In pre-McCarthy times, the all-powerful word that stopped the logic process cold was “Red-baiter.” …

… Islam, we are told, has nothing to do with anything bad. How could it? Islam means “peace,” said the forty-third president of the United States. No, in fact, Islam means “submission.” There’s a huge difference, and it explains why Islam celebrated the fall of the Twin Towers in Gaza, Kabul, and Queens. Dhimmitude, already evident in our society, goes a long way to explain why we didn’t dare show that we had noticed.

What we were witnessing was the marshaling forces of the latest, greatest Big Lie…. I saw how … this Big Lie was actively pressed on us by cadres of agents of Islam and their own armies of useful fools: members of the Muslim Brotherhood fobbed off as advocates of a pluralistic, American Islam, the Iran Lobby, Saudi princelings, the international Islamic bloc now known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Bush administration, the Obama administration, practically anyone on a TV soundstage. All “reasonable people,” they peddled the same Big Lie: Islam is a religion of peace.

The history of the decade that followed, then, became a stuttering story of mongrel words and phrases (from “Islamofascism” to “violent extremism”) and morphing suffixes (“ ist,” “ism”). It was a time of now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t terminology (jihad, jihadist, sharia, mujahideen, shahid, taqqiyya, jizya, caliphate). Apt phrases became verboten (“ Islamic terrorism,” “Muslim violence,” “Islamic jihad”), as did concepts uniquely or characteristically Islamic: religious supremacism, censorship, slavery, pederasty, “honor killings,” “grooming,” and totalitarianism, among others. We may have intuited that “apostasy” did not go out with Galileo, and that beheadings did not end with the French Revolution, but  … Islam is a religion of peace. The real threat, we decided to believe, or thought we had no choice but to believe (or just didn’t think), is “violent extremism.”…

Limiting our brains to this empty phrase, however, has done extreme violence to our thought processes…. After all, if the problem is “violent extremism,” what’s the problem? Have a nice flight….

Islam is the totalitarian threat of today. However, because we continue the “deceit and double-speak” we adopted in response to Communism, we are unable to deal with the new threat— the new Communism of today. We deal with Islam the same way we dealt with Communism: Having been subverted and undermined, we apologize and converge.

As [Geert] Wilders asked, What is wrong with modern Western man? Did something happen to him? I think the answer is yes: Communism happened to him. Solomon aside, there was something novel under the Communist sun; under the shorter-lived Nazi sun, too. In his 1998 book Century of Horrors: Communism, Nazism, and the Uniqueness of the Shoah, Alain Besançon explains what that was: “Communism and Nazism set out to change something more fundamental than mores— that is, the very rule of morality, of our sense of good and evil. And in this, they committed acts unknown in prior human experience.”

And in this, our world was transformed….

Where “good” and “evil” are old-fashioned and laughable (and bracketed by quotation marks), moral relativism takes hold— Lenin’s universal legacy. Solzhenitsyn wondered what would happen next: “But if we are to be deprived of the concepts of good and evil, what will be left? Nothing but the manipulation of each other.”

The manipulation of each other through the manipulation of narratives….

… All these decades later, no one wants information or to open their eyes to the Muslim Brotherhood’s self-described “civilization jihad,” either. It hurts our heads. It exhausts our limited lexicon of ideology…. (Diana West, op. cit.)

*     *     *

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the ascendancy of FDR, his “Brain Trust,” and the New Deal. It is an anniversary to be mourned, not celebrated. Mourned because it means that Americans’ prosperity and liberty have been eroded and imperiled by eight decades of leftist lies and treachery.

Thus the land of the free and the home of the brave has become the land of the handout-seeker and the home of the appeaser. That is the unfortunate state of the Union in 2013.

*     *     *

Related reading:
Arnold Kling, “Our New Technocratic Masters,” Askblog, February 3, 2013
Victor Davis Hanson, “The Glue Holding America Together,” RealClearPolitics, June 28, 2013
Victor Davis Hanson,”Liberal Apartheid,” RealClearPolitics, July 8, 2013
M. Stanton Evans, “In Defense of Diana West,” cnsnews.com, September 13, 2013

*     *     *

Related posts:
The Course of the Mainstream
FDR and Fascism
An FDR Reader
The People’s Romance
Intellectuals and Capitalism
Fascism
Fascism with a “Friendly” Face
The Interest-Group Paradox
Parsing Political Philosophy
Is Statism Inevitable?
Inventing “Liberalism”
The Shape of Things to Come
Fascism and the Future of America
The Indivisibility of Economic and Social Liberty
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
The Near-Victory of Communism
Tocqueville’s Prescience
Accountants of the Soul
Invoking Hitler
Is Liberty Possible?
The Left
Our Enemy, the State
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Are You in the Bubble?
Where We Are, Economically
The Economic Outlook in Brief
Obamanomics: A Report Card
Liberty and Society
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
Genetic Kinship and Society
Well-Founded Pessimism
Is There Such a Thing as Society
Defense as an Investment in Liberty and Prosperity
Liberty and Society
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
Genetic Kinship and Society
Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism?
America: Past, Present, and Future
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
The Fallacy of the Reverse-Mussolini Fallacy
__________
* From Fred Reed (op. cit.):

Feminists wanted congress to pass a vast program of funding for every left-wing cause that incited enthusiasm in the sterile nests of NOW. They called it the Violence Against Women Act, and men deferentially gave it to them. Of course to vote against it, no matter what it actually said (and almost no one knew) would have been to seem to favor violence against women. A law to exterminate orphans, if called the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, would pass without demur.

There followed yet more male deference to female desires. When women wanted to go into the military to have babies, or a Soldier Experience, men couldn’t bring themselves to say no.

When the women couldn’t perform as soldiers, men graciously lowered standards so they could appear to. It was the equivalent of helping a woman over a log in the park, the legal and institutional parallel of murmuring, “Don’t worry your pretty little head about a thing.”

On and on it went. The aggregate effect has been that women have gained real power, while (or by) managing in large part to continue to exact deference and, crucially, to avoid the accountability that should come with power. A minor example is women who want the preferential treatment that women now enjoy, and yet expect men to pay for their dates. In today’s circumstances, this is simple parasitism.

Today men are accountable for their behavior. Women are not. The lack of accountability, seldom clearly recognized, is the bedrock of much of today’s feminist misbehavior, influence, and politics. Its pervasiveness is worth pondering.

** West’s book is controversial — to put it mildly — even among conservatives. Key charges and counter-charges about American Betrayal can be found here:

Ronald Radosh, “McCarthy on Steroids,” FrontPage Mag, August 7, 2013

John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, “Was Harry Hopkins a Soviet Spy?,” FrontPage Mag, August 16, 2013

Diana West, “Published: The Rebuttal in Three Parts [links provided],” dianawest.net, September 10, 2013

West’s style — breathless, repetitive, discursive, often logic-challenged — should not blind you to the essence of her argument, which I have tried to capture in the quotations from her book. Read American Betrayal, read the entries in the debate, consult your own knowledge of America’s past 80 years (if you have much knowledge of those times), and judge for yourself. But don’t commit what I call the fallacy of particularism, which is to discredit an entire thesis because the supporting argument is incorrect in some particulars. (That’s how O.J. got off: “If it [a glove left near the murder scene] doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”) West may not be right about every detail; she has, in my estimation, got the big picture right. For example, even if West is wrong in her assertion that FDR’s right-hand man, Harry Hopkins, was a Soviet agent, she is right about his baleful influence on the foreign and domestic policies of the U.S. government. And his influence lives on.

The Good, the Bad, and the Abominable

This brief guide to leftist orthodoxy is prompted by current reading (to be discussed in a future post):

GOOD BAD
Marxist socialist mass-murderers (Stalin, Mao) National socialist mass-murderer (Hitler)
Socialism Capitalism
Homosexuality & gender confusion Unalloyed heterosexuality
Shacking up (in any combination of sexes) Traditional marriage
Female Male
Persons of color (but not “yellow”) Whites
Dribbles & scribbles Representational art
Noise, dissonance, atonality Melody, harmony, rhythm
Public schools (except for one’s own children) Home schooling
Illegal immigrants (especially when they work cheap) Voter ID laws
Laid back (lazy) Ambitious
Spontaneous (impulsive) Disciplined
Europe, Islam America (before the left seized it)
Big government, high taxes Small government, low taxes
Political correctness Free (but non-treasonous) speech
“Disadvantaged” criminals Cops
Killing babies Killing killers

*****

Related posts:
How to Deal with Left-Wing Academic Blather
The Case Against Campus Speech Codes
The Illogical Left, via Leiter
Like a Fish in Water
Apropos Academic Freedom and Western Values
Singer Said It
Why So Few Free-Market Economists?
Academic Bias
Intellectuals and Capitalism
How to Combat Beauty-ism
Defining Treasonous Speech
Sexist Nonsense
The Firing of Juan Williams
The Politically Correct Cancer: Another Weapon in the War on Straight White Males
Asymmetrical (Ideological) Warfare
“Buy Local”
“Net Neutrality”
Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness
Giving Back, Again
The Left’s Agenda
Peter Presumes to Preach
Luck-Egalitarianism and Moral Luck
Union-Busting
The Left and Its Delusions
In Defense of Wal-Mart
An Economist’s Special Pleading: Affirmative Action for the Ugly
Union Thuggery
Elizabeth Warren Is All Wet
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Another Entry in the Sunstein Saga
Are You in the Bubble?
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Obesity and Statism
Political Correctness vs. Civility
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition

IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition

This is a wandering post, in which I use a recent controversy about IQ to make some observations about political correctness, which leads to a tale of leftist subversion and America’s descent into statism.

Since my last post about IQ, more than a year ago, the biggest kerfuffle on the IQ front arose when Jason Richwine was chased from his job at Heritage Foundation. The proximate cause of Richwine’s departure from Heritage was the usual kind of witch hunt that accompanies the discovery of anything coming from a conservative source that might offend political correctness. Richwine was “guilty” of having penned a dissertation that contains unremarkable statements about ethnic differences in average IQ, including the IQ difference between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites.

These are excerpts of John Derbyshire’s narration of l’affaire Richwine as it unfolded:

… Following the release of a report by the Heritage Foundation arguing that the Rubio-Schumer immigration bill will cost the nation $6.3 trillion, the Slave Power set their dwarf miners to digging.

They soon found gold. One of the co-authors of the study is twentysomething Jason Richwine, a Heritage analyst. Not just an analyst, but a quantitative analyst: “Heritage’s senior policy analyst in empirical studies.” …

After a few days’ digging the Nibelungs turned up Richwine’s Ph.D. thesis from Harvard University, title: “IQ and Immigration Policy.” The mother lode! (You can download it from here.)

The Washington Post ran a gleeful story on the find under the headline “Heritage study co-author opposed letting in immigrants with low IQs.” [By Dylan Matthews, May 8, 2013]. They note that:

Richwine’s dissertation asserts that there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races.

Eek! A witch! …

Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, on secondment from Conservatism, Inc. to offer some pretense of “balance” at the Post, hastened to join the lynch mob. “It undermines the cause of all immigration opponents to have their prized work authored by such a character,” she wrote, reading Richwine out of respectable society….

She then brings in Jennifer S. Korn for a quote. Ms. Korn was Secretary for Hispandering in the George W. Bush White House….

What does Ms. Korn have to tell us?

Richwine’s comments are bigoted and ignorant. America is a nation of immigrants; to impugn the intelligence of immigrants is to offend each and every American and the foundation of our country….

Even if you take Ms. Korn’s usage of “impugn” to mean Richwine has stated that immigrants have lower mean IQ than natives, she is wrong. Table 2.2 in the thesis (p. 30) gives an average estimated mean IQ of 105.5 for immigrants from Northeast Asia….

And so another “anti-racist” witch hunt commences….

The forces of orthodoxy have identified a heretic. They’re marching on his hut with pitchforks and flaming brands. The cry echoes around the internet: “Burn the witch!” … (“‘Burn the Witch’: Heritage Foundation Scuttles Away from Jason Richwine–and the Cold, Hard Facts,” VDare.com, May 9, 2013)

The impetus for politically correct witch-hunting comes from the left, of course. This is unsurprising because leftists, on average, are dumber than conservatives and libertarians. (See this and this, for example.) Which would explain their haste to take offense when the subject of IQ is raised.

But facts are facts, and Richwine summarizes them neatly in a recent (post-Heritage) essay; for example:

The American Psychological Association (APA) tried to set the record straight in 1996 with a report written by a committee of experts. Among the specific conclusions drawn by the APA were that IQ tests reliably measure a real human trait, that ethnic differences in average IQ exist, that good tests of IQ are not culturally biased against minority groups, and that IQ is a product of both genetic inheritance and early childhood environment. Another report signed by 52 experts, entitled “Mainstream Science on Intelligence,” stated similar facts and was printed in the Wall Street Journal. (“Why Can’t We Talk about IQ?,” Politico, August 9, 2013)

Richwine continues:

[W]hen Larry Summers, then the president of Harvard University, speculated in 2005 that women might be naturally less gifted in math and science, the intense backlash contributed to his ouster.Two years later, when famed scientist James Watson noted the low average IQ scores of sub-Saharan Africans, he was forced to resign from his lab, taking his Nobel Prize with him.

When a Harvard law student was discovered in 2010 to have suggested in a private email that the black-white IQ gap might have a genetic component, the dean publicly condemned her amid a campus-wide outcry. Only profuse apologies seem to have saved her career.

In none of these cases did an appeal to science tamp down the controversy or help to prevent future ones. My own time in the media crosshairs would be no different.

So what did I write that created such a fuss? In brief, my dissertation shows that recent immigrants score lower than U.S.-born whites on a variety of cognitive tests. Using statistical analysis, it suggests that the test-score differential is due primarily to a real cognitive deficit rather than to culture or language bias. It analyzes how that deficit could affect socioeconomic assimilation, and concludes by exploring how IQ selection might be incorporated, as one factor among many, into immigration policy.

Because a large number of recent immigrants are from Latin America, I reviewed the literature showing that Hispanic IQ scores fall between white and black scores in the United States. This fact isn’t controversial among experts, but citing it seems to have fueled much of the media backlash.

Derbyshire follows up:

Jason, who can hardly be more than thirty, has not yet grasped an important thing about humanity at large: that most of our thinking is magical, superstitious, religious, social, and egotistical. Very little of it is empirical. I myself am as stone-cold an empiricist as you’ll meet in a month of Sundays; yet every day when I walk my dog there is a certain tree I have to pat as we pass it. (It’s on the wrong side of the road. The family joke is that I shall one day be hit by a truck while crossing the road to pat my lucky tree.)

Hence Jason’s puzzlement that 25 years after Snyderman and Rothman, 19 years after The Bell Curve and the follow-up “Mainstream Science on Intelligence” declaration, the public discourse even in quality outlets is dominated by innumerate journo-school graduates parroting half-remembered half-truths from Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, the greatest work of Cultural Marxist propaganda yet produced.

That’s how we are. That’s the shape of human nature. Alan Cromer explained it in his 1993 book Uncommon Sense: The Heretical Nature of Science. Not many people can think empirically much of the time. At the aggregate level, where the lowest common denominator takes over and social acceptance is at the front of everyone’s mind, empiricism doesn’t stand a chance unless it delivers some useful technology.

Nor is it quite the case that “emotion trumps reason.” What mostly trumps reason is the yearning for respectability, leading us to conform to ambient dogmas—in the present-day West, the dogmas of Cultural Marxism, which waft around us like a noxious vapor….

This is how we are: jumbles of superstition, emotion, self-deception, and social conformism, with reason and science trotting along behind trying to keep up.

Science insists that there is an external world beyond our emotions and wish-fulfillment fantasies. It claims that we can find out true facts about that world, including facts with no immediate technological application. The human sciences insist even more audaciously that we ourselves are part of that world and can be described as dispassionately as stars, rocks, and microbes. Perhaps one day it will be socially acceptable to believe this. (“Why We Can’t Talk about IQ,” Taki’s Magazine, August 15, 2013)

Much has been made of the “bland” 1950s and the supposed pressure to conform to the Ozzie and Harriett way of life. Though i was never clear about the preferred alternative. On the evidence of the past 50 years, it seems to have been a potent mix of blue language, promiscuous sex, sodomy, broken families, drugs, violence, and ear-blasting “music.”

The true forces of conformity had begun their work many years before Ricky Nelson was a gleam in his father’s eye. There was, of course, the Progressive Era of the late 1800s and early 1900s, from which America was beginning to recover by the late 1920s.. But then came the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the establishment in America of a fifth column dedicated to the suppression of liberty:

As recounted in [KGB: The Inside Story by KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky and Cambridge intelligence expert Christopher Andrew]  … Harry Hopkins — FDR’s confidant, advisor, and policy czar, who actually resided in the White House during World War II — was the Big Enchilada among American agents of influence working for the USSR. Gordievsky recounts attending a lecture early in his career by Iskhak Akhmerov, the KGB’s top “illegal” spy in the U.S. during the 1940s (In espionage parlance, “illegals” do not have legal cover if caught). According to Gordievsky, Akhmerov spoke for a long period about Hopkins, calling him the top Soviet asset in the US. Yet, Gordievsky and Andrew tiptoe around this allegation by representing that Hopkins was a naïve devotee who only courted Stalin to ensure victory over Hitler’s Germany.

Although I know Andrew well, and have met Gordievsky twice, I now doubt their characterization of Hopkins…. It does not ring true that Hopkins was an innocent dupe dedicated solely to defeating the Nazis. Hopkins comes over in history as crafty, secretive and no one’s fool, hardly the personality traits of a naïve fellow traveler. And his fingerprints are on the large majority of pro-Soviet policies implemented by the Roosevelt administration. [Diana] West [author of American Betrayal: Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character] deserves respect for cutting through the dross that obscures the evidence about Hopkins, and for screaming from the rooftops that the U.S. was the victim of a successful Soviet intelligence operation….

West mines Venona, the testimony of “Red spy queen” Elizabeth Bentley — who confessed her work for the communist underground to the FBI in 1945 — and the book Blacklisted by History by M. Stanton Evans, a re-examination of the McCarthy era using Venona and hundreds of other recently declassified documents from the FBI, CIA, and other agencies. And West lambastes the Truman administration for not revealing data from Venona that would have exonerated McCarthy and informed the nation that Soviet agents had indeed infiltrated key departments of the FDR administration….

The Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Laurence Duggan, and 397 more American agents have been confirmed and verified as Soviet agents. West claims Harry Hopkins has been outed too in Venona, but Radosh and other scholars say this identification is bogus. But the Soviets also ran important agents of influence with great attention to the security of their identities. In essence, whether or not Hopkins is ever identified in Venona, he remains, as the cops say, a person of interest. (Bernie Reeves, “Reds under the Beds: Diana West Can’t Sleep,” American Thinker, August 10, 2013)

Influence flows downhill. What happened in Washington was repeated in many a city and State because the New Deal had made leftism respectable. By the end of World War II, which made nationalization the norm, the “mainstream” had shifted far to the left of where it had flowed before the Great Depression.

Influence also flows laterally. The growing respectability of leftism emboldened and empowered those institutions that naturally lean left: the media, academia, and the arts and letters. And so they went forth into the wilderness, amplifying the gospel according to Marx.

The most insidious influence has been the indoctrination of students — from pre-Kindergarten to graduate school — in the language and ideals of leftism: world government (i.e., anit-Americanism); redistributionism (as long as it hits only the “rich,” of course); favoritism for “minorities” (i.e., everyone but straight, white males); cultural diversity (any kind of crap in the arts, music, and literature, as long as it wasn’t produced by dead, white mailes); moral relativism (e.g., anti-feminism is bad, unless it’s practiced by Muslims). All of that, and much more, is the stuff of political correctness, which is an especially corrosive manifestation of social conformism, as Jason Richwine learned the hard way.

And then came the “pod people.” These are the masses of “ordinary people” who may have been deaf or impervious to indoctrination by teachers and professors, but who in vast numbers were (and continue to be) seduced by into collaboration with the left by years and decades of post-educational exposure to leftist cant. Seduced by slanted opinionators — usually disguised as reporters. Seduced by novelists, screenwriters, playwrights, and other denizens of the world of arts and letters. Seduced by politicians (even “conservative” ones) trading “free lunches” and “local jobs” for votes.

It is more than a small wonder that there is such a sizable remnant of true conservatives and non-leftish libertarians (unlike this leftish one). But we are vastly outnumbered by staunch leftists, wishy-washy “moderates,” and “conservatives” whose first instinct is to defend sacred cows (Social Security and Medicare, for example) instead of defending liberty.

I will have more to say, in future posts, about the subversion of “Old America.” For now, I end with this observation from an earlier post:
If America was ever close to being a nation united and free, it has drifted far from that condition — arguably, almost as far as it  had by 1861. And America’s condition will only worsen unless leaders emerge who will set the nation (or a large, independent portion of it) back on course. Barring the emergence of such leaders, America will continue to slide into baseness, divisiveness, and servitude.

*     *     *

Related posts:
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy
Affirmative Action, One More Time
A Contrarian View of Segregation
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Is There Such a Thing as Society
Intellectuals and Capitalism
Secession
A New, New Constitution
Secession Redux
A New Cold War or Secession?
The Real Constitution and Civil Disobedience
A Declaration of Independence
First Principles
The Shape of Things to Come
The Near-Victory of Communism
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
Intelligence as a Dirty Word
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Are You in the Bubble?
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Reclaiming Liberty throughout the Land
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap–Causes and Implications
Dan Quayle Was (Almost) Right
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
Genetic Kinship and Society
Government in Macroeconomic Perspective
Keynesianism: Upside-Down Economics in the Collectivist Cause
Secession for All Seasons
Liberty and Society
Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism?
A Contrarian View of Universal Suffrage
Well-Founded Pessimism
America: Past, Present, and Future
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
“Conversing” about Race
The Fallacy of Human Progress
Political Correctness vs. Civility

It’s Not My Problem If …

…you chose to live in an area known to breed wildfires.

…you chose to live in an area prone to flooding.

…you chose to live in Tornado Alley.

…you bought a house that lacks a driveway, carport, or garage and don’t have a place to park because tax-paying strangers park on the public street in front of your house.

…you chose to live in area that’s frequently hit by tropical storms and hurricanes.

…you chose not to save money because you assumed that you could live on Social Security.

…you hooked up with a ne’er-do-well and had children out of wedlock.

…you have health problems because you drink, smoke, or eat too much.

Those things become my problem only when government actions make them so. And why do we have the kind of government that turns your problems into my problems?

The answer to that question is a long, sad tale, but mostly recently, it’s because…

…you voted for Barack Obama because you hated George Bush, and Barack Obama turned out to be Bush with better teleprompter skills.

…you voted for Barack Obama because you feel guilty about your high income, and Barack Obama actually wants to raise your taxes.

…you voted for Barack Obama because you believed that he would “fix” health care, and his is “fixing” it — but good.

Anti-Americanism

As I say in “Americanism … from the Left,”

the left holds an unbounded view of Americanism: Everyone who wants to be an American, and to enjoy the privileges attaching thereto, should be considered one. How else could leftists — the enemies of the Constitution, the common defense, justice, and private property — claim to be my fellow citizens?

What a laughable claim. Leftists are no more American than their heroes, from Stalin and Mao to Castro and Chavez.

Now comes Olen Steinhauer, a novelist who is associated with Austin, Texas — a.k.a., the San Francisco of Texas — to affirm my observation. In a review of John le Carré’s latest outpouring, A Delicate Truth, Steinhauer writes about a character whose

appearance among the sophisticates of the Foreign Ministry is like a slap in the face, and while she’s ushered offstage quickly, you’d be forgiven for seeing in her caricature evidence of the accusation leveled at le Carré regularly these days: anti-Americanism.

Having lived in Europe for the last decade, I’m particular about how to use that label. To me, “anti-American” means just that: to be contemptuous of Americans, one and all. I’ve met those people. Blinded by their ignorance, they’re to be scorned. But then there is John le Carré, whose January 2003 argument against the Iraq war, printed in The Times of London, was called “The United States of America Has Gone Mad.” He made his ire plain: he was against the foreign policy of an American administration he despised. If this is what qualifies him, then half of our own population is anti-American.

This passage reveals Steinhauer as a sophist of the first order. Anyone who has read very much of le Carré’s oeuvre (as I have) knows that there is much more to his anti-Americanism than his dislike of a particular administration’s foreign policy. Anyone who knows American politics (as I do) knows that much of the opposition to G.W. Bush’s foreign policy was reflexive opposition to a president who was perceived as a defender of traditional American values. To be blunt about it, Bush’s greatest sin (in the left’s view of things) was to attack America’s enemies instead of “understanding” them and “respecting” their (twisted) values.

Based on the evidence of the last presidential election, it is not unreasonable to say that half of our own population is anti-American.

Americanism … from the Left

The surviving Boston Marathon bomber is not an enemy combatant, according to the White House, because he is an American citizen. Ah so! All that a terrorist must do to be accorded his Miranda rights is to slip behind the veil of citizenship. He will then be treated like a common criminal (murderers being no more than common criminals in the left’s taxonomy of crime) and afforded the luxury of years of trials and appeals before he receives anything remotely resembling justice. He certainly will not be subjected to interrogation of the kind that could reveal other terrorists and terrorist plots.

This is of a piece with the left’s embrace of illegal (oops!) undocumented immigrants, who — in the left’s view — are just Americans who happen to be citizens of other countries. Not to mention that they are also prospective voters who will help the left to sustain and expand the welfare state upon which illegal immigrants feed.

It seems that the left holds an unbounded view of Americanism: Everyone who wants to be an American, and to enjoy the privileges attaching thereto, should be considered one. How else could leftists — the enemies of the Constitution, the common defense, justice, and private property — claim to be my fellow citizens?

What a laughable claim. Leftists are no more American than their heroes, from Stalin and Mao to Castro and Chavez.

Tolerance on the Left

UPDATED (BELOW), 08/10/12

I begin with the Chick-fil-A controversy. If you know more about it than is good for your mental health, jump to the text that follows the  second row of asterisks.

*   *   *   *   *

For the benefit of anyone who has just returned to the U.S. after spending six weeks in Tierra del Fuego, the Chick-fil-A controversy began when the company’s president and COO, Dan Cathy,

made what was seen as an inflammatory statement. Cathy stated: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’. I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”[43][44][45]

And it took off from there:

On July 2, 2012, the LGBT watchdog group Equality Matters published a report with details of donations given by Chick-fil-A to organizations that are opposed to same-sex marriage, such as the Marriage & Family Foundation and the Family Research Council.[46][47][48] Also, on July 2, Biblical Recorder published an interview with Dan Cathy, who was asked about opposition to his company’s “support of the traditional family.” He replied: “Well, guilty as charged.”[49][50] Cathy continued:

“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. … We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized. “We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”[49]

In the wake of this interview, Thomas Menino, the Mayor of Boston, stated that he would not allow the company to open franchises in the city “unless they open up their policies.”[51] Menino subsequently wrote a letter to Dan Cathy, citing Cathy’s earlier statement on The Ken Coleman Show and responding: “We are indeed full of pride for our support of same sex marriage and our work to expand freedom for all people.”[52] In Chicago alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno announced his determination to block Chick-fil-A’s bid to build a second store in the city: “They’d have to do a complete 180,” Moreno said in outlining conditions under which he would retract the block. “They’d have to work with LGBT groups in terms of hiring, and there would have to be a public apology from [Cathy].”[53] Moreno received backing from Chicago’s Mayor, Rahm Emanuel: “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values,” Emanuel said in a statement. “They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.”[53] San Francisco soon followed suit on July 26 when mayor Edwin M. Lee tweeted, “Very disappointed #ChickFilA doesn’t share San Francisco’s values & strong commitment to equality for everyone.” Lee followed that tweet with “Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.”[54]

In the wake of this interview, Thomas Menino, the Mayor of Boston, stated that he would not allow the company to open franchises in the city “unless they open up their policies.”[51] Menino subsequently wrote a letter to Dan Cathy, citing Cathy’s earlier statement on The Ken Coleman Show and responding: “We are indeed full of pride for our support of same sex marriage and our work to expand freedom for all people.”[52] In Chicago alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno announced his determination to block Chick-fil-A’s bid to build a second store in the city: “They’d have to do a complete 180,” Moreno said in outlining conditions under which he would retract the block. “They’d have to work with LGBT groups in terms of hiring, and there would have to be a public apology from [Cathy].”[53] Moreno received backing from Chicago’s Mayor, Rahm Emanuel: “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values,” Emanuel said in a statement. “They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.”[53] San Francisco soon followed suit on July 26 when mayor Edwin M. Lee tweeted, “Very disappointed #ChickFilA doesn’t share San Francisco’s values & strong commitment to equality for everyone.” Lee followed that tweet with “Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.”[54]

The proposed bans in Boston and Chicago drew criticism from liberal pundits, legal experts and the American Civil Liberties Union. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones magazine said “[T]here’s really no excuse for Emanuel’s and Menino’s actions… you don’t hand out business licenses based on whether you agree with the political views of the executives. Not in America, anyway.”[55] UCLA law professor and blogger Eugene Volokh observed, “[D]enying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation.”[56] Echoing those views were Glenn Greenwald of Salon, professor [Jonathan] Turley of George Washington University, and Adam Schwartz, a senior attorney with the ACLU.[57]

The city of New York is heard from, as well:

A powerful New York politician claims she was just speaking as a private citizen when she tried to run Chick-fil-A out of town, but she used her official letterhead and even invoked her position as City Council speaker to apply pressure on the embattled chicken chain.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has mayoral aspirations, sent a letter to New York University president John Sexton on Saturday asking the school to immediately end their contract with the fast food restaurant. The Atlanta-based company’s sole New York City outlet is in the school’s food court.

“I write as the Speaker of the NYC Council, and on behalf of my family. NYC is a place where we celebrate diversity. We do not believe in denigrating others. We revel in the diversity of all our citizens and their families,” the letter begins….

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last week that he would not follow the lead of his counterparts in Chicago, San Francisco and Boston, who all said Chick-fil-A was not welcome in their cities. Bloomberg said it was “inappropriate” for any government to decide if a business can or cannot operate in a city because of someone’s political views.

(The first two block quotations are from Wikipedia, as of July 30, 2012. I note the date because history and interpretations of history are notably unstable elements in the hands of Wikipedia’s contributors and editors.)

*   *   *   *   *

It is good to know that there are those on the left (the ACLU, Kevin Drum, and Glenn Greenwald, RINO Bloomberg) who defend Chick-fil-A’s right to exist. But those few voices do not cancel or diminish the left’s general stance of vitriolic disrespect toward persons who oppose the LGBT agenda. That agenda includes legal recognition of same-sex “marriage” (of course), the legalization of adoption by same-sex couples, and a laundry list of other “rights.” All would be secured by depriving non-believers in the LGBT agenda of  freedom of conscience, freedom of association, and property rights.

Tolerance in America — left-wing style — has become a one-way street: Conservatives must succumb to the left’s social agenda, but the left need not tolerate the beliefs of conservatives. Conservatives who oppose the left’s social agenda are not viewed as mere political opponents. Nay, they are — depending on the issue at hand — hate-filled racists or hate-filled gay-bashers.

In a lifetime that now surpasses the number of years prescribed in Psalms 90, I have heard, read, and witnessed much hate. But for sustained, high-volume hate, nothing in my experience exceeds that which pours from the lips and keyboards of left-wingers. As a group, they are intolerant of truth, where it contradicts their cherished beliefs , and hateful toward those whose values conflict with theirs. For example:

  • Skeptics of the flimsy evidence for anthropogenic global warming, and who offer ample evidence against AGW, are flat-earth-global-warming-deniers.
  • Those who believe that governmental interference in economic affairs leads to slower growth and more poverty are not merely drawing out the implications of economic logic and empirical analysis. No, they are the hand-servants of greedy, exploitative corporations and super-rich fat cats (who, oddly enough, bankroll many left-wing causes).
  • Persons who object to the killing of human beings at the fetal stage are not merely principled defenders of life, they are meddling moralists who seek to deny women the convenience of abortion.
  • Those who understand that marriage is a long-standing social institution which cannot be redefined by statute are hate-filled, bigoted troglodytes, not defenders of an essential, civilizing institution.

Left-wingers march in lockstep like wind-up toy soldiers. And all it takes to wind them up is to propose a governmental intervention in social or economic affairs — preferably one that flouts a social tradition that is based on decades and centuries of of experience. Why do leftists have so little respect for the wisdom that accrues in social norms?  Because leftism is rooted in two psychological tendencies. One of them is adolescent rebellion, which can persist for decades past adolescence. This explains the left’s hatred of conventional authority figures who (usually) represent conservative (civilizing) values (e.g., parents, police officers, military officers, members of the clergy).  The other psychological tendency is the urge to dominate others, an urge that leftists project onto conservatives. (See this, this, and this.) In that regard, I have observed, at first hand, that vociferous leftists are fiercely defensive of their autonomy, despite their willingness to deny autonomy to others. (Think “liberal” fascism; more here and here.)

In the face of incessant propagandizing for LBGT causes by the left’s vast academic-entertainment-opinion-cum-news conspiracy,  those who dare to be different are not lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons. No, the LGBTers are figuratively ensconced in the left’s sheltering arms, where their outré “lifestyles” are celebrated, promoted, and proclaimed to be normal — or, at least, The New Normal. Those who dare to be different, these days, are the defenders of traditional sexuality, traditional marriage, and traditional families — the core of civilized society. UPDATE: It fact, it is now possible to be accused of a crime for the mere act of stating a preference for traditional sexuality, traditional marriage, and traditional families. This is not surprising, given the growth of the thought hate-crime industry.

And so it has come to pass that heads of hugely influential corporations (e.g., Google and Amazon) lend their names and money to the LGBT cause. Having become “the thing to do,” the LGBT cause is joined by lesser corporations. That cause is today’s version of affirmative action; it is embraced by boards of directors and senior executives who do not have to live with the consequences of their politically correct policy edicts. The consequences include the reduction of corporate income (which belongs to shareholders) by the  hiring, retention, and promotion of otherwise unqualified persons — so that the directors and senior officers can feel good about their commitment to “inclusiveness.”

But that is nothing to the destruction of liberty that is sought in the name of LBGT “rights.” Consider the case of same-sex “marriage”:

It was only yesterday, was it not, that we were being assured that the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex partnerships would have no impact on persons and institutions that hold to the traditional view of marriage as a conjugal union? Such persons and institutions would simply be untouched by the change. It won’t affect your marriage or your life, we were told, if the law recognizes Henry and Herman or Sally and Sheila as “married.”

Those offering these assurances were also claiming that the redefinition of marriage would have no impact on the public understanding of marriage as a monogamous and sexually exclusive partnership. No one, they insisted, wanted to alter those traditional marital norms. On the contrary, the redefinition of marriage would promote and spread those norms more broadly.

When some of us warned that all of this was nonsense, and pointed out the myriad ways that Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and others would be affected, and their opportunities and liberties restricted, the proponents of marriage redefinition accused us of “fearmongering.” When we observed that reducing marriage to a merely emotional union (which is what happens when sexual reproductive complementarity is banished from the definition) removes all principled grounds for understanding marriage as a sexually exclusive and faithful union of two persons, and not an “open” partnership or a relationship of three or more persons in a polyamorous sexual ensemble, we were charged with invalid slippery-slope reasoning. Remember?

No one, they assured us, would require Catholic or other foster care and adoption services to place children in same-sex headed households. No one, they said, would require religiously affiliated schools and social-service agencies to treat same-sex partners as spouses, or impose penalties or disabilities on those that dissent. No one would be fired from his or her job (or suffer employment discrimination) for voicing support for conjugal marriage or criticizing same-sex sexual conduct and relationships. And no one was proposing to recognize polyamorous relationships or normalize “open marriages,” nor would redefinition undermine the norms of sexual exclusivity and monogamy in theory or practice.

That was then; this is now….

…[A]dvocates of redefinition are increasingly open in saying that they do not see these disputes about sex and marriage as honest disagreements among reasonable people of goodwill. They are, rather, battles between the forces of reason, enlightenment, and equality—those who would “expand the circle of inclusion”—on one side, and those of ignorance, bigotry, and discrimination—those who would exclude people out of “animus”—on the other. The “excluders” are to be treated just as racists are treated—since they are the equivalent of racists. Of course, we (in the United States, at least) don’t put racists in jail for expressing their opinions—we respect the First Amendment; but we don’t hesitate to stigmatize them and impose various forms of social and even civil disability upon them and their institutions. In the name of “marriage equality” and “non-discrimination,” liberty—especially religious liberty and the liberty of conscience—and genuine equality are undermined.The fundamental error made by some supporters of conjugal marriage was and is, I believe, to imagine that a grand bargain could be struck with their opponents: “We will accept the legal redefinition of marriage; you will respect our right to act on our consciences without penalty, discrimination, or civil disabilities of any type. Same-sex partners will get marriage licenses, but no one will be forced for any reason to recognize those marriages or suffer discrimination or disabilities for declining to recognize them.” There was never any hope of such a bargain being accepted. Perhaps parts of such a bargain would be accepted by liberal forces temporarily for strategic or tactical reasons, as part of the political project of getting marriage redefined; but guarantees of religious liberty and non-discrimination for people who cannot in conscience accept same-sex marriage could then be eroded and eventually removed. After all, “full equality” requires that no quarter be given to the “bigots” who want to engage in “discrimination” (people with a “separate but equal” mindset) in the name of their retrograde religious beliefs. “Dignitarian” harm must be opposed as resolutely as more palpable forms of harm….

The lesson, it seems to me, for those of us who believe that the conjugal conception of marriage is true and good, and who wish to protect the rights of our faithful and of our institutions to honor that belief in carrying out their vocations and missions, is that there is no alternative to winning the battle in the public square over the legal definition of marriage. The “grand bargain” is an illusion we should dismiss from our minds…. [Robert P. George, "Marriage, Religious Liberty, and the 'Grand Bargain'," Public Discourse, July 19, 2012]

The battle over the legal definition of marriage (and other items on the LGBT agenda) will be won through the exercise of political power, abetted by lies and chicanery, and not by sweet reason. Conservatives will (and should) eschew lies and chicanery, leaving them to the LGBT crowed and its allies. But conservatives should not flinch from the use of political power; their cause is liberty, and it is just.

*   *   *

Related reading:
Michael Brown, “The Rise of the Intolerance Brigade,” Townhall.com, August 2, 2012
Matthew J. Franck, “Truth and Lies, Nature and Convention: The Debate Over Same-Sex Marriage,” Public Discourse, July 30, 2012
Christian Smith, “An Academic Auto-da-Fé, The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 23, 2012
Michael Barone, “Supporters of Ted Cruz and Chick-fil-A Break News,” The Examiner, August 4, 2012

Related posts:
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Same-Sex Marriage
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage
Conservatism, Libertarianism, and “The Authoritarian Personality”
Parenting, Religion, Culture, and Liberty
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
The F Scale, Revisited
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
The Psychologist Who Played God
The Left
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
The Left’s Agenda
In Defense of Marriage
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty

Religion on the Left

Maverick Philosopher makes an astute point:

[T]he present question is not whether God exists or not, but whether belief in Man makes any sense and can substitute for belief in God. I say it doesn’t and can’t, that it is a sorry substitute if not outright delusional. We need help that we cannot provide for ourselves, either individually or collectively. The failure to grasp this is of the essence of the delusional Left, which, refusing the tutelage of tradition and experience, and having thrown overboard every moral standard,  is ever ready to spill oceans of blood in pursuit of their utopian fantasies.

There may be no source of the help we need. Then the conclusion to draw is that we should get by as best we can until Night falls, rather than making things worse by drinking the Left’s utopian Kool-Aid.

The main ingredient of utopian Kool-Aid (its water, if you will) is a belief in the perfectibility of man and the ability of man to achieve perfection on this earth. It is that belief which enables leftists to inveigh against every inevitable imperfection of human striving as a failure that must be — and can be — corrected through state action.  The state is the left’s religion-substitute, and a most dangerous one because obeisance to the state leads to the suppression of individuals in the name of the common good — as seen from the left — and the destruction of the human spirit that enable earthly progress, imperfect as it may be.

Where one finds ostensibly religious persons on the left, one does not find a belief in voluntary acts of goodness toward others. What one finds is exemplified in A Circle of Protection, which proclaims:

As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up—how it treats those Jesus called “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45). They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. The Christian community has an obligation to help them be heard, to join with others to insist that programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world are protected. We know from our experience serving hungry and homeless people that these programs meet basic human needs and protect the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable. We believe that God is calling us to pray, fast, give alms, and to speak out for justice.

As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.

Hiding one’s leftism behind the robe of Jesus is a cynical act:

[T]he “Circle of Protection” … tried to browbeat conservative lawmakers into pumping taxpayer dollars at full force into welfare and wealth redistribution programs.

They claimed to be doing this for the “poor.”  The coalition’s slogan, “What would Jesus cut?”, equates federal spending levels with degree of morality….

Such political activism is its own reward—there’s unlikely to be much of a reward in Heaven for being “compassionate” with other people’s money.  Jesus noted that the Pharisees, who excelled at imposing layers of human standards to the Lord’s, practiced their “righteousness . . . [merely] in order to be seen” by other people.  The “circle” follows the same practice….

The bottom line for America is how to put our public sector on fiscally sustainable ground—for the good of all Americans.  The welfare state, the disproportionate expropriation of private income and wealth transfer schemes embodied in public programs all make for unsustainable spending patterns.

Moreover, the government is robbing middle- and upper-income Peter to pay Paul—despite the fact Paul has what would amounts to middle-class or upper-income existence in most of the world.

The so-called “Circle of Protection” and the unfair, immoral policies it stands for represent one circle that should be broken.

“Charity” at the point of the state’s gun is not charity, it is theft. There is a Commandment about that, as I recall.

Leftists-cum-religionists commit at least one other sin — or most of them do, I am sure. That is the sin of hypocrisy:

Essentially its malice is identical with that of lying; in both cases there is discordance between what a man has in his mind and the simultaneous manifestation of himself…. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that we must carefully differentiate its two elements: the want of goodness, and the pretence of having it. If a person be so minded as definitely to intend both things, it is of course obvious that he is guilty of grievous sin, for that is only another way of saying that a man lacks the indispensable righteousness which makes him pleasing in the sight of God.

The portrait of hypocrisy is drawn with appalling vividness by Christ in His denunciation of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23-24: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you tithe mint, and anise, and cummin, and have left the weightier things of the law; judgment, and mercy, and faith. These things you ought to have done, and not to leave those undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel.”

There are those Pharisees again. Their modern brethren are well-fed, well-clothed, well-housed leftists who proclaim their “compassion” for the “less fortunate” and use the state’s power to enforce that “compassion,” but do not share their homes with the less-fortunate or even give as generously to charity as the conservatives whose supposed lack of “compassion” they deride.

What does left-religionists’ penchant for coercion and hypocrisy have to do with atheism? A lot.

The invocation of religion as a justification for state action, for the sake of the “poor and vulnerable,” is a mockery of charity:

a divinely infused habit, inclining the human will to cherish God for his own sake above all things, and man for the sake of God.

I submit that one cannot be a Christian, in more than name, while favoring coercive “charity.” The person who does that is putting himself in the position of judging the relative worthiness of individuals, which is a kind of blasphemy. Further, the belief that one is doing good by counseling coercion is a manifestation of the vice of presumption.

I will go further and say that the leftists of my acquaintance who profess to be religious are no less mean-spirited than the leftists of my acquaintance who reject religion. Mean-spiritedness is not excused simply because it is aimed at the well-to-do. Yes, Jesus said this to the rich man: “If you will be perfect, go sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” But Jesus was counseling the rich man, not directing anyone to take the rich man’s possessions and give them to the poor.

My conclusion — to which many readers will no doubt object — is that leftist-religionists are religiously shallow at best and insincerely religious at worst. Remove their veneer of religiosity and you have a utopian leftist, committed to perfection on this earth. In other words, you have an lefitist-atheist in all but name — a person who worships at the altar of the state.

Related posts:
Religion and Liberty” (at Facets of Liberty)
“Occupy Wall Street” and Religion

The Left and Its Delusions

Capsule commentaries on the left and its sure grasp of unreality.

An old meme: “Everyone wants less government spending, but no one wants government to cut their favorite programs.” This observation is used by big-spenders as an “argument” against cutting government spending.

Here’s a more apt observation: “There’s no free lunch.” When you have “favorite programs,” for which others must pay, you are (in effect) allowing others to have “favorite programs,” for which you must pay. Log-rolling is as old as the Republic.

The obvious answer to the big-spenders is this: Cut everyone’s favorite programs — and taxes — in one muscular stroke of the budget axe. And repeat this exercise annually until government is reduced to its legitimate functions: protecting the people from foreign and domestic predators.

*  *  *

The incessant drumbeat of progressivism: share the wealth (of other people), protect my job (at the expense of others), save the planet (from a nonexistent threat at any cost), be nice to people who are different (even if they want to kill you), make my old age more secure (and charge it to my grandchildren).

*  *  *

Q. When was the last time you “gave” money to someone who needed it less than you do?

A. When income taxes were withheld from your paycheck. That’s the thrust of  Steven Landsburg’s proof that public-sector workers are overpaid. If you read Landsburg’s post and still find yourself in favor of public-sector unions, you are (a) an emotional leftist (possibly a hate-filled one) and (b) the kind of person who would take money from others (via taxes) in order to feel good about yourself.

*  *  *

The author of Bookworm Room writes:

[A]fter years and years of indoctrination, Liberals see the world so fundamentally different[ly] than the rest of us that they can no longer recognize human fallibility and evil…. This Liberal view not only cannot survive … , but is the enabler of its/our own destruction.

A case in point, from a recent news story:

A coalition of over 100 interfaith, nonprofit and governmental organizations plans to rally in New York City against a planned congressional hearing on Muslims’ role in homegrown terrorism.

The Islamic, faith-based war against America began in 1979. “Liberals” don’t want to admit that there is such a war and that the Islamic aggressors justify it on religious grounds. “Liberals” don’t care because they think, mistakenly, that their “liberalism” protects them. Tell that to the Americans who were held hostage in Tehran. Tell that to the victims of 9/11. Do you suppose that the Muslims who perpetrated those events (and others) took the time to sort out the “liberals” so that they could focus their hatred on real Americans?

*  *  *

I will coexist with statists because I must, and only for as long as I must. But I will never willingly acquiesce to them.

*  *  *

NewsReal Blog reminds us that the political correctness of another day — anti-anti-communism — led to the near-victory of communism:

In fact, the rightful criticism of [Sen. Joseph] McCarthy is that his theatrics and personal foibles ultimately thwarted a wholly necessary campaign against domestic enemies of the Constitution. Those enemies survived him. They continued their “long slow march through the institutions,” affecting socialism through evolution rather than revolution. They infiltrated the schools and the universities. They infiltrated the churches and other houses of worship. They engaged in “community organizing” to build “coalitions of power” with which to bring about “redistributive change.” Ultimately, they shaped the worldview of the sitting president of the United States. For all intents and purposes, they won.

And so will radical Islam win if today’s political correctness — “mustn’t offend our enemies” — dictates our political discourse.

*  *  *

The minimum wage denies many young persons a chance to step on the ladder of success. It dooms them to a life of dependency and criminality, all in the name of “compassion.”

*  *  *

Regulation:

  1. It is thought of as a cure-all, but it rarely is one. Stuff still happens.
  2. It imposes costs indiscriminately, thus making many people at least a bit worse off, at no gain to them.
  3. It follows from 2 that a lot of regulations make a lot of people a lot worse off, at no gain to them.
  4. In fact, the net cost of regulations — which restrict output and hinder innovation and entrepreneurship — has been estimated at $1.5+ trillion/year for the U.S. economy.

Regulation is like alcoholism. A little bit makes you feel good, so you up your intake. And then it becomes a habit that you can’t break. As a result, you age prematurely and die relatively young because you have effectively killed yourself by poisoning your body.

*  *  *

Bookworm Room captures my frustration with the leftist mindset. It is armor-plated with myths and slogans, and nearly impervious to facts and logic. If I have anything to show for my recent effort to acquaint a leftist with facts and logic, it is probably to tamp down the rhetoric he exposes to my scrutiny. Beyond that, I expect nothing.

*  *  *

Leftist critics of “materialism” and “consumerism” seem to think that mankind’s striving for greater comfort and convenience and the trappings of status began in the United States, sometime in the 1920s. But a great swath of the long history and betterment of mankind’s lot can be ascribed to “materialism” and “consumerism.”

Leftists condemn such things not because they are anti-materialistic (quite the opposite) but because they want to decide for themselves the allocation of the products of economic endeavor. That their presumptuous schemes have slowly strangled the economy and harmed the worse-off into the bargain matters not one whit to them. They either don’t understand the consequences of their schemes or don’t care about the consequences of those schemes. They are like children lashing out at “unfairness,” but with much greater and lasting effect.

*  *  *

Social justice consists of taking money and jobs from some people, giving them to others, and congratulating yourself on your generosity.

*  *  *

The wailing and gnashing of teeth among “liberals” about the possibility that Congress will de-fund “public” broadcasting has given rise to the canard that NPR is an “objective” source of news. Anyone who believes that is a “fish in water” — so immersed in the “liberal” point of view that he cannot see it for what it is. In fact, an analysis of NPR’s audience (compiled and published by NPR) indicates that NPR’s listeners are “124% more likely to have a very liberal political outlook.” A bit of algebra yields the result that 69% of NPR’s listeners are “very liberal.” Which — given the natural human tendency to listen to, read, and watch that which pleases us — is strong evidence of NPR’s “liberal” bias. “Objective,” my foot.

*  *  *

There is almost nothing to be gained by the use of facts and logic against the quasi-religious zealotry and willful ignorance of “liberalism.” For every convert to realism, at least one more “liberal” is created by adolescent rebellion or obdurate stupidity. Think about that, and its implications for the possibility of reclaiming liberty in the United States.

*  *  *

I just read the phrase “we’ve collectively decided,” in reference to  government policy. Surprisingly, this abomination appears on the blog of a self-proclaimed libertarian. (For shame!)

There are no “collective” decisions in a nation the size of the United States, or in a State, or in a city, or in any group with more than a few dozen members. What “we” mostly have are decisions made by majorities of so-called representative bodies (which usually represent factions of minorities), and by executive and judicial fiat.

I don’t know about you, but no one makes decisions for me. I can be (and often am) forced to abide by the decisions of others, but those decisions are theirs, not mine. Only the prospect of a fine or jail time keeps me in line. And sometimes I just say “the hell with it.”

*  *  *

Democracy is inimical to liberty. That heretical thought, which I have expressed here and here, finds eloquent support here. A sample:

This illusion, that the democratic process is the same as liberty, is an ideal weapon for those few who may desire to destroy liberty and to replace it with some form of authoritarian society; innocent but ignorant persons are thereby made their dupes.

*  *  *

The virulent reaction of Dems to budget-cutting efforts reminds me that the belief in a “free lunch” is alive and well in America. It likely will remain so until the economy crashes under the weight of government spending and regulation. The only question in my mind is about what happens first: a still-prosperous China refusing to buy any more U.S. debt or an economically crumbling China unable to buy any more U.S. debt.

*  *  *

When a “liberal” finishes telling you how open-minded he is, ask him for his opinions about religion, homosexuality, abortion, Republicans, public schools, labor unions, capital punishment, Sarah Palin, the Tea Party Movement, defense spending, and Israel. Then stand by for a recitation of the usual talking points from NPR. “Liberals” are open-minded all right; they open their minds and let the lame-stream media fill them with pre-packaged views.

*  *  *

“Liberals” who are angry about the GOP’s insistence on budget cuts remind me of predators who are frustrated by the presence of sheep dogs.

*  *  *

“Liberalism” is to liberty as the Ku Klux Klan is to racial harmony.

*  *  *

If you believe Obama, the “American dream” is to have others pay for your retirement and health care.

*  *  *

Obamacare is to health care as a set of bald tires is to safe driving.

*  *  *

Civil servants and union members are drones to politicians, senior bureaucrats, public-school administrators, and union bosses — the “queen bees” whose luxurious salaries and perks the drones make possible simply by virtue of their existence. Private-sector “drones” have the satisfaction of producing real goods and services, and the “queen bees” (for the most part) deserve what they earn because of their managerial and financial contributions to the output of real goods and services.

*  *  *

The New Republic to the contrary notwithstanding, the Framers of the Constitution did not rely on disinterested institutions to protect the public interest, they relied on checks and balances. There is no such thing as a disinterested institution; institutions are colored by those who happen to dominate them. Checks and balances failed, eventually, because the legislative, executive, and judicial branches came to be dominated by like-minded “liberals.”

*  *  *

Here’s some research which concludes that

compared to anti-redistributionists, strong redistributionists have about two to three times higher odds of reporting that in the prior seven days they were angry, mad at someone, outraged, sad, lonely, and had trouble shaking the blues. Similarly, anti-redistributionists had about two to four times higher odds of reporting being happy or at ease.

Which meshes neatly with the conclusions of my own analysis:

If you are very intelligent … [y]our politics will lean heavily toward libertarianism or small-government conservatism. You probably vote Republican most of the time because, even if you are not a card-carrying Republican, you are a staunch anti-Democrat. And you are a happy person because your expectations are not constantly defeated by reality.

*  *  *

Speaking from experience, I can tell you that P.J. O’Rourke is on to something when he says that

“A” students work for “B” students. Or not even. A businessman friend of mine corrected me. “No, P. J.,” he said, “ ‘B’ students work for ‘C’ students. ‘A’ students teach.”…

…or work in think-tanks, where they are not held accountable for the consequences (if any) of their airy-fairy theorizing.

*  *  *

Leftists and rightists — statists, in other words — labor under the illusion that everything would be all right if only the “right kind of person” was “in charge” of things. Their worldview does not allow for the proneness of humans to ingrained biases, unfounded optimism about favored courses of action, and blindness to inconvenient facts.

*  *  *

“Liberals” believe in Santa Claus government: its coffers are bottomless and its good intentions override the corrupting influence of human nature. Conservatives understand that the “bottomless coffers” of government are filled by taxing and borrowing. They understand, further, that every dollar spent by government is a dollar that cannot be spent — usually in better ways — by the people who surrender their money to goverment. Conservatives also understand that a person does not automatically become wiser or less venal on becoming part of government, and that government cannot replicate the complex interactions that yield economic satisfaction and progress. Government cannot make people better off generally; it can make a relatively small number of people better off, temporarily, at the expense of the many and, in the long-run, at the expense of everyone.

*  *  *

The millennium has arrived: 51 percent of U.S. households pay no income taxes. Meanwhile, 1 percent of individual and joint returns account for 39 percent of income tax collections. What’s this business about making “the rich” pay “their share”?

*  *  *

The battle for the hearts, minds, and bank accounts of Americans will continue for as long as there is, in Thomas Sowell’s phrase, “a conflict of visions” among them. The conflict is between unrealistic and realistic views of human nature and resource constraints.

On the unrealistic side are leftists, whose magical thinking leads them to believe that government can solve all “problems” with the stroke of a president’s pen. Thus “the rich” can be taxed unto impoverishment and the economy will not suffer and all God’s children will cheer for Uncle Sam.

On the realistic side are most conservatives and libertarians, who understand that human nature is immune to social engineering, which means that bad things happen when people are compelled to support the state in its schemes for their betterment, which can only be afforded by giving up things of value (like economic growth). Realists understand, further, that “problems” are not problems, but facts of life, which can be made better by free persons acting voluntarily through markets and other social institutions.

Leftists understand the terms of this conflict — viscerally, at least — which is why they resist efforts to privatize education. To do so would free America’s children from the grasp of the statists who administer and teach in most public-school systems. To do so would sow the seeds of the destruction of the regulatory-welfare state because America’s children would then be free do adopt the realistic vision.

*  *  *

The current polarization of American politics represents a “conflict of visions,” in Thomas Sowell’s phrase. The realignment of the parties, which began in ’48 when the Dixiecrats walked out, has led to a Democrat Party whose leaders and hard-core adherents are committed to the welfare state, and to a Republican Party whose leaders and hard-core adherents are committed to a drastic reduction of the welfare state — thus the Ryan plan. Compromise is seen as betrayal, and is grounds for removal from power (especially among Republicans).

If there is to be a compromise, the GOP will have to blink first; there are too many irrational voters who cannot bring themselves to refuse the welfare state’s promise of a “free lunch.” Witness the recent upset in the NY special election, which would have been close, at best, even without a Tea Party spoiler in the field. Despite that, GOP leaders are leery of the political cost (to themselves) of compromise.

Therefore, I do not expect an orderly, agreed retreat from the entitlement “commitments” that are now on the books. It may well take a full-scale financial disaster (e.g., a federal default of some kind) to spur serious action. But, by then, the requisite action (a severe scaling back of the welfare state) would exacerbate the economic turmoil that surely will follow a financial fiasco. The result: something worse than the recent “Great Recession.”

*  *  *

They just don’t get it. My health is my business, not the state’s. I want to be free to buy my own medical care, and to live as I wish to live. I don’t want the state to tell me how to live as a price for the promise of “free” medical care. “Free” is in quotation marks, of course, because it is not free when the state controls it, and it certainly is not as good when the state delivers it.

*  *  *

From The Heritage Foundation, via The Blaze:

As Congress looks for much-need cuts in federal spending, some are wrongly looking to balance the budget by decimating defense. That’s a dangerous, wrongheaded road to head down.

We live in a hostile world, and being prepared — no matter the challenge — is key to the federal government living up to its constitutional duty to protect America. But as even as the military continues to wage war overseas, defense spending is at historic lows, all while critical investments in modern equipment are postponed.

Marshall of the Royal Air Force Sir John Cotesworth Slessor said it best:

It is customary in democratic countries to deplore expenditure on armaments as conflicting with the requirements of the social services. There is a tendency to forget that the most important social service that a government can do for its people is to keep them alive and free. (Strategy for the West, p. 75)

* * *

A post at The Volokh Conspiracy: “Gay Athletic Group Has First Amendment Right to Limit the Number of Straight Players on a Team.”

In a libertarian nation, the converse would be true, as well, and everyone could enjoy freedom of association.

*  *  *

From an MSNBC print ad:

We didn’t put a man on the Moon because some company thought they might be able to make a profit doing it. It takes vision to involve the common good of the American people without regard for profit. If you’re charting a course for this country and your big idea is, “No we can’t,” then I don’t want you leading the country.

Rachel Maddow

How sad that Ms. Maddow must be led. Evidently, she lacks the wherewithal to choose and pursue her own goals. She — like most liberals — then projects her own shortcomings onto others. It is especially sad that Ms. Maddow thinks of putting a man on the Moon as something that advanced the common good of the American people. It assuaged the egos of a handful of presidents and countless government employees, and it enriched no small number of government contractors, but the vast sums that were spent on the scientifically sterile task of putting a man on the Moon (not to mention other, equally sterile government projects) would have been better spent by the taxpayers whose money funded the effort. Think of the real jobs that might have been created; think of the consumption and investment goods that might have been produced. Now, there’s vision for you.

*  *  *

The latest constitutional innovation:

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank hoisted a rainbow [gay pride] flag outside its building this month in a bid to support acceptance of diversity in the workplace….

According to the [Richmond] Times-Dispatch, Richmond Federal Reserve officials placed the flag at the request of PRISM – a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) bank employees – in recognition of LGBT Pride Month in June.

Sally Green, the bank’s first vice president and chief operating officer, said last week: ‘We are flying the pride flag as an example of our commitment to the values of acceptance and inclusion.’

Bank spokesman Jim Strader said there were no plans to lower the flag, noting the Federal Reserve bank operates independently from the federal government.

I wish I could say that.

*  *  *

Democrats favor “death panels.” Greg Mankiw explains:

[U]nder the likely scenario that healthcare spending keeps rising faster than GDP, the Center for American Progress [the Democrat Party's pseudo-think-tank] would give government the power to prohibit people from buying expensive health plans with their own money. That is not my idea of progress.

Nor mine. But I am unsurprised.

*  *  *

The main psychological root of “liberalism” is a lack of trust, which surfaces in two important ways. First, there is an inability to believe that others can take care of themselves, given the freedom and incentive to do so. Second, and related to that, there is an inability to believe that progress occurs without being imposed from above, according to a master design. This lack of trust is, in fact, a projection onto others of the “liberal’s” own lack of imagination and resourcefulness.

*  *  *

Item:

Just before the 1964 election, a muckraking magazine called Fact decided to survey members of the American Psychiatric Association for their professional assessment of Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, the Republican nominee against President Lyndon B. Johnson….

The psychiatrists’ assessment was brutal. Half of the respondents judged Mr. Goldwater psychologically unfit to be president. They used terms like “megalomaniac,” “paranoid” and “grossly psychotic,” and some even offered specific diagnoses, including schizophrenia and narcissistic personality disorder….

Say what you will about their motivation, these doctors had given very specific and damaging psychiatric opinions, using the language and art of their profession, about a man whom they had not examined and who surely would not have consented to such statements.

I could say plenty about the motivations of those doctors quacks, but I refer you, instead, to something I wrote about one of their ilk: “The Psychologist Who Played God.” The “God” part should be a clue.

*  *  *

Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the people.” But that was in 1843. Later, Marxism became the opium of some of the people, but “enlightened” leftists eschewed the violence necessary to achieve true Marxism for the non-violent accretion of the regulatory-welfare state.

*  *  *

Some leftists (including a few of my acquaintances) seem to think that the welfare state is justified by the admonitions of Jesus Christ on the subject of the poor. Hmm… I doubt it. The lessons of the Sermon on the Mount and suchlike are aimed at individuals, not states. Let he who is truly charitable cast the first stone.

The Left’s Agenda

A post at Bookworm Room caught my eye:

Andy McCarthy writes about the elephant in the liberal living room; namely, Islamic attitudes towards rape:  Women are almost always asking for it, especially Western women, and, once having forced an innocent man to give in to his base animal nature, they deserve to be beaten, arguably to death.

That analysis, of course, must get paired with CBS’s muted and delayed reporting of the horrific rape that its reporter, Lara Logan, suffered at the hands of an Islamic mob.  CBS tries to spin it as a normal tale of a mob that’s gotten out of control, but people paying attention to the Islamic world understand that, while Western mobs attack cars and shops, Islamic mobs attack women.

Why have American leftists so eagerly embraced Islam, with all of its ugly features, while rejecting pro-Western Israel? What is the left’s agenda with respect to Islam and Israel? What is the left’s agenda, period?

Don’t expect to understand the left by looking for rational explanations of leftist beliefs and behavior. The left is in an arrested state of adolescent rebellion: “If it’s ‘bad’ or dangerous, I want it, just to be ‘different’ (well, not different from my peers, whose approval I seek) and to express my ‘independence’ (as long as ‘Daddy government’ gives me an allowance, birthday presents, cell phones, etc.).”

To put it bluntly — and this is entirely consistent with my experience — persons of the left are like unthinking, selfish adolescents who want what they want, regardless of the consequences for themselves or others.

It seems natural for adolescents and young adults to flirt with leftism. The persistence of leftism beyond one’s twenties is a sign of arrested emotional development. (By the way, I would say the same thing about doctrinaire libertarian extremists, the kind who believe in fairy tales about stateless societies.)

Related posts:
The Left
Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment

“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review

Thomas Sowell‘s Intellectuals and Society is a rewarding and annoying book.

The book is rewarding because it adds to the thick catalog of left-wing sins that Sowell has compiled and explicated in his long career as a public intellectual. When Sowell criticizes the anti-gun, soft-on-crime, peace-at-any-price, tax-spend-and-regulate crowd, he does it by rubbing their noses in the facts and figures about the messes that have been created by the policies they have promoted.

Having said that, I must also note the ways in which Intellectuals and Society annoys me, namely, that it is verbose and coy about the particular brand of intellectualism that it attacks.

VERBOSITY

Regarding verbosity, here is a randomly chosen example, from page 114:

Abstract people are above all equal, though flesh-and-blood people are remote from any such condition or ideal. Inequalities of income, power, prestige, health, and other things have long preoccupied intellectuals, both as things to explain and things to correct. The time and effort devoted to these inequalities might suggest that equality is so common or so automatic that its absence requires an explanation. Many intellectuals have approached equality in much the same spirit as Rousseau approached freedom: “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains.” To much of the modern intelligentsia, man is regarded as having been born equal but as having become mysteriously everywhere unequal.

Which means:

The notion of equality propounded by left-wing intellectuals bears no relation to the reality of the human condition. But the false ideal of equality enables leftists to advance the notion that disparities of income, power, prestige, and health (among other things) are injustices that call out for correction.

There are other ways of saying the same thing — all of them equally concise and therefore easier for the reader to grasp. Dozens, if not hundreds, of other passages in Intellectuals cry out for the same kind of ruthless editing. With that done, the book would be more compelling, because the facts and figures that make Sowell’s case against leftist intellectuals would stand out more sharply.

THE TRUE SUBJECTS OF THE BOOK

This brings me to the “intellectuals” who are the subject of the book. Sowell’s definition of intellectuals is so broad that it includes him and others of his ilk:

Here “intellectuals” refers to an occupational category, people whose occupations deal primarily with ideas — writers, academics, and the like. Most of us do not think of brain surgeons or engineers as intellectuals, despite the demanding mental training that each goes through, and virtually no one regards even the most brilliant and successful financial wizard as an intellectual.

At the core of the notion of an intellectual is the dealer in ideas, as such — not the personal application of ideas, as engineers apply complex scientific principles to create physical structures or mechanisms. A policy wonk whose work might be analogized as “social engineering,” will seldom personally administer the schemes that he or she creates or advocates. That is left to bureaucrats, politicians, social workers, the police or whoever else might be directly in charge of carry out the ideas of the policy wonk. (Intellectuals and Society, pp. 2-3)

Sowell’s definition encompasses thinkers who devoted much (or all) of their careers to combating the kinds of statist policies advanced by the left-wingers who are the real targets of Intellectuals and Soceity. Sowell even mentions two anti-statist intellectuals — Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman — in the first chapter of his book, in a context which suggests that they are among his targets. But Sowell later invokes Hayek, Friedman, and other “conservative” intellectuals as he confronts left-wing ideas and their consequences.

There can be no doubt that Sowell’s fire is directed at left-wing academicians and pundits — and their enablers in political-bureaucratic-media complex — for the many good reasons documented in the book. A truth-in-packaging law for book titles — a left-wing idea if ever there was one — would require the renaming of Intellectuals and Society to Left-Wing Intellectuals and the Dire Consequences of their Ideas.

My aim is not to quibble with Sowell’s title, but to lament his lack of clarity about which set of intellectuals he is attacking, and why that set of intellectuals deserves reproach, whereas Hayek, Friedman, and company do not. Surely the author of Intellectuals and Society — who is, by his own definition, an intellectual — does not mean to denigrate his decades of research and writing in the service of liberty. (This is not to say that conservatives and self-styled libertarians are above reproach; they are not, as I show elsewhere in this blog. But left-wing “intellectuals” deserve a special place in hell for their contributions to the destruction of the social fabric and demise of liberty, which Sowell so thoroughly documents.)

THE LEFT AND ITS ILLUSIONS

Now for the meat of Intellectuals and Society. And beneath an over-abundance of dressing, there is plenty of meat. Sowell draws on his own work and that of many distinguished philosophers and scholars as he puts the lie to left-wing ideas and policies. Thus we find the likes of Gary Becker, William F. Buckley Jr., Edmund Burke, Richard Epstein, Friedman, Hayek, Eric Hoffer, Paul Johnson, Jean-Francois Revel, Adam Smith, and James Q. Wilson pitted against left-wing stars of the past and present, including Louis D. Brandeis, Noam Chomsky, the Clintons, Herbert Croly, John Dewey, Walter Duranty, Ronald Dworkin, Paul Ehrlich, William Godwin, Edward Kennedy, Paul Krugman, Harold Laski, Roscoe Pound, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., George Bernard Shaw, the Webbs, and H.G. Wells.

Because of the timing of the book’s publication, Barack Obama makes only a cameo appearance as a senator who opposed the surge in Iraq:

[Obama] said in January 2007 that the impending surge was a “mistake that I and others will actively oppose in the days to come.” He called the projected surge a “reckless escalation,” and introduced legislation to begin removal of American troops from Iraq no later than May 1, 2007…. Another 20,000 troops [Obama said] “will not in any imaginable way be able to accomplish any new progress.” (p. 268)

Intellectuals and Society does not directly address the “highlights” of Obama’s presidency to date: “stimulus” spending, Obamacare, and new financial regulations. But they are merely new manifestations of old policies that — among others — the book amply discredits.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The hunt for left-wing error begins in earnest with “Knowledge and Notions,” Chapter 2 of Intellectuals and Society. There, Sowell highlights some leading tendencies of left-wingers. There are the experts in particular fields who act as if their expertise gives them license to expound on any and all subjects. Appositely, Sowell quotes Roy Harrod on John Maynard Keynes:

He held forth on a great range of topics, on some of which he was thoroughly expert, but on others of which he may have derived his views from the few pages of a book at which he had happened to glance. The air of authority was the same in both cases. (p. 12)

Sowell then turns to the matter of centralized, expert knowledge vs. decentralized knowledge, and how the former can never substitute for the latter when it comes to making personal and business decisions — left-wing dogma to the contrary. Here, Sowell echoes Hayek’s Nobel Prize lecture, “The Pretence of Knowledge.”

The final pages of Chapter 2 are devoted to a critique of rationalism. This is the habit of mind, usually found on the left, by which intellectuals superimpose their views of what “ought to be” on decades and centuries of human striving, and pronounce the results of that striving “irrational.” (A recent case in point is Judge Vaughn Walker’s fatuous decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger.)

Chapter 4, which is out of place, continues in the same vein as Chapter 2. That is, it expose more systemic errors of the left-wing view of the world. The sequence opens with a reprise of the theme of Sowell’s earlier book, A Conflict of Visions, which is followed by a departure from the studied neutrality of that book:

Th[e] vision of society … in which there are many “problems” to be “solved” by applying the ideas of morally anointed intellectual elites is by no means the only vision, however much that vision may be prevalent among today’s intellectuals. A conflicting vision has co-existed for centuries — a vision in which the inherent flaws of human beings are the fundamental problem and social contrivances are simply imperfect means of trying to cope with that problem…. (p. 77)

[That conflicting] vision is a sort of zero-based vision of the world and of human beings, taking none of the benefits of civilization for granted. It does not assume that we can begin with what we already have and simply tack on improvement, without being concerned at every step with whether these innovations jeopardize the very processes and principles on which our existing level of well-being rests…. Above all, it does not assume that untried theories stand on the same footing as institutions and practices whose very existence demonstrate their ability to survive in the world of reality…. (p. 79)

If you happen to believe in free markets, judicial restraint, traditional values and other features of the [constrained] vision, then you are just someone who believes in free markets, judicial restraint and traditional values. There is no personal exaltation resulting from those beliefs. But to be for “social justice” and “saving the environment,” or to be “anti-war” is more than just a set of beliefs about empirical facts. This [unconstrained] vision puts you on a higher moral plane as someone concerned and compassionate, someone who is for peace in the world, a defender of the downtrodden, and someone who wants to preserve the beauty of nature and save the planet from being polluted by others less caring. In short, one vision makes you somebody special and the other vision does not. These visions are not symmetrical…. (pp. 79-80)

That is to say, adherents of the constrained vision (conservatives) put great stock in what works, and change it only for the sake of improving it, and not for the sake of changing it because it doesn’t comport with their a priori views of how the world “ought to be.” By contrast, adherents of the unconstrained vision (the left) are wedded to the rhetoric of “ought to be” and its close relation, the Nirvana fallacy. They judge existing arrangements against unattainable standards of perfection (invented by themselves), and proclaim themselves to be on the side of all that is good. The adherents of the constrained vision point out, quite rightly, that the left’s proposals are inherently flawed because they fail to take into account the ways in which human nature produces unintended consequences.

Sowell has more to say about the unconstrained vision; briefly, it invents “rights” (to a “living wage,” “decent housing,” and “affordable health care,” and so on) that cause “compassionate” politicians to impose obligations on third parties (i.e., hapless taxpayers). This legalized theft — for that is what it is — is committed with scant regard for the good that taxpayers would do with their own money; for example:

  • Save it in the form of bank deposits, bonds, and stocks so that businesses may be formed, expand, and adopt more productive technology, thus creating jobs and fueling economic growth.
  • Help private charities and members of their immediate families, who are no less worthy of such help than complete strangers (unless, of course, you are an omniscient leftist who thinks otherwise).

But such considerations are beneath the left, whose mission is to “do good,” and damn the consequences.

On that note, I return to Sowell’s dissection of left-wing rhetoric. Here are some other incisive passages from Chapters 4:

That some people [the left] should imagine that they are particularly in favor of progress is not only another example of self-flattery but also of an evasion of the work of trying to show, with evidence and analysis, where and why their particular proposed changes would produce better end results than other people’s proposed changes. Instead, [those other people] have been dismissed … as “apologists for the status quo.” (pp. 101-2)

If the real purpose of social crusades is to make the less fortunate better off, then the actual consequences of such policies as wage control become central and require investigation…. But if the real purpose of social crusades is to proclaim oneself to be on the side of the angels, then such investigations have a low priority…. The revealed preference of many, if not most, of the intelligentsia has been to be on the side of the angels. (pp. 104-5)

…William Godwin’s notion that the young “are a sort of raw material put into our hands” remains, after two centuries, a powerful temptation to classroom indoctrination in schools and colleges…. This indoctrination can start as early as elementary school, where students are encouraged or required to write about controversial issues…. More fundamentally, the indoctrination process habituates them to taking sides on weighty and complex issues after hearing just one side of those issues…. In colleges and universities, whole academic departments are devoted to particular prepackaged conclusions — whether on race, the environment or other subjects…. Few, if any, of these “studies” include conflicting visions and conflicting evidence, as educational rather than ideological criteria might require. (pp. 108-9)

While logic and evidence are ideal criteria for the work of intellectuals, there are many ways in which much of what is said and done by intellectuals has less to do with principles than with attitudes…. During the earlier ["progressive"] era [of the early 1900s], when farmers and workers were the special focus of solicitude, no one paid much attention to how what was done for the benefit of those groups might adversely affect minorities or others. Likewise, in a later era, little attention was paid by “progressive” intellectuals to how affirmative action for minorities or women might adversely affect others. There is no principle that accounts for such collective mood swings. There are simply reasons du jour, much like the adolescent fads that are compulsive badges of identity for a time and afterwards considered passé…. (pp. 110-12)

…Anyone who suggests that individuals — or worse yet, groups — are unequal is written off intellectually and denounced morally as biased and bigoted toward those considered less than equal. Yet the empirical case for equality ranges from feeble to non-existent…. Does anyone seriously believe that whites in general play professional basketball as well as blacks? [For readers new to Sowell: He is black.] How then can one explain the predominance of blacks in this lucrative occupation, which offers fame as well as fortune? For most of the period of black predominance in professional basketball, the owners of the teams have all been white, as have most of the coaches. Then by what mechanism could blacks have contrived to deny access to professional basketball to whites of equal ability in that sport? (p. 114)

Thus armed against the essential fallacies of left-wing intellectualism, the reader is treated to dissections of left-wing error with respect to economics (Chapter 3), the media and academia (Chapter 5), the law (Chapter 6), and war (Chapters 7 and 8).

THE LEFT AND ECONOMICS

Chapter 5 (“Intellectuals and Economics”) is a sustained litany of the left’s obdurate insistence on the truth of economic fallacies. If there were a Nobel Prize for Economic Illiteracy, it would be awarded to left-wing academics (some of them economists) and pundits, as a group.

One of the left’s favorite preoccupations is “income distribution”:

Although such discussions have been phrased in terms of people, the actual empirical evidence cited has been about what has been happening over time in statistical categories — and that turns out to be the direct opposite of what has happened over time to flesh-and-blood human beings…. [I]n terms of people, the incomes of those particular taxpayers who were in the bottom 20 percent in income in 1996 rose 91 percent by 2005, while the incomes of those particular taxpeayers who were in the top 20 percent in 1996 rose by only 10 percent by 2005 — and those in the top 5 percent and top one percent actually declined. (p. 37)

The left’s systematic misunderstanding of economics rises to astounding heights on many other issues:

  • High interest rates — “immoral,” even though they reflect the risk of lending to borrowers who are likely to default.
  • Capitalism — “exploitative,” even though it has brought workers to much higher standards of living than under socialism and communism.
  • Competition — “chaotic,” because shallow thinkers cannot conceive of progress without central planning and control (though they are ready enough to concede man’s superior mental capacity to the chaotic thing known as evolution).
  • Government intervention — “essential and beneficial,” despite generations of evidence to the contrary (which is ignored by wishful thinkers on the left).
  • Business — “economically dominant,” despite the rise and fall of many a business empire, and the fact that business is at the mercy of consumers, not the other way around. (See “capitalism” and “competition.”)
  • Recessions and depressions — “the result of capitalist excesses,” even though — normal business cycles aside, government intervention (so cherished by the left) has caused or exacerbated several recessions (including the present one) and the Great Depression.

(In the foregoing list, I have violated the letter, but not the spirit, of Sowell’s commentary on economic subjects.)

THE LEFT, THE MEDIA, AND ACADEMIA

The title of Chapter 5 is “Optional Reality in the Media and Academia.” The subtitle of the entire book could well have been “The Left and Optional Reality,” for in Chapter 5 and elsewhere Sowell exposes leftism and left-wing intellectuals as unconnected with reality. There is a preferred leftist version of the world — which changes from time to time and drags devoted leftists in its wake. From that preferred vision, leftists concoct their view of reality.

As Sowell reminds us in Chapter 5, the left’s concocted view of reality has included:

  • air-brushing the brutality of totalitarian regimes then being held up as leftist ideals (e.g. the USSR, Communist China, Cuba)
  • suppressing data that would show affirmative action to be counterproductive
  • depicting gun ownership as an unmitigated evil
  • trying to pin poverty among blacks on “racism,” when it predominates among the families of single, black mothers who have been lured into a cycle of dependency on welfare
  • portraying homosexuals as “victims,” except when they happen to be priest of the despised Catholic religion
  • giving publicity and credibility to trumped-up charges of rape and arson, when the victims are black or the alleged perpetrators are “privileged” whites
  • exaggerating the incidence of poverty in the United States
  • demonizing the left’s enemies by attributing to them evil deeds that they didn’t commit
  • coining euphemisms to promote pet causes (e.g., bums as homeless persons, swamps as wetlands, trolleys as light rail, liberalism as progressivism)
  • justifying all of the foregoing (and more) on the ground that truth is subjective
  • portraying Americans as barbaric, in the face of true barbarism among cultures currently in favor with leftists
  • exaggerating the importance of isolated events, for the sake of promoting the left’s agenda, while ignoring the great advances that have resulted from the hum-drum, daily work of millions of “average” Americans.

The point of all of this deception and self-deception is simple and straightforward: it is to make the case (first to oneself and then to the public) for the left’s vision of how the world should be run. In the left’s Alice-in-Wonderland world of reality, the vision precedes and shapes the facts, not the other way around.

THE LEFT AND THE LAW

Nowhere is the left’s upside-down world more evident than in the development and application of law, which is the subject of Chapter 6 (“Intellectuals and the Law”). As Sowell observes,

There can be no dependable framework of law where judges are free to impose as law their own individual notions of what is fair, compassionate or in accord with social justice. Whatever the merits or demerits of particular judges’ conceptions of these terms, they cannot be known in advance to others, or uniform from one judge to another, so that they re not law in the full sense of rules known in advance to those subject to those rules….

By the second half of the twentieth century, the view of law as something to be deliberately shaped according to the spirit of the times, as interpreted by intellectual elites, became more common in the leading law schools and among judges. Professor Ronald Dworkin of Oxford University epitomized this approach when he dismissed the systemic evolution of the law as a “silly faith,” — systemic processes being equated with chaos, as they have been among those who promoted central economic planning rather than the systemic interactions of markets. In both cases, the preference has been for an elite to impose its vision, overriding if necessary the views of the masses of their fellow citizens…. (pp. 157-160)

The left’s approach to the law is, in a word, rationalistic. That is, it would uproot tradition — which embodies the wisdom of experience — simply because it is tradition, and replace it with reductionist constructs that have been tested only in the minds of left-wing intellectuals. The left’s insight into human nature, and all that it entails, is profoundly shallow, to coin an apt oxymoron.

Sowell documents many of the ways in which the left has tortured the Constitution, so that it no longer serves its intended, minimalist role of preserving the liberty that had been won by the War of Independence. The story of how the Constitution — the supreme law of the land — became, in the hands of the left, a weapon in their war against liberty is too depressing (and long) to recount in detail. I will say, simply, that Sowell has the story down pat:

  • disregard for the original meaning of the Constitution (and, thus, disregard for the rule of law)
  • judicial interpretation of the Constitution in ways intended to reach outcomes favored by the left, even when those outcomes clearly ran contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution
  • the expansion of the power of the federal government, in the service of those outcomes, to a point where there is nothing beyond its dictatorial reach, and no one is secure in the right to the peaceful enjoyment of life, liberty, and property.

It is not only that government now enjoys unlimited reach, but that it has failed in its duty to curb the reach of the predators among us:

As noted in Chapter 2, a retired New York police commissioner who tried to tell a gathering of judges of the dangerous potential of some of their rulings was literally laughed at by the judges and lawyers present. In short, theory trumped experience….

[A]fter many years of rising crime rates had built up sufficient public outrage to force a change in policy, rates of imprisonment rose — and crime rates began falling for the first time in years. [Leftist intellectuals] lamented the rising prison population in the country and, when they acknowledged the declining crime rate at all, confessed themselves baffled by it, as if it were a strange coincidence that crime was declining as more criminals were taken off the streets….

In light of the fact that a wholly disproportionate amount of crime is committed by a relatively small segment of the population, it is hardly surprising that putting a small fraction of the total population behind bars has led to substantial reductions in the crime rate….

…The very mention of “Victorian” ideas about society in general, or crime control in particular, is virtually guaranteed to evoke a sneer from the intelligentsia. The fact that the Victorian era was one of a decades-long decline in alcoholism, crime and social pathology in general … carries virtually no weight among the intelligentsia, and such facts remain largely unknown among those in the general public who depend on either the media or academia for information.

Thus are the wages of leftist idealism and the left’s rationalistic dismissal of traditional ways and mores.

THE LEFT AND WAR

Sowell rolls out the heavy guns in Chapter 7 (“Intellectuals and War”) and Chapter 8 (“Intellectuals and War: Repeating History”). A good way to summarize the lessons of these chapters is to say that the left’s attitudes toward war resemble the ebbing and flowing of an emotional tide. War is good, in the abstract, when it is a distant memory and the one in the offing presents an opportunity to “do good” — “the war to end all war,” and all that.

Then comes a war and its aftermath, both of which are far messier than intellectuals had expected them to be, given that their minds run to abstraction. A reflexive anti-war posture then sets in, and becomes a sign of membership in the leftist coalition,much as a fraternity pin dangling from a watch chain used to be a sign of membership in this or that exclusive circle. Given the left’s dominance in the various mass media, anti-war propaganda soon dominates and colors the public’s view of war.

Anti-war sentiment — inflamed by the left — might have kept the U.S. out of WWII, with disastrous results, had it not been for the Hitler’s decision to attack the USSR  and Japan’s miscalculated attack on Pear Harbor. The former event was more important to left than the latter, which caused non-intellectual isolationists to awaken from their slumber.

A generation later, anti-war propaganda disguised as journalism helped to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Vietnam. What was shaping up as a successful military campaign collapsed under the weight of the media’s overwrought and erroneous depiction of the Tet offensive as a Vietcong victory, the bombing of North Vietnam as “barbaric” (where the Tet offensive was given a “heroic cast), and the deaths of American soldiers as somehow “in vain, ” though many more deaths a generation earlier had not been in vain. (What a difference there was between Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite and his sycophants.)

Were it not for the determined leadership of Ronald Reagan, the left’s anti-war and anti-preparedness rhetoric — combined with a generous dose of fear-mongering — would have derailed the defense buildup in the 1980s, to which the collapse of the Soviet Union should be attributed. The left, of course, refuses to go along with the truth, preferring instead to credit the feckless Mikhail Gorbachev.

Only the 9/11 attacks helped to reverse the Clinton defense build-down of the 1990s. It has often been said, and said truly, that Clinton balanced the budget on the back of defense. But the 9/11 attacks might not have occurred had it not been for the “wall” of separation between foreign intelligence and domestic law-enforcement that was erected and maintained under Clinton’s Justice Department.

Only the determined leadership of George W. Bush (say whatever else you want to about him) brought about a reversal of fortune in the Iraq war, over the vocal and obstructive voices of the left — among which one must number the present occupant of the White House.

Then there is the constant campaign of leaks — originated through leftist media outlets — that compromise defense plans, intelligence operations, and anti-terrorist activities. That campaign meshes well with the left’s resolute determination to treat terrorists as criminal suspects, even when they are able to evade civilian justice because the evidence against them is too sensitive to be divulged in civilian courts.

Members of the armed forces are useful to the media mainly as a weapon with which to beat the anti-war, anti-defense drum. Aside from the occasional token remembrance of their sacrifices, they are mainly portrayed by the media as “victims” (because of war wounds), suicidal (though less so than the population at large), and violent (though less so than civilians of the same demographic group).

The beat goes on, relentlessly. In the meantime, America’s enemies and potential enemies take heart.

Americans now face a far more serious budget-balancing exercise, as the nation’s tax-payers face the looming mountain of debt arising from the accrual of “commitments,” past and present known as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and their expansion through CHIP, the Medicare prescription drug program, and Obamacare. Instead of confronting the real problem, politicians will duck it — for a while — by cutting other programs and raising taxes. Defense will carry a disproportionate share of the burden.

Will the U.S. be prepared for the next Pearl Harbor, the one that is far more devastating than the 9/11 attacks? In light of history and the way in which politics is played, the answer is “no.” And the next time, the U.S. will not have months and years in which to mobilize for a counter-attack. The next time, the enemy — whoever it is — will strike directly at America’s energy, telecommunications, and transportation networks with devastating blows that cripple the economy and spread fear and chaos throughout the land. (Here, I should remind the left that a sudden defeat would deprive its members of the opportunity to do what they do well when their leaders signal approval of a war: writing propaganda pieces for the home front, making propaganda films (often thinly disguised as entertainment), and commandeering the economy to  plan wartime production, set price controls, and establishing ration quotas.)

Shouldn’t the nation be preparing assiduously against such a contingency, and spending what it takes to prevent it, to work around it, and to recover from it quickly? You would think so, but — thanks largely to the left-wing agenda of bread and circuses — the necessary steps will not be taken. And the left will be out in front of the opposition to preparedness, shouting that the nation cannot afford more defense spending when it faces critical social “obligations.”

On that note, I close this portion of the review with an apt quotation that I am fond of deploying:

It is customary in democratic countries to deplore expenditure on armaments as conflicting with the requirements of the social services. There is a tendency to forget that the most important social service that a government can do for its people is to keep them alive and free. (Marshall of the Royal Air Force Sir John Cotesworth Slessor, Strategy for the West, p. 75)

BAD IDEAS HAVE BAD CONSEQUENCES

The title of this final portion of a long review sums up the thesis of Intellectuals and Society. Sowell’s eponymous concluding Chapter 9 is not consistently on target, but it has its moments; for example:

The general public contributes to the income of intellectuals in a variety of ways involuntarily as taxpayers who support schools, colleges, and various other institutions and programs subsidizing intellectual and artistic endeavors. Other occupations requiring great mental ability — engineers, for example — have a vast spontaneous market for their end products…. But that is seldom true of people whose end products are ideas. There is neither a large nor a prominent role for them to play in society, unless they create it for themselves. (pp. 286-7)

*     *     *

While the British public did not follow the specific prescriptions of Bertrand Russell to disband British military forces on the eve of the Second World War, that is very different from saying that the steady drumbeat of anti-military preparedness rhetoric among the intelligentsia in general did not imped the buildup of a military deterrence or defense to offset Hitler’s rearming of Germany (p. 288)

In international issues of war and peace, the intelligentsia often say that war should be “a last resort.”… War should of course be “a last resort” — but last in terms of preference, rather than last in the sense of hoping against hope while dangers and provocations accumulate unanswered, while wishful thinking or illusory agreements substitute for serious military preparedness — or, if necessary, military action. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1941, “if you hold your fire until you see the whites of his eyes, you will never know what hit you.” The repeated irresolution of France during the 1930s, and on into the period known as the “phony war” that ended in its sudden collapse in 1940, gave the world a painful example of how caution can be carried to the point where it becomes dangerous (pp. 289-90)

*     *     *

The period from the 1960s to the 1980s was perhaps the high tide of the influence of the intelligentsia in the United State. Though the ideas of the intelligentsia still remain the prevailing ideas, their overwhelming dominance ideologically has been reduced somewhat by counter-attacks from various quarters….

Nevertheless, any announcement of the demise of the [leftist intellectualism] would be very premature, if not sheer wishful thinking, in view of [its] continuing dominance … in the educational system, television and in motion pictures that deal with social or political issues. In short, the intellectuals’ vision of the world — as it is and as it should be — remains the dominant vision. Not since the days of the divine rights of kings has there been such a presumption of a right to direct others and constrain their decisions, largely through expanded powers of government. Everything from economic central planning to environmentalism epitomizes the belief that third parties know best and should be empowered to over-ride the decisions of others. This includes preventing children from growing up with the values taught them by their parent if more “advanced” values are preferred by those who teach in the schools and colleges. (pp. 291-92)

*     *     *

Unlike engineers, physicians, or scientists, the intelligentsia face no serious constraint or sanction based on empirical verification. NOne bould be sued for malpractice, for example, for having contributed to the hysteria over the insecticide DDT, which led to its banning in many countries around the world, costing the lives of literally millions of people through a resurgence of malaria. (pp. 296-7)

*     *     *

One of the things intellectuals have been doing for a long time is loosening the bonds that hold a society together. They have sought to replace the groups into which people have sorted themselves with groupings created and imposed by the intelligentsia. Ties of family, religion, and patriotism, for example, hav long been treated as suspect or detrimental by the intelligentsia, and new ties that intellectuals have created, such as class — and more recently “gender” — have been projected as either more real or more important. (p. 303)

*     *     *

Under the influence of the intelligentsia, we have become a society that rewards people with admiration for violating its own norms and for fragmenting that society into jarring segments. In addition to explicit  denigrations of their own society for its history or current shortcomings, intellectuals often set up standards for their society which no society of human beings has ever met or is ever likely to meet.

Calling those standards “social justice” enables intellectuals to engage in endless complaints about the particular ways in which society fails to meet their arbitrary criteria, along with a parade of groups entitled to a sense of grievance, exemplified in the “race, class and gender” formula…. (p. 305)

I remind you that Sowell (and I) are, in the main, talking about the left — especially its elites. These are the so-called intellectuals and technocrats who dominate the media, academia, left-wing think tanks, and the upper layers of government bureaucracies. The smugness, sameness, and other-worldliness of their views is depressingly predictable.

The left advances its agenda in many ways, for example, by demonizing its opponents as “mean” and even “fascistic” (look in the mirror, bub), appealing to envy (stuck on “soak the rich,” with the connivance of some of the guilt-ridden “rich”), sanctifying an ever-growing list of “victimized” groups (various protected “minorities”), and taking a slice at a time (e.g., Social Security set the stage for Medicare which set it for Obamacare).

The left’s essential agenda  is the repudiation of ordered liberty of the kind that arises from evolved social norms, and the replacement of that liberty by sugar-coated oppression. The bread and circuses of imperial Rome have nothing on Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Obamacare, and the many other forms of personal and corporate welfare that are draining America of its wealth and élan. All of that “welfare” has been bought at the price of economic and social liberty (which are indivisible).

Leftists like to say that there is a difference between opposition and disloyalty. But, in the case of the left, opposition arises from a fundamental kind of disloyalty. For, at bottom, the left pursues its agenda because  it hates the idea of what America used to stand for: liberty with responsibility, strength against foreign and domestic enemies.

Most leftists are simply shallow-minded trend-followers, who believe in the power of government to do things that are “good,” “fair,” or “compassionate,” with no regard for the costs and consequences of those things. Shallow leftists know not what they do. But they do it. And their shallowness does not excuse them for having been accessories to the diminution of  America. A rabid dog may not know that it is rabid, but its bite is no less lethal for that.

The leaders of the left — the office-holders, pundits, and intelligentsia — usually pay lip-service to “goodness,” “fairness,” and “compassion.” But their lip-service fails to conceal their brutal betrayal of liberty. Their subtle and not-so-subtle treason is despicable almost beyond words. But not quite…

Special Interests, Good and Bad

I am indebted to my son for suggesting the theme of this post. Any failures of execution are mine alone.

There is a tendency to think of special-interest groups as “bad” things. But that isn’t necessarily so. As I pointed out in “The National Psyche and Foreign Wars,”

[t]wo, relatively small, interlocking groups of strong-willed individuals were responsible for the Revolution and the Constitution, and those groups were bound by two special interests (at least): independence from Britain (not a universally popular idea at the time) and freedom from Britain’s interference in the colonies’ commerce. (The second interest is a “bad thing” only if one view commercial interests as a “bad thing.” Unlike the historians of the Beard school, I do not.)

In sum, Americans — even those who disdain “dead white men” — owe what liberty they still enjoy to those “dead white men” who founded this nation and wrote its Constitution. The Constitution is not a perfect document because it the product of fallible human beings, and to assert that it should have done thus-and-such is to indulge in the Nirvana fallacy.

The Constitution represents compromises among special interests, some of them bent on preserving the institution of slavery in their own States. But, thanks to the framers’ understanding that the world changes, the Constitution could be changed — and eventually was changed — to codify the abolition of slavery.

Only a wise (and rare) élite could have done what the framers did in 1787. That the citizens of the United States, for a time, enjoyed the fruits of the framers’ efforts was due not only to those efforts but also to luck. The right élite appeared on the stage of history at just about the right time, and that élite’s wisdom managed to prevail for a while.

The framers’ work has been largely undone by a succession of special interests — Progressives, Populists, and their progeny — whose work continues unto this very day. Their stated aims are laudable, of course, but so were many of the stated aims of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao. Politicians and political movements should not be judged by what they promise, but by what they deliver. What has been delivered to Americans in the past century? The answer — less liberty and economic privation — is detailed in many of the posts linked below.

It is long past time for a new special-interest group to seize the levers of power and revive the Constitution.

Related posts:
The State of the Union: 2010
The Shape of Things to Come

On Liberty
Parsing Political Philosophy
The Indivisibility of Economic and Social Liberty
Greed, Cosmic Justice, and Social Welfare
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice
Fascism and the Future of America
Inventing “Liberalism”
Utilitarianism, “Liberalism,” and Omniscience
Utilitarianism vs. Liberty
Beware of Libertarian Paternalists
Secession
Secession Redux
Negative Rights, Social Norms, and the Constitution
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
The Mind of a Paternalist
Accountants of the Soul
Rawls Meets Bentham
Is Liberty Possible?
The Left
The National Psyche and Foreign Wars
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration

The Commandeered Economy
The Price of Government
The Mega-Depression
Does the CPI Understate Inflation?
Ricardian Equivalence Reconsidered
The Real Burden of Government
The Rahn Curve at Work

The Left

The “left” of the title refers, specifically, to left-statists or (usually) leftists.

I describe statism in “Parsing Political Philosophy“:

Statism boils down to one thing: the use of government’s power to direct resources and people toward outcomes dictated by government….

The particular set of outcomes toward which government should strive depends on the statist…. But all of them are essentially alike in their desire to control the destiny of others….

“Hard” statists thrive on the idea of a powerful state; control is their religion, pure and simple. “Soft” statists profess offense at the size, scope, and cost of government, but will go on to say “government should do such-and-such,” where “such-and such” usually consists of:

  • government grants of particular positive rights, either to the statist, to an entity or group to which he is beholden, or to a group with which he sympathizes
  • government interventions in business and personal affairs, in the belief that government can do certain things better than private actors, or simply should do [certain] things….

I continue by saying that left-statists (L-S)

prefer such things as income redistribution, affirmative action, and the legitimation of gay marriage….L-S prefer government intervention in the economy, not only for the purpose of redistributing income but also to provide goods and services that can be provided more efficiently by the private sector, to regulate what remains of the private sector, and to engage aggressively in monetary and fiscal measures to maintain “full employment.” It should be evident that L-S have no respect for property rights, given their willingness to allow government to tax and regulate at will….

L-S tend toward leniency and forgiveness of criminals (unless the L-S or those close to him are the victims)…. On defense, L-S act as if they prefer Chamberlain to Churchill, their protestations to the contrary….

L-S have no room in their minds for civil society; government is their idea of “community.”…

It is no wonder that most “liberals” (L) and “progressives” (P) try to evade the “leftist” label. (I enclose “liberal,” “progressive,” and forms thereof in quotation marks because L are anything but liberal, in the core meaning of the word, and the policies favored by P are regressive in their effects on economic and social liberty.) L and P usually succeed in their evasion because the center of American politics has shifted so far to the left that Franklin Roosevelt — a leftist by any reasonable standard — would stand at the center of today’s political spectrum.

Indeed, the growing dominance of leftism can be seen in the history of the U.S. presidency. It all started with Crazy Teddy Roosevelt, the first president to dedicate himself to the use of state power to advance his cause du jour. (I do not credit the anti-Lincoln zealotry of  the Ludwig von Mises Institute.) TR’s leftism was evident in his “activist” approach to the presidency. No issue, it seems, was beneath TR’s notice or beyond the reach of the extra-constitutional powers he arrogated to himself. TR, in other words, was the role model for Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover (yes, Hoover the “do nothing” whose post-Crash activism helped to bring on the Great Depression), Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. (For more about American presidents and their predilections, see this, this, and this.) Countless members of Congress and State and local officials have been, and are, “activists” in the image of TR.

In sum, the problem with America — and it boils down to a single problem — is the left’s success in advancing its agenda. What is that agenda, and how does the left advance it?

The left advances its agenda in many ways, for example, by demonizing its opponents (small-government opponents are simply “mean”), appealing to envy (various forms of redistribution), sanctifying an ever-growing list of “victimized” groups (various protected “minorities”), making a virtue of mediocrity (various kinds of risk-avoiding regulations), and taking a slice at a time (e.g., Social Security set the stage for Medicare which set for Obamacare).

The left’s essential agenda  is the repudiation of ordered liberty of the kind that arises from evolved social norms, and the replacement of that liberty by sugar-coated oppression. The bread and circuses of imperial Rome have nothing on Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Obamacare, and the many other forms of personal and corporate welfare that are draining America of its wealth and élan. All of that “welfare” has been bought at the price of economic and social liberty (which are indivisible). (For a broad enumeration, see this post.)

Leftists like to say that there is a difference between opposition and disloyalty. But, in the case of the left, opposition arises from a fundamental kind of disloyalty. For, at bottom, the left pursues its agenda because  it hates the idea of what America used to stand for: liberty with responsibility, strength against foreign and domestic enemies.

Most leftists are simply shallow-minded trend-followers, who believe in the power of government to do things that are “good,” “fair,” or “compassionate,” with no regard for the costs and consequences of those things. Shallow leftists know not what they do. But they do it. And their shallowness does not excuse them for having been accessories to the diminution of  America. A rabid dog may not know that it is rabid, but its bite is no less lethal for that.

The leaders of the left — the office-holders, pundits, and intelligentsia — usually pay lip-service to “goodness,” “fairness,” and “compassion.” But their lip-service fails to conceal their brutal betrayal of liberty. Their subtle and not-so-subtle treason is despicable almost beyond words. But not quite…

Related posts:
The State of the Union: 2010
The Shape of Things to Come

On Liberty
Parsing Political Philosophy
The Indivisibility of Economic and Social Liberty
Greed, Cosmic Justice, and Social Welfare
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice
Fascism and the Future of America
Inventing “Liberalism”
Utilitarianism, “Liberalism,” and Omniscience
Utilitarianism vs. Liberty
Beware of Libertarian Paternalists
Negative Rights, Social Norms, and the Constitution
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
The Mind of a Paternalist
Accountants of the Soul
Rawls Meets Bentham
Is Liberty Possible?

The Commandeered Economy
The Price of Government
The Mega-Depression
Does the CPI Understate Inflation?
Ricardian Equivalence Reconsidered
The Real Burden of Government
The Rahn Curve at Work

The Media, the Left, and War

Ralph Peters writes:

The phenomenon of Western and world journalists championing the “rights” and causes of blood-drenched butchers who, given the opportunity, would torture and slaughter them, disproves the notion—were any additional proof required—that human beings are rational creatures. Indeed, the passionate belief of so much of the intelligentsia that our civilization is evil and only the savage is noble looks rather like an anemic version of the self-delusions of the terrorists themselves. And, of course, there is a penalty for the intellectual’s dismissal of religion: humans need to believe in something greater than themselves, even if they have a degree from Harvard. Rejecting the god of their fathers, the neo-pagans who dominate the media serve as lackeys at the terrorists’ bloody altar. (“Wishful Thinking and Indecisive Wars,” Journal of International Security Affairs, Spring 2009.)

Seems about right to me. As I once said of an American “intellectual,”

He and his ilk cannot satisfy their power-lust in the real world, so they retaliate by imagining a theoretical world of doom. It is as if they walk around under a thought balloon which reads “Take that!”

It is the politics of adolescent rebelliousness:

The Left is in an arrested state of adolescent rebellion: “Daddy” doesn’t want me to smoke, so I’m going to smoke; “Daddy” doesn’t want me to drink, so I’m going to drink; “Daddy” doesn’t want me to have sex, so I’m going to have sex. But, regardless of my behavior, I expect “Daddy” to give me an allowance, and birthday presents, and cell phones, and so on….

Persons of the Left simply are simply unthinking, selfish adolescents who want what they want, regardless of the consequences for others.

And now that they are “in charge,” that’s precisely what they’re doing. Where will it all end? I reflected here on the following passage from an essay by Thomas Sowell:

When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.

Peters has a similar thought:

Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media. [Emphasis added, with glee.] Perceiving themselves as superior beings, journalists have positioned themselves as protected-species combatants. But freedom of the press stops when its abuse kills our soldiers and strengthens our enemies. Such a view arouses disdain today, but a media establishment that has forgotten any sense of sober patriotism may find that it has become tomorrow’s conventional wisdom….

He concludes:

The point of all this is simple: Win. In warfare, nothing else matters. If you cannot win clean, win dirty. But win. Our victories are ultimately in humanity’s interests, while our failures nourish monsters.

In closing, we must dispose of one last mantra that has been too broadly and uncritically accepted: the nonsense that, if we win by fighting as fiercely as our enemies, we will “become just like them.” To convince Imperial Japan of its defeat, we not only had to fire-bomb Japanese cities, but drop two atomic bombs. Did we then become like the Japanese of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere? Did we subsequently invade other lands with the goal of permanent conquest, enslaving their populations? Did our destruction of German cities—also necessary for victory—turn us into Nazis? Of course, you can find a few campus leftists who think so, but they have yet to reveal the location of our death camps….

Of all the enemies we face today and may face tomorrow, the most dangerous is our own wishful thinking.

The wishful thinking is for quick, clean wars, and preferably, no wars at all — because we can avoid wars through “dialogue” and “understanding.” Bosh! As Peters says,

The violent, like the poor, will always be with us, and we must be willing to kill those who would kill others.

Moreover, we must be prepared for long, dirty wars. With whom? It doesn’t much matter, as Peters suggests:

It may not be China that challenges us, after all, but the unexpected rise of a dormant power. The precedent is there: in 1929, Germany had a playground military limited to 100,000 men. Ten years later, a re-armed Germany had embarked on the most destructive campaign of aggression in history, its killing power and savagery exceeding that of the Mongols.

Which nation or stateless power will be the next Germany or Japan? We don’t know and can’t know. All we can do — and must do — is prepare for the inevitable rise of the next butcher state.

The question is whether we can survive a political regime that is hell-bent on bread, circuses, and surrender.