Slouching Toward Savagery

In the last post of 2020, we proposed, as an exercise for the reader, a comparison of the tactics, techniques, and procedures used by those who perpetrated the Russian Revolution with those used by our contemporary revolutionaries.

In the first post of 2021 we explored the idolatry inherent in ideology; how man must worship the creation (even that of his own mind) if he denies that worship which is due to the Creator. This inaugural 2021 post examined the nature of the sacrifice that earth dwellers offer.

Our prior post encouraged us in the ways by which we may lead a peaceful and quiet life.

Today, we explore the nature of our society’s descent toward barbarism and savagery. One of our primary sources is Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.

"Desolation" from "The Course of Empire" by Thomas Cole, 1836, Public Domain

Desolation,” from “The Course of Empire,” Thomas Cole, 1836, Public Domain

Many consider America’s revolution as unique. In the book The Anatomy of Revolution , published in 1938 and revised August 12, 1965, author Crane Brinton wrote,

We must not expect our revolutions to be identical (p. 226), [three of the four (the English (1640s,) French (1789,) and Russian (1917)) began] in hope and moderation, [reached] a crisis in a reign of terror, [and ended] in something like dictatorship—Cromwell, Bonaparte, Stalin. [The exception is the American Revolution, which] does not quite follow this pattern (p. 24).

In fact, some have questioned whether there was an American Revolution. Robert Nisbet, in his 2012 article “Was There an American Revolution?” wrote,

…War has accompanied each of the other major Western revolutions of modern times. …[War and revolution] …destroy traditional authorities, classes, and types of wealth; both create new kinds of power, rank, and wealth.

… A revolution did indeed occur in America, one involving social structures and values. Why, then, did no Terror, no Thermidor, no military dictatorship make its appearance, as has been the case in European revolutions?

…The absence of an intellectual class in America at the time of the Revolution is one of the prime reasons for the lack of political ferocity both during and after the Revolution. …[This class’s] dominant characteristics are, and have been, social rootlessness, and adversary position toward polity, and a fascination with power and its uses. The capacity of this class for ideological fanaticism, for the sacrifice of life and institution alike in the name of principle, and even for outright bloodlust and terror is well known.

…Nothing so completely gave the American Revolution its distinctive character as the absence of [this] European species of political intellectual. It is only in the present century that we have seen this species coming into prominence in America.

Although Americans threw off the corruption of the Old World, they threw off its protections as well. Alexis de Tocqueville, in volume 2 (1840) of Democracy in America, observed,

The territorial aristocracy of former ages was either bound by law, or thought itself bound by [tradition], to come to the relief of its serving-men and to relieve their distress. But the manufacturing aristocracy of our age first impoverishes and debases the men who serve it and then abandons them to be supported by the charity of the public. This is a natural consequence of what has been said before. Between the workman and the master there are frequent relations, but no real association.

Beyond this, Tocqueville foresaw the inevitable outcome of liberal democracy. In his essay, “Is America Devolving into Soft Totalitarianism?” Bruce Frohnen wrote, “…In picturing America’s potential, dark future, Tocqueville saw the people and its virtues. He also saw the individual born of democracy, with all his weaknesses.” Tocqueville said,

I see an innumerable crowd of similar and equal men who spin around restlessly, in order to gain small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each one of them, withdrawn apart, is like a stranger to the destiny of all the others; his children and his particular friends form for him the entire human species.

As for the remainder of his fellow citizens, he is next to them, but he does not see them; he touches them without feeling them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone, and if he still has a family, you can say that at least he no longer has a country.

Frohnen observes “…Such men, Tocqueville feared, would surrender their self-government and even their self-will.” He quotes Tocqueville in support,

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild.

It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing.

For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

[Extended quote]

Thus, it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things; it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.

Frohnen comments, “Thus, we have Tocqueville’s famous description of “soft despotism.”” Then he offers his own historical perspective,

…One can trace the development of America’s welfare and administrative state, from its roots in a materialistic rendering of the “social gospel” and the surrender of local responsibilities to a supposedly more efficient set of state “experts.” Personal relationships atrophied as faith grew in mechanisms supposedly capable of producing more fair and effective results than could be produced by the very flawed beings who designed them.

Frohnen then says, “Tocqueville portrayed with stunning accuracy the decline of human character, into the tyranny of the majority and the selfishness of individualism.” He says that striving after material prosperity and equality enervated the intermediary institutions that formed communities of good character that withstood government encroachment. Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America (Volume 2, 1840) in evidence of Frohnen’s observation,

Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions; they want to be led, and they wish to remain free: as they cannot destroy either one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once.

They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in [harness and reins], because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large that holds the end of his chain.

By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master, and then relapse into it again. A great many persons at the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people.

They think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large. This does not satisfy me: the nature of him I am to obey signifies less to me than the fact of extorted obedience.

And,

It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. For my own part, I should be inclined to think freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones, if it were possible to be secure of the one without possessing the other.

Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will.

Thus, their spirit is gradually broken, and their character enervated; whereas that obedience which is exacted on a few important but rare occasions only exhibits servitude at certain intervals and throws the burden of it upon a small number of men.

It is in vain to summon a people who have been rendered so dependent on the central power to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their free choice, however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity.

Frohnen then wonders, “But what comes next? What does the individual produced by centralized administration choose for a life?” He quotes Tocqueville’s description of this new control regime:

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.

The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Frohnen says that Tocqueville’s vision of the degraded democratic citizen is dystopian, but it doesn’t stop there. The disintegration of civil society and human character results in a soft totalitarianism. This new pervasive and punitive means of control directs individual character and society as a whole towards social compliance that favors abnormity, demands obedience, and subjects individuals to national or global “communities” to find meaning and behavioral norms. Frohnen concludes,

The soft totalitarian answer, then, lies in punishing no one, but rehabilitating everyone. …As for those who reject the ruling ideology, soft totalitarianism aims to destroy the communities they build for themselves. …As soft tyranny undermines the character of its people it undermines its own ability to produce the goods those people demand. The next stage in human degradation is mere savagery.

Despotism

But what is the nature of such a totalitarian regime? From where did it come? To where is it going? Robert Nisbet, in his book The New Despotism, 1975, p. 3-9, said,

When the modern political community was being shaped at the end of the 18th century, its founders thought that the consequences of republican or representative institutions in government would be the reduction of political power in individual lives.

…What we have witnessed, however, in every Western country, and not least in the United States, is the almost incessant growth in power over the lives of human beings — power that is basically the result of the gradual disappearance of all the intermediate institutions which, coming from the predemocratic past, served for a long time to check the kind of authority that, almost from the beginning, sprang from the new legislative bodies and executives in the modern democracies.

Nisbet’s key insight is that this new power, claiming humanitarian motives, hid itself from those who it allegedly served. He wrote,

…Had political power [and the manifest function of legislature and executive] remained visible, as it largely did down until about World War I, the matter would be very different.

What has in fact happened during the past half century is that the bulk of power in our society, as it affects our intellectual, economic, social, and cultural existences, has become largely invisible, a function of the vast infragovernment composed of bureaucracy’s commissions, agencies, and departments in a myriad of areas. And the reason this power is so commonly invisible to the eye is that it lies concealed under the humane purposes that have brought it into existence.

Wrapping up his essay, he cites Burke’s belief concerning the French Revolution with its implications for our own times.

…The French Revolution, Burke believed correctly, was different from any revolution that had ever taken place before. And the reason for this difference lay in its combination of eradication of social diversity on the one hand and, on the other, the relentless increase of military-political power that expressed itself in the timeworn fashion of such power.

All that tended toward the destruction of the intermediate authorities of social class, province, church, and family brought simultaneously into being, Burke noted, a social leveling and a transfer to the state alone of powers previously resident in a plurality of associations.

In the introduction to his 1952 book, The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, J. L. Talmon defined totalitarian or messianic democracy. He wrote,

…Indeed, from the vantage point of the mid-twentieth century the history of the last hundred and fifty years looks like a systematic preparation for the headlong collision between empirical and liberal democracy on the one hand, and totalitarian Messianic democracy on the other… The world crisis of today consists [of this clash of ideologies].

…The liberal [democracy] approach assumes politics to be a matter of trial and error and regards political systems as pragmatic contrivances of human ingenuity and spontaneity. It also recognizes a variety of levels of personal and collective endeavor, which are altogether outside the sphere of politics.

The totalitarian democratic school, on the other hand, is based upon the assumption of a sole and exclusive truth in politics. It may be called political Messianism in the sense that it postulates a preordained, harmonious and perfect scheme of things, to which men are irresistibly driven, and at which they are bound to arrive.

It recognizes ultimately only one plane of existence, the political. It widens the scope of politics to embrace the whole of human existence. It treats all human thought and action as having social significance, and therefore as falling within the orbit of political action.

He clearly outlined the fundamental contradiction between these two approaches to democracy,

…Both schools affirm the supreme value of liberty. But whereas one finds the essence of freedom in spontaneity and the absence of coercion, the other believes it to be realized only in the pursuit and attainment of an absolute collective purpose.

…From the difficulty of reconciling freedom with the idea of an absolute purpose spring all the particular problems and [contradictions] of totalitarian democracy. This difficulty could only be resolved by thinking not in terms of men as they are, but as they were meant to be, and would be, given the proper conditions. In so far as they are at variance with the absolute ideal they can be ignored, coerced, or intimidated into conforming, without any real violation of the democratic principle being involved.

In the proper conditions, it is held, the conflict between spontaneity and duty would disappear, and with it the need for coercion. The practical question is, of course, whether constraint will disappear because all have learned to act in harmony, or because all opponents have been eliminated.

Of course, elimination is the path Lenin took.

Talmon bluntly told us the origins of our predicament,

…In the second half of the eighteenth century…men were gripped by the idea that the conditions, a product of faith, time, and custom, in which they and their forefathers had been living, were unnatural and had all to be replaced by deliberately planned uniform patterns, which would be natural and rational.

Different levels of social life, such as the temporal and the transcendental, or membership of a class and citizenship [were now obsolete]. The only recognized standard of judgment was to be social utility, as expressed in the idea of the general good, which was spoken of as if it were a visible and tangible objective.

And he framed the sad denouement of this conflict,

…They refused to envisage the conflict between liberty and virtue as inevitable. On the contrary, When the eighteenth-century secular religion came face to face with this conflict, the result was the great schism. Liberal democracy flinched from the specter of force and fell back upon the trial-and-error philosophy. Totalitarian Messianism hardened into an exclusive doctrine represented by a vanguard of the enlightened, who justified themselves in the use of coercion against those who refused to be free and virtuous.

What an odd conception of the means of democracy, “[using] coercion against those who refused to be free and virtuous.” However, this is exactly the approach a young communist told me that he and his comrades would use were it necessary to gain my compliance to his edicts. He said this openly in my second-year college humanities class without a qualm.

In his essay, “The Significance of Bolshevism” (published in The American Review, April 1933, pp. 36-49 and posted by Thomas Yonan) Christopher Dawson wrote of Leninist Bolshevism,

…Man cannot live in a spiritual void; he needs some fixed social standards and some absolute intellectual principles. [Any régime which offers a positive and objective end of life becomes attractive.] Bolshevism at least replaces the spiritual anarchy of bourgeois society by a rigid order and substitutes for the doubt and skepticism of an irresponsible intelligentsia the certitude of an absolute authority embodied in social institutions…Nevertheless, it is enough of a philosophy to provide society with a theoretical basis, and therein lies the secret of its strength.

Dawson then quotes Waldemar Gurian,

Marxism, and therefore Bolshevism, does but voice the secret and unavowed philosophy of the bourgeois society when it regards society and economics as the absolute.

[Bolshevism] is faithful, likewise, to [liberalism’s] morality when it seeks to order this absolute, the economic society, in such a way that justice, equality, and freedom, the original war cries of the bourgeois advance [in the French Revolution], may be the lot of all. The rise of the bourgeois and the evolution of the bourgeois society have made economics the center of public life.

Bolshevism is at once the product of the bourgeois society and the judgement upon it. It reveals the goal to which the secret philosophy of that society leads, if accepted with unflinching logic.

Dawson, via Gurian, thereby squares the circle by revealing the “secret” hidden within liberal democracy.

Analyzing this devolution further, Dawson writes,

[The] fundamental reason for the unpopularity and lack of prestige of bourgeois civilization [is that it] lacks the vital human relationship [that] the older order, with all its faults, never denied. To the bourgeois politician the electorate is an accidental collection of voters; to the bourgeois industrialist his employees are an accidental collection of wage earners.

The king and the priest, on the other hand, were united to their people by a bond of organic solidarity. They were not individuals standing over and against other individuals, but parts of a common social organism and representatives of a common spiritual order.

The bourgeoisie upset the throne and the altar, but they put in their place nothing but themselves. Hence their régime cannot appeal to any higher sanction than that of self-interest. It is continually in a state of disintegration and flux. It is not a permanent form of social organization, but a transitional phase between two orders…

Therefore, liberal democracy can do nothing other than lead to totalitarianism.

Our Milieu

Let us consider where we are. Tocqueville in Democracy in America (Volume 1, 1835) wrote concerning Europe of his day,

There are some nations…whose inhabitants think of themselves in a sense as colonists, indifferent to the fate of the place they live in. The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance.

More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.”

They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved. They are so divorced from their own interests that even when their own security and that of their children is finally compromised, they do not seek to avert the danger themselves but cross their arms and wait for the nation as a whole to come to their aid.

Yet as utterly as they sacrifice their own free will, they are no fonder of obedience than anyone else. They submit, it is true, to the whims of a [minor bureaucrat], but no sooner is force removed than they are glad to defy the law as a defeated enemy. Thus, one finds them ever wavering between servitude and license.

When a nation has reached this point, it must either change its laws and mores or perish, for the well of public virtue has run dry: in such a place one no longer finds citizens but only subjects.

This sounds like us, now. The French Revolution has finally come to America. And it is not yet over.

Recapitulation

In his essay, “From Russell Kirk’s 1954 Lecture to Chi Omega,” Brad Birzer presents salient excerpts from Russell Kirk’s, “Conservatism, Liberalism, and Fraternity,” a lecture given in June 1954 to Chi Omega, (Eleusis of Chi Omega 58, February 1956, p. 121-130.) There, Russell Kirk said,

…Law and order, and the democracy of elevation, could not survive one year among us without the principle of true fraternity, the voluntary cooperation of persons acting as a group for the sake of the commonwealth, and joined by common interests, common associations, common memories, and to some extent common origins.

These voluntary associations are the great barrier against tyranny over minds and bodies…Voluntary associations, true fraternities, unite individuals by the power of sympathy against arbitrary measures, and train their members to stand forthrightly against oppression…” [Pages 127–128.]

…Great civilizations do not fall [from] a single blow. Our civilization has sustained several terrible assaults already, and still it lives; but that does not mean that it can live forever, or even into or through another generation. Like a neglected old house, a society whose members have forgotten the ends of society’s being and of their own lives sinks by degrees almost imperceptible toward its ruin…

At the Heritage Foundation, in lecture Four Hundred and Four, given July 24th, 1992, Russell Kirk spoke about “Civilization Without Religion?

…The alternative to… [reinvigoration of] our culture would be a series of catastrophic events…which eventually might efface our present sensate culture and bring about a new ideational culture, the character of which we cannot even imagine. Such an ideational culture doubtless would have its religion: but it might be the worship of what has been called the Savage God

Such ruin has occurred repeatedly in history. When the classical religion ceased to move hearts and minds, two millennia ago, thus the Graeco-Roman civilization went down to Avernus. As my little daughter Cecilia put it unprompted, some years ago looking at a picture book of Roman history, “And then, at the end of a long summer’s day, there came Death, Mud, Crud.”

…In conclusion, it is my argument that the elaborate civilization we have known stands in peril; that it may expire of lethargy, or be destroyed by violence, or perish, from a combination of both evils.

…What ails modern civilization? Fundamentally, our society’s affliction is the decay of religious belief. If a culture is to survive and flourish, it must not be severed from the religious vision out of which it arose.

Counterpoint

Though America avoided France’s sudden transition, Tocqueville and his disciples saw the inevitable slide of a democratic people into complacency, despotism, and finally tyranny no matter what constraints the founders put on government. However, recent commentators have called us back to our origins.

John Attarian, in his 2017 essay “Edmund Burke, Champion of Ordered Liberty,” says,

All his life, Edmund Burke resisted tyranny. But his greatest service to liberty was to remind the world that freedom is anchored in a transcendent moral order and that for liberty to flourish, social and personal order and morality must exist, and radical innovations must be shunned.

Two centuries after Burke’s passing, as America grapples with the chaos and criminality of a liberty without order—itself promoted by the sort of reckless innovators he opposed and outlasted—the wisdom of this great insight is ever more painfully clear…

Insofar as the cause of freedom evades both the Scylla of license and the Charybdis of a tyrannical Utopia of abstract rights, the ship’s pilots owe much to Edmund Burke.

In his essay, “Reflections on American Order,” Russell Kirk says,

Whenever people cease to be aware of membership in an order—an order that joins the dead, the living, and the unborn, as well as an order that connects individual to family, family to community, community to nation—those people will form a “lonely crowd,” alienated from the world in which they wander. To the person and the republic, the consequences of such alienation will be baneful.

…Moral and social order, or a vast part of it, may be destroyed by a few years of violence or a few decades of contemptuous neglect. Then hope is gone, for many generations: for order is a kind of organic growth, developing slowly over many centuries; it cannot be created by public proclamation.

Kirk, who loved this American Order, then says,

…America’s order rose out of acts of affirmation—from what Thomas Carlyle called “the Everlasting Yea.” Upon classical and the theological virtues, upon the social experience of the Old World and the New, there was built by self-sacrifice and high imagination the intricate structure of personal and public order. Although no single human mind planned this order of ours, the wisdom and the toil of countless men and women have gone into its making.

Other hands may renew that order’s structure and improve it with love and prudence, in God’s own good time. That work already is being undertaken by people whose names almost nobody knows as yet, but to whom posterity will owe much.

As Burke said, “Men are qualified for liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites…men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

Maybe, yet once again, the miracle of the American Order may prevail. I wish it were so.

Conclusion

For those who see this ‘slouching toward savagery’ for what it is and oppose it through your uncompromising proclamation of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in thought, word, and deed, know that the scriptures say this of your time on earth,

They will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the [falling away, rebellion, apostasy] comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife.

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Matthew 24:9-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Luke 17:26-33; 1 Peter 4:13; Matthew 24:44 (English Standard Version)

As I’ve read recently, we are always on the verge of eternity.) If God is setting up the “Frogs of War” (as Barnes says in his commentary) and the “Millstone Moment,” then so be it. May we be strong and courageous until He returns.

For those of you who are unsure of what is happening, know that America may descend into the abyss of history along with the rest, but you, dear reader, need not descend with it but rise. Repent and believe and you shall be saved.

Tucker – Our Only Option is to Fix What’s Causing This, January 6, 2021, YouTube, Fox News

Ideology Equals Idolatry

According to the research of a good friend of mine, “Idolatry is the worship (latreuo) of images, including mental ones (i.e., ideas.)” Also, he says, “Ideology is the study (-ology; logos, lego) of ideas that, in man’s arrogance and pride, easily can and often do become the objects of worship.” The classic example is:

…They know not, nor do they discern, for He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of [this cedar log] I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Isaiah 44: 9 – 20, English Standard Version

As the scriptures say, Man exchanges the truth about God for a lie and worships and serves the created thing rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25) with Whom is help, in the here and now, and salvation, now and into eternity.

Our times are fraught with ideological struggle that we can sense, even if we cannot pin it down. Many false gods contend for the hearts of humanity, only we do not see them anymore. The closest we get to seeing the struggle most days is in the evening news: House and Senate committee meetings, press briefings, editorials, boarded up storefronts, riots, and wars.

This post explores the character of ideology, compares it with its alternative, and outlines its consequences for us. We draw materials from several authors. However, our primary source is Russell Kirk (1918 – 1994,) who captures the essence of ideology and its opposite in Chapter 1, “The Errors of Ideology,” from his book, The Politics of Prudence which is a defense of prudential versus ideological politics.

Destruction from The Course of Empire, Thomas Cole, Public Domain

Ideology’s Character

Russell Kirk writes, in the first chapter of his book, titled, “The Errors of Ideology,”

This small book [The Politics of Prudence (1993)] is a defense of prudential politics, as opposed to ideological politics. The author hopes to persuade the rising generation to set their faces against political fanaticism and utopian schemes, by which the world has been much afflicted since 1914. “Politics is the art of the possible,” the [traditional] conservative says: he thinks of political policies as intended to preserve order, justice, and freedom.

The ideologue, on the contrary, thinks of politics as a revolutionary instrument for transforming society and even transforming human nature. In his march toward Utopia, the ideologue is merciless.

Our previous post, “Revolution Never,” described the horrific extent to which some ideologues have already inflicted upon the world their march toward Utopia (i.e., literally, ‘no place.’)

Kirk points out that the word ‘ideology’ originally applied to a science of ideas, whose proponent, Antoine Destutt de Tracy, was criticized for rejecting religion and metaphysics in favor of, in Kirk’s words, “systematized knowledge derived from sensation [which] could perfect society through ethical and educational methods and by well-organized political direction.” Napoleon, according to Kirk, dismissed this ‘science’ by saying that the world is governed not by abstract ideas, but by imagination. John Adams called it “the science of idiocy.”

He notes that since world war two, the word ideology has meant,

…A dogmatic political theory which is an endeavor to substitute secular goals and doctrines for religious goals and doctrines; and which promises to overthrow present dominations so that the oppressed may be liberated. Ideology’s promises are what Talmon calls “political messianism.” The ideologue promises salvation in this world, hotly declaring that there exists no other realm of being…

Kirk concludes that this “political formula” promises humanity an earthy paradise but has delivered a “series of terrestrial hells.”

He then gives, over the next few pages, a list of ideology’s vices and contrasts them with what he terms their opposite, prudential politics. The following table captures his thoughts.

Ideological PoliticsPrudential Politics
DoctrineIdeology is inverted religion, denying the Christian doctrine of salvation…and substituting collective salvation here on earth through violent revolution. Ideology inherits the fanaticism that sometimes has afflicted religious faith and applies that intolerant belief to secular concerns.Prudential politicians know…that we cannot march to an earthly Zion; that human nature and human institutions are imperfectible; that aggressive “righteousness” in politics ends in slaughter. True religion is a discipline for the soul, not for the state.

NegotiationIdeology makes political compromise impossible; the ideologue will accept no deviation from the Absolute Truth of his secular revelation. This narrow vision brings about civil war, extirpation of “reactionaries,” and the destruction of beneficial functioning social institutions.Prudential politicians…[understand] that the primary purpose of the state is to keep the peace…by maintaining a tolerable balance among great interests in society. Parties, interests, and social classes and groups must arrive at [mutual concessions] …Prudential politics strives for conciliation, not extirpation.
HeterodoxyIdeologues vie with one with another in fancied fidelity to their Absolute Truth; and are quick to denounce deviationists or defectors from party orthodoxy…on the principle of brotherhood—or death. The radical reformer, proclaiming omniscience, strikes down every rival, to arrive at the Terrestrial Paradise more swiftly.
Prudential politicians, rejecting the illusion of an Absolute Political Truth before which every citizen must abase himself, understand that political and economic structures are not mere products of theory, to be erected one day and demolished the next; rather, social institutions develop over centuries, almost as if they were organic.
Ideological versus Prudential Politics

Kirk then asks how it can be, when the ruins of ideology are scattered throughout modern history, that it still strongly attracts new adherents? He answers using a quote from Raymond Aron,

When the intellectual feels no longer attached either to the community or the religion of his forebears, he looks to progressive ideology to fill the vacuum. The main difference between the progressivism of the disciple of Harold Laski or Bertrand Russell and the Communism of the disciple of Lenin concerns not so much the content as the style of the ideologies and the allegiance they demand.

Kirk says that ideology, in its many forms, is a sham religion that provides comfort through belonging to a greater cause, a group of fellow travelers, and a movement which takes direct action.

Paraphrasing Hans Barth, he says, “The fundamental reason why we must set our faces against ideology…is that ideology is opposed to truth; it denies the possibility of truth in politics or in anything else, substituting economic motive and class interest for abiding norms,” and, “Ideology even denies human consciousness and power of choice.”

Finally, Kirk passionately sums up his position,

What we need to impart is political prudence, not political belligerence. Ideology is the disease, not the cure. All ideologies, including the ideology of vox populi vox dei, are hostile to enduring order and justice and freedom. For ideology is the politics of passionate unreason.

…Ideology is founded merely upon “ideas”— that is, upon abstractions, fancies, for the most part unrelated to personal and social reality; while conservative views are founded upon custom, convention, the long experience of the human species.

To be “prudent” means to be judicious, cautious, sagacious…Prudence is the first of the virtues. A prudent statesman is one who looks before he leaps; who takes long views; who knows that politics is the art of the possible.

As another friend of mine recently asked, “How long, O Lord?

The Conservative Outlook

Benjamin Lockerd quotes from his introduction to Kirk’s book, Enemies of the Permanent Things, in an essay with the same title,

The necessity of personal morality in a thriving community is denied by the enemies of the permanent things, who do not believe that there are permanent standards of behavior or indeed an unchanging human nature, and who seek to create political systems that will make everyone happy without much effort…

Characterizing Kirk’s outlook, he says, “Where the liberal mind concocts a utopian plan, the conservative mind seeks a principle, “a justified deduction from what we have learnt, over the ages, about men and their commonwealths.””

To many, traditional conservatism means conserving the bad with the good. Kirk’s mentor, T. S. Eliot wrote, “Conservatism is too often conservation of the wrong things; liberalism a relaxation of discipline; revolution a denial of the permanent things.” Lockerd quotes Kirk, “Any healthy society requires an enduring contest between its permanence and its progression. We cannot live without continuity, and we cannot live without prudent change.”

Eliot did not define what he meant by “permanent things.” However, Kirk defined them as norms of our human nature, “A norm means an enduring standard. It is a law of nature, which we ignore at our peril,” and, “Normality is not what the average sensual man ordinarily possesses,” he writes, “it is what he ought to try to possess.” Norms that Kirk names are charity, justice, freedom, duty, temperance, prudence, and fortitude.

Lockerd then contrasts those who abide with or reject these norms,

In a healthy society, individuals will attempt to live by these permanent norms of moral action, and the laws of the land will give support to citizens as they make that attempt. In their revolutionary zeal, the progressives tend to scorn those norms as old-fashioned or even oppressive, and in doing so they become the enemies of the permanent things.

To my shame, I admit to scorning the old norms in my youth.

Following Kirk’s passion for education, he says,

…A fundamental purpose of literature is to teach us the norms of human nature: “The aim of great books is ethical: to teach what it means to be a man.” [It is well expressed by] Sir Philip Sidney, who argues that poetry is superior to moral philosophy in that it not only teaches us what is virtuous but moves us to be virtuous.

…For the political battles are first fought in the minds and hearts of the populace, and if the people are badly educated, their minds filled with images and ideas created by modern materialists, they will easily be drawn to political movements that deny all permanent truths in favor of utopian schemes.

Lockerd says that Kirk spoke often of, “order in the soul and order in the commonwealth.”

He says that Kirk labeled these perfect [and perfecting] systems “ideology.” Kirk insisted that instead of applying the label to any system of ideas or beliefs, as many do today, the label should only apply to, “the belief that this world of ours may be converted into the Terrestrial Paradise through the operation of positive law and positive planning.” Kirk taught that ideology is a secular substitute for religion that requires fervent assent to its doctrines, disciplines, and duties.

Recent ideologies, such as Communism and Fascism, promise freedom, but, as anyone can see, they result in servitude. Kirk said that the milder, progressive and liberal ideologies lead to the same extremes because they, too, throw off moral restraints.

Perhaps these milder ideologies slide more slowly into the extremes because they rely on individual piety to retard their descent into tyranny. As James McHenry first reported of Benjamin Franklin’s famous remarks to Elizabeth Powel, “A lady asked Dr. Franklin, “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” – “A republic,” replied the Doctor, “if you can keep it.” [italics are mine.]

Quoting Kirk, Lockerd characterizes a conservative (i.e., prudent) government, “A prudent government is no artificial contrivance, no invention of coffeehouse intellectuals, got up abstractly to suit the intellectual whim of an hour,” and, “Not abstractions, but prudence, prescription, custom, tradition, and constitution have governed the American people,” Kirk writes, “We have been saved from ideology by political tradition.”

I must add, Enemies of the Permanent Things, was first published in 1969 and Lockerd wrote the introduction for the 2016 edition, so it may be premature to say whether political tradition will continue to save the American Republic.

Next, Lockerd puts a bow on the essence of ideology and ideologues,

Ideologues put their faith not in God but in their own reason and in science…Kirk spends a good deal of time in this book exposing the prejudices hidden in the supposedly rational and scientific thinking of the modern ideologues. Here he allies himself with Eric Voegelin, who gave the ancient name of “Gnosticism” to these modern ideologies. For like the Gnostics of old, these more recent thinkers believe that we can be saved by gnosis, rational knowledge. One fundamental problem with these rationalistic ideologies is that they are ultimately materialistic, so they hold out no ideal goal for humanity.

Realizing heaven on earth is the modus operandi for modern gnostic ideologies, i.e., immanentizing the eschaton.

Finally, in contradistinction, Lockerd says, “there will always be much that [conservatives] do not know and much that is finally mysterious, not knowable by human reason at all. But if we achieve this partial understanding of life, our existence will be “tolerable”—not completely happy, not blissful, not perfect, not even close to any of these.”

But it will be enough.

Ideology’s Inroads

Bradley J. Birzer, in his essay, “Conservatism is Not an Ideology,” says,

…As modernity, and now post-modernity, continue to make inroads, ravenously mocking and devouring history, tradition, and religion, more and more persons become prey for the seductiveness of false absolutes and easy answers. They crave something greater than themselves but have missed the opportunity to embrace true religion and right reason. They latch onto the first thing that presents itself as truth.

Birzer observes, “ideologies do not politely contain themselves within revolutionary tyrannies; they have slowly infected all of the West, especially its literature and politics.”

He reiterates that Kirk saw conservative thought as the opposite of ideology because it supports tradition, religion, and history as vital guides to future thought, words, and actions.

Birzer then quotes Cicero when defending his premise that Twenty-first Century man has forgotten how to balance the universal with the particular:

True law is right reason in agreement with Nature…it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions.

Ideology’s inroads stem from the adage, “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Solzhenitsyn related this to his audience during his Templeton Address as an explanation, offered by the old in his youth, for the great disasters that had befallen Russia as a result of the revolution. This speech, advocating the need for divine guidance, began his reputation’s decline among intellectuals in America.

Philosophical Rebellion

While accepting an honorary degree, Isaiah Berlin related an observation by the German poet Heinrich Heine as an illustration of the power of ideas, “[He] told us not to underestimate the quiet philosopher sitting in his study; if Kant had not undone theology, he declared, Robespierre might not have cut off the head of the King of France.”

Glenn Tinder, in his essay, “Augustine’s World and Ours,” quotes Sartre when he said, through a character in his novel Nausea, that “anything can happen, anything.” Tinder goes on to say,

The modern mood is one of radical insecurity; nothing is so senseless or catastrophic that we can assume it will not befall us. As God has lost historical sovereignty in modern eyes, He has lost the power to call forth human love.

He says that if God is dethroned, not only do we no longer have the security of His sovereignty over events, but we lose the influence of His sacrificial love, both for salvation and as a pattern for life.

However, illustrating Dostoevsky’s dictum that “man must bow down to something,” this vacuum is filled by lesser gods, idols, which are finite and manipulable. No longer made of wood, these idols, Tinder offers, are often government systems composed of their leading proponents, instigators, leaders, and bureaucrats. Government, he says, offers the illusion of invincibility and eternality.

Further, he says that by eliminating God, we eliminate revelation as a check on human reason, even on human pride. As Tinder says,

…The power and significance of reason derive from the fact that there is an ordered reality outside the mind…Separated from other sources of insight such as tradition and revelation, reason became autonomous, even sovereign…It soon [seemed] that the very structures which reason had supposedly been bringing to light were nothing more than forms which reason itself had imposed on the underlying chaos of reality.

He says that Camus was horrified by this “metaphysical rebellion.” Morality and science lose their foundations. Objective norms and values disappear; in Dostoevsky’s words, “Everything is permissible.” Tinder says, “We are speaking, of course, of nihilism—the annihilation of all limits and standards.” He goes on and says,

A less obvious, if hardly less serious, danger inherent in the crumbling of foundations is the disappearance of the independent self…again and again in present-day social and political writing we are told that individualism is altogether false, and that all genuine human life takes place in society.

Reflecting on my years of reading in philosophy, I have found no better summary of philosophy’s collapse as those of Tinder’s words in this essay. However, I do not hold to all his conclusions.

Can We Find Our Way Back?

Bradley J. Birzer, in his essay, “Russell Kirk’s Unfinished Justice,” writes,

…If we, a people living in the midst of an ideological age, might find our way back to the origin of one of the most important words in our language and in civilization, [justice,] we might very well be able to restore its original meaning and, equally important, begin to debate how best to implement it in this fallen world.

He says that Kirk learned from his grandfather, Frank Pierce, that, “The just man defends vigorously whatever is entrusted to his charge and sets his face against the lawless,” and that Kirk said, “Frank Pierce gave every man his due, without fear or favor.” Birzer notes that Kirk used the Socratic definition of justice, “to give each person his due.” To this he adds,

As Kirk—and every conservative before and after—understood, “to give each person his due” is not to make all men one, but rather to acknowledge the unique gifts and talents bestowed upon every person by God.

The only equality men share, Birzer notes, is our rebellion against a Holy God and our need for a Savior.

Was Any of This Foreseen?

Alberto R. Coll, in his essay, “Burckhardt’s Pessimistic Conservatism,” says,

[Jacob Burckhardt (May 25, 1818 – August 8, 1897,) cultural historian and art critic,] noted that the most significant historical developments at the end of the eighteenth century were the advent of mass politics and the belief that every man’s opinion was of equal worth. The long-term results of this would be the destruction of every vestige of traditional authority, the cheapening of culture, the enthronement of mediocrity at all levels of public life, and the eventual rise of “terribles simplificateurs,” the ruthless demagogues who would ride the waves of mass politics and culture to set up a tyranny armed with all the instruments provided by large-scale industrial capitalism, science, and technology.

Sadly, the essay’s author, Coll, was a victim of cancel culture before cancellation was fashionable.

Media’s Influence

As we have seen overtly in recent months, media is not neutral in the conflict.

Martin Gurri, in his essay “Slouching Toward Post-Journalism,” says that our post-journalism media no longer presents reality to inform the public; its goal is to produce angry citizens who are harnessed to current ideological trends. Unfortunately, this happens across the political spectrum.

Brian Riedl, in his essay, “The “Facts” We take on Faith,” asks,

How do we know our political convictions are based in reality?

…How do we know that the providers of our information don’t have their own agenda, slant, or warped way of reading the world?

Both are very good questions. Reidl admits that when it comes to understanding government, we favor our trusted sources. He goes on to say that it is time consuming and complicated to verify their claims so many believe whatever we are told. His solution is skepticism which should drive us to compare news reports across the political spectrum.

However, this becomes tiresome for everyone and only works if there is a spectrum to compare.

Conclusion

Some say this ideological rebellion against God began in the late middle ages, some say it started with the Reformation, still others say it started in earnest with the French Revolution. Personally, I believe its origin to be in a garden many millennia ago. This is a worthy subject for another post.

However, in his Letters on a Regicide Peace, specifically, in the second letter, Edmund Burke, a founder of traditional conservative thought, wrote of the French Revolution,

…This new system of robbery in France, cannot be rendered safe by any art; that it must be destroyed, or that it will destroy all Europe; that to destroy that enemy, by some means or other, the force opposed to it should be made to bear some analogy and resemblance to the force and spirit which that system exerts; that war ought to be made against it in its vulnerable parts. These are my inferences. In one word, with this Republic nothing independent can co-exist.

Prudential politics yields mutual benefits only among prudent politicians. Prudence must either war with or succumb to idolatrous politics. There is no compromise with idolatry. If prudent politics fails to defeat idolatry, to “rid the high places of their idols,” then the prudent must continue to choose the way of the Cross, which is both a defeat and, ironically, an ultimate victory (Is. 57: 1-2, 20-21).

Americanos – Farah Jimenez, November 24, 2020, YouTube, PragerU

Revolution Never

In the last post we reviewed Isaiah Berlin’s views on the power of a “single, overarching ideal,”

…If you are truly convinced that there is some solution to all human problems, that one can conceive an ideal society which men can reach if only they do what is necessary to attain it, then you and your followers must believe that no price can be too high to pay in order to open the gates of such a paradise [here on earth]

He postulated its corollary, too,

There are men who will kill and maim with a tranquil conscience under the influence of the words and writings of some of those who are certain that they know perfection can be reached [in this life].

In this post, we review a worked example in evidence of such theorems’ absolute truth: the Russian Revolution, Lenin’s philosophy of life, and statue desecration. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to apply the example to their understanding of current and future cultural change in the United States of America.

Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

We look at essays by Morgan WirthlinGary Saul Morson, and Spencer Klavan, titled, “So You Say You Want a Revolution?”, “Leninthink,” and “They’re Coming for Your Head,”  respectively. Wirthlin describes the events of the Russian revolution in parallel with current events, Morson quotes Lenin while describing his policies, and Klavan illustrates what underlies our current “Wild in the Streets” (rated R) moment.

So You Say You Want a Revolution?

Wirthlin writes that the Russian liberal and socialist left used Marxist tactics to remove Tzar Nicholas II from power in the February 1917 revolution. Then they invited the exiled Bolshevik communist party back to rule Russia with them in a spirit of comradeship. This tiny Bolshevik party used the same tactics against the socialist left, with whom they were allied. In this way, between five to ten thousand radical leftists successfully seized control of Russia, a nation of 97 million people at that time. By 1941, ninety eight percent of the Russian liberal and socialist left were exterminated in purges from the October 1917 revolution onward.

Vladimir Lenin followed Marx’s dictum to “smash” existing institutions, instead of trying to reform them as the socialist left was doing. Lenin had seen that the failed 1848 Paris Commune had tried to reform institutions and was determined to “smash the world of the present” to not repeat their mistakes.

Remarkably, the liberal and socialist left expected a counterrevolution from the right. However, even the right no longer supported the Tzar in large part due to his wife’s obsession with Rasputin. They were stunned when the radical left overthrew them.  

Wirthlin quotes Richard Pipes, historian of Soviet Communism, “Committed radicals fear reform because it deprives them of leverage and establishes the ruling elite more solidly in power: they prefer the most savage repression.” The Bolsheviks acted upon the motto, “the worse the better.” Wirthlin then describes an example of their tactics in detail,

Deliberately building pressure also helped provoke police into retaliation to create evidence of an authoritarian system that radicals hoped would drive public opinion left. The Bolsheviks used what Stalin called a “smokescreen of defenses.” When authorities responded to unlawful activity, it was used as evidence of a crackdown.

Once in the streets, the Bolsheviks borrowed Napoleon’s skirmishing technique: mass recruits are sent first to draw fire and give away enemy positions, then the professional guard is sent to the enemy’s weakest point. Even if they fail, it appears that the masses want change, and repeated demonstrations kept tension high and made everyone believe change was inevitable.

In October 1917, the Bolsheviks told military units in Petrograd a counterrevolution was underway and admonished them not to respond to the provisional government’s orders. The military staff told the Bolsheviks to retract their statement, sent troops to protect the provisional government in the Winter Palace and shut down Pravda. The Bolsheviks used the troop movement and shutdown of Pravda as “evidence” of a “counterrevolution” and put out a call to action to “save the revolution.”

The Bolsheviks pursued a three-year civil war to secure power. They were unable to sway the populace to their cause and chose instead to oppress them using terror. Wirthlin says,

Every institution was systematically uprooted and crushed. Lenin pioneered a one-party state, built on brutality and violence previously unseen in human history, which would be used in communist revolutions all over the world. Once Lenin had used the Left to eliminate the Right, they next were liquidated. By 1941, 98 percent of all Russian socialists had been murdered.

Leninthink

Morson, at the beginning of his essay, sets the stage,

Lenin did more than anyone else to shape the last hundred years. He invented a form of government we have come to call totalitarian, which rejected in principle the idea of any private sphere outside of state control. To establish this power, he invented the one-party state, a term that would previously have seemed self-contradictory since a party was, by definition, a part. An admirer of the French Jacobins, Lenin believed that state power had to be based on sheer terror, and so he also created the terrorist state.

…Lenin pioneered and Stalin greatly expanded a policy in which arrests were entirely arbitrary: that is true terror. By the time of the Great Terror of 1936–38, millions of entirely innocent people were arrested, often by quota. Literally no one was safe. The Party itself was an especially dangerous place to be, and the NKDV was constantly arresting its own members—a practice that was also true of its predecessor, the Cheka, which Lenin founded almost immediately after the Bolshevik coup.

NKDV interrogators who suspected they were to be arrested often committed suicide since they had no illusions about what arrest entailed. They had practiced exquisite forms of torture and humiliation on prisoners—and on prisoners’ colleagues, friends, and families. “Member of a family of a traitor to the fatherland” was itself a criminal category, and whole camps were set up for wives of “enemies of the people.” Never before had such practices defined a state.

In Lenin’s view, Marx’s greatest contribution was “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” He defined this dictatorship as, “nothing other than power, which is totally unlimited by any laws, totally unrestrained by absolutely any rules, and based directly on force.”

According to Morson, Lenin regarded all human interactions as zero-sum. He says that Lenin’s phrase, “Who Whom” meant, “who dominates whom, who does what to whom, ultimately who annihilates whom.”

Lenin, he says, advocated the most violent solutions in all circumstances. Lenin admonished subordinates for, “not using enough force, for restraining mobs from lynchings, and for hesitating to shoot randomly chosen hostages.”

Soviet ethics incorporated Lenin’s principle of anti-empathy. Morson says, “…Schoolchildren were taught that mercy, kindness, and pity are vices. After all, these feelings might lead one to hesitate [to shoot] a class enemy or denouncing one’s parents.” The concept of “conscience” was replaced by the Marxist-Leninist ideological term: consciousness.

Bolshevik morality, according to Morson, holds that whatever contributes to the movement’s success is moral and anything that hinders it is immoral. Lenin derided principles such as “no crime without law” and “no punishment without a crime.” As he previously said, Lenin defined “dictatorship of the proletariat” as rule based solely on force unconstrained by law. In fact, the Soviet state forbade not using arbitrary power under Lenin and Stalin.

Morson explains,

Soviet parlance distinguished between purely formal law and what was called “the material determination of the crime.” A crime was not an action or omission specified in the formal code, because every “socially dangerous” act (or omission) was automatically criminal. Article 1 of the Civil Code of October 31, 1922 laid down that civil rights “are protected by the law unless they are exercised in contradiction to their social and economic purposes.”

A true revolutionary did not appeal to logic or evidence to determine truth but rather, as Morson quotes Lenin, “blackening an opponent’s mug so well it takes him ages to get it clean again.” Lenin lied without scruple. According to Morson, he told one leader, Karl Radek, “Who told you a historian has to establish the truth? Yes, we are contradicting what we said before…and when it is useful to reverse positions again, we will.”

These attitudes were necessary for Lenin’s construct called “partiinost’,” literally, according to Morson, “Partyness, in the sense of Party-mindedness.”

Partyness means that the true member cares nothing for their family, community, or church. No organization but the Party counted. Morson says, “according to Marxism-Leninism, everything [the Party] did was guaranteed to be correct.”

Coercion is the first principle of Party action. he says, “Changing human nature, producing boundless prosperity, overcoming death itself: all these miracles could be achieved because the Party was the first organization ever to pursue coercion without limits.” This thaumaturgic trust in coercion could not but lead Soviet justice to incorporate perverse forms of torture.

Partyness requires that one truly believe 2 + 2 = 5. Though, Morson says that long time party members do not seem to believe what they profess. The Party takes stances not because it cares about them but because they are useful to the Party. Party loyalty is not to issues or justice, but to the Party itself. Issues were pretexts.

He then points out an interesting phenomenon we see daily in our news. When the true ideology is criticized or inconvenient facts arise, the Party members adopt a specific response. Now-a-days, we call these “talking points.” Morson says that one neither believes nor disbelieves these answers. It is by saying these responses that loyalty is demonstrated. In this way, the members signal to those in the know that they are loyal to the Party. Might we call this “virtue signaling?”

Conversely, however, a strict adherent to the ideology might question the leadership’s consistency with or deviation from previous party lines. Morson says that Stalin followed the dictum, “The citizen belongs to the state and must have no other loyalty, not even to the state ideology.”

Anyone was suspect who truly believed the ideology. He quotes sources as saying, “The [great] purge, therefore, was designed to destroy such ideological links as still existed within the party, to convince its members that they had no ideology or loyalty except to the latest orders from on high.” True Leninists do not believe in Leninism.

Morson sums up this understanding as,

The whole point of Leninism is that only a few people must understand what is going on. That was the key insight of his tract What Is to Be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement. When Leninism is significant, there will always be a spectrum going from those who really understand, to those who just practice the appropriate responses, to those who are entirely innocent.

They’re Coming for Your Head

Klavan explains what destroying statues represents by discussing its historical origins,

Pliny the Younger was a gentleman of means and standing. He ascended the ranks of high Imperial Roman society… Pliny was a careerist. He did everything right. Pliny…had participated in what scholars call a damnatio memoriae, tearing the statues of the old emperors limb from limb.

He said, “How delightful it was to smash to pieces those arrogant faces, to raise our swords against them, to cut them ferociously with our axes, as if blood and pain would follow our blows” (52.4-5).

As if blood and pain would follow. As if by tearing apart the statues of the evil past, Pliny and his fellow loyal subjects could relish the anguish of Rome’s former oppressors, could hear their screams and know that justice had at last been done.

Klavan then states the obvious, only God almighty can execute righteous vengeance and confer eternal mercy and unmerited favor. But the new Marxist vanguard in our midst rejects the God of the Bible. So, he says that they construct a religion of endless self-abasement where their identified “damned” must bend their knee to them, begging for a forgiveness that must never come. The condemned must constantly confess their privilege resulting from their forebear’s misdeeds. The sins of the vanguard and their currently favored groups are expiated upon the heads of the condemned thereby making the vanguard virtuous and “pure.” Unfortunately, the domain of the condemned must expand until no one is left.

He points out that this perversion stems from “a very real and human desire for what our tradition calls suum cuique — the righteous judgment which gives to each what he deserves.” Klavan points out that, as Pliny said, the radicals’ motive is to destroy History and to deface its memory. All of this is done in some misbegotten effort to begin again anew in an Eden of their own making.

However, as Isaiah Berlin had noted,

…The search for a single, overarching ideal because it is the one and only true one for humanity, invariably leads to coercion.

And then to destruction, blood—eggs are broken, but the omelet is not in sight, there is only an infinite number of eggs, human lives, ready for the breaking.

Klavan agrees and says,

The natural endpoint of this…is the guillotine, and worse. The Epistle to the Hebrews [(9:11 – 10:18)] tells us that all human attempts to cleanse the sin of the world are ineffective—that only one Sacrifice can make us clean within.

He concludes that in place of a true sacrifice the current crop of Marxist radicals would overthrow America. He says they want blood for blood via the guillotine and worse.

Conclusion

In case you doubt that anyone could act in these ways, Sergei Nechaev wrote a 1869 pamphlet of instruction, a to-do list, if you will. Morson says that this nineteenth-century terrorist Nechaev wrote that a true revolutionary “has no interests, no habits, no property, not even a name. Everything in him is wholly absorbed by a single, exclusive interest, a single thought, a single passion—the revolution.” Nechaev’s life informed Dostoevsky‘s novel The Possessed.

The radicals of our time are, as Wikipedia accurately defines, filled with hubris which denotes “outrage.” These are actions that violate natural order and which shame and humiliate the victim. And these are done for the pleasure or gratification of the abuser. Ultimately, this is satanic.

Don’t be fooled by any mild “reforms” liberals may propose or enact, true Jacobins want blood and will have it.

Revolution, may it never be (Psalm 71; Matthew 26:52-53, John 18:36.)

Max Frost And The Troopers – Shape Of Things To Come – [original STEREO], Theme to “Wild in the Streets” (rated R,) YouTube, MusicMike’s “Flashback Favorites”, Lyrics

Ideas and Their Discontents — A Review

On November 25, 1994, Isaiah Berlin accepted a Doctor of Laws honorary degree at the University of Toronto. His remarks, “A Message to the 21st Century,” were read to the audience. Though he felt sure that the 21st century, “can be only a better time for mankind than my terrible century has been,” we cannot fault him for his misapprehension.

A biographer said that he dictated all his manuscripts. Given this style of composition, what is truly remarkable is his coherent train of thought, especially in longer works. What captured my attention in this essay was the clarity with which he outlined our ongoing problem.

Isaiah Berlin During the Reception of the Erasmus Prize, Oct. 1983 – Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Historical Reference

Berlin’s essay starts with a historical reference point,

Men have for millennia destroyed each other, but the deeds [of the past] pale into insignificance before the Russian Revolution and its aftermath: the oppression, torture, murder which can be laid at the doors of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and the systematic falsification of information which prevented knowledge of these horrors for years—these are unparalleled. They were not natural disasters, but preventable human crimes, and whatever those who believe in historical determinism may think, they could have been averted.

Berlin viewed these crimes as due to a drive toward some singular idea of perfection, not merely due to fear, greed, tribal hatreds, jealousy, love of power, etc., though those played a part.

As an illustration of the power of ideas, he relates an observation by the German poet Heinrich Heine, “[he] told us not to underestimate the quiet philosopher sitting in his study; if Kant had not undone theology, he declared, Robespierre might not have cut off the head of the King of France.”

Berlin goes on to say that Heine predicted that armed disciples of German nationalist philosophers would destroy Europe in a way that would make the French Revolution seem insignificant. He then says,

There are men who will kill and maim with a tranquil conscience under the influence of the words and writings of some of those who are certain that they know perfection can be reached.

Ideas Motivate

Berlin plainly states the following,

…If you are truly convinced that there is some solution to all human problems, that one can conceive an ideal society which men can reach if only they do what is necessary to attain it, then you and your followers must believe that no price can be too high to pay in order to open the gates of such a paradise.

Only the stupid and malevolent will resist once certain simple truths are put to them. Those who resist must be persuaded; if they cannot be persuaded, laws must be passed to restrain them; if that does not work, then coercion, if need be violence, will inevitably have to be used—if necessary, terror, slaughter.

He says that this is how Lenin reacted after he read Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. Berlin says that if he (Lenin) could create a “just, peaceful, happy, free, virtuous society,” then this singular, perfect end justified absolutely any means to achieve it. And Lenin pursued his goal with conviction.

Berlin points out that the root of such a conviction is the premise that the central questions of life have one true answer; and once discovered, they must be implemented. Those who have found these answers are law givers and must be followed to the end. He says that opposing leaders fought wars over which answer was right, but each was convinced they had the unique answer and only mankind’s sin or ignorance could thwart them.

One True Answer

He states that this “one true answer to life’s questions” is an age-old problem and it is demonstrably false.

Berlin says that humans, at all times and in all places, desire “liberty, security, equality, happiness, justice, knowledge, etc.” However, these universal values cannot be completely realized simultaneously. He offers the following examples,

  • Complete liberty is not compatible with complete equality…
    • If men were wholly free, the “wolves” would be free to eat the “sheep.”
    • Perfect equality means that human liberties must be restrained so that the ablest and the most gifted [do not overtake] those who would…lose if there were competition.
  • Security, and indeed freedoms, cannot be preserved if freedom to subvert them is permitted…
  • Justice has always been a human ideal, but it is not fully compatible with mercy.
  • Creative imagination and spontaneity…cannot be fully reconciled with the need for planning, organization, careful and responsible calculation.
  • Knowledge, the pursuit of truth—the noblest of aims—cannot be fully reconciled with the happiness or the freedom that men desire…

He concludes, “I must always choose between peace and excitement, or knowledge and blissful ignorance.”

Berlin says that he can offer no silver bullet to restrain the “champions” of one or another of these values, “each of whom,” likely referring to the champions, “tends to trample upon the rest.” However, he offers this modest proposal,

…If these ultimate human values by which we live are to be pursued, then compromises, trade-offs, arrangements have to be made if the worst is not to happen. So much liberty for so much equality, so much individual self-expression for so much security, so much justice for so much compassion.

…Some values clash: the ends pursued by human beings are all generated by our common nature, but their pursuit has to be to some degree controlled—liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I repeat, may not be fully compatible with each other, nor are liberty, equality, and fraternity.

He says, “We must weigh and measure, bargain, compromise, and prevent the crushing of one form of life by its rivals.”

Conclusions

Passionately, Berlin adjures his listeners,

…One cannot have everything one wants—not only in practice, but even in theory.

The denial of this, the search for a single, overarching ideal because it is the one and only true one for humanity, invariably leads to coercion.

And then to destruction, blood—eggs are broken, but the omelet is not in sight, there is only an infinite number of eggs, human lives, ready for the breaking.

And in the end the passionate idealists forget the omelet, and just go on breaking eggs.

Along with Berlin, I must urge us to examine our beliefs. Are we pursuing a “single, overarching ideal,” with which all will be well, and without, we will not lift a hand, in the here and now, to improve our fellow citizens’ lot? If that’s a yes, get over yourself; put your hand to the plow, do not look back, and humbly serve your fellow citizens in your community, state, and nation in the ways you are able.

Who Is Karl Marx? September 24, 2018, YouTube, PragerU

The American Way of Life or Tyranny

Over the past three months, we have examined the struggle for our nation’s future. Though you might think the battle is between left versus right, wealthy versus poor, or is some sort of racial conflict, you would be wrong. The battle is between those who serve Man and those who serve God. Consider carefully, though, not everyone who serves is one of the faithful; many, if not most, are indifferent and go along to get along.

Those who would subject others to some human idea of perfection, either by persuasion or by force, worship Man. Their sacrifice consists of other men, women, and children. Those who acknowledge that no human idea is worthy of their service acknowledge, at least to some extent, that the God of the Bible is sovereign and that they live under His rule. God’s sacrifice is His only begotten Son given for you.

Statue of Freedom by Thomas Crawford (22 March 1814 – 10 October 1857) Photo by Architect of the Capitol, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Conservatives, as a whole, have not done the hard work to stem the century long tide that has grown to overwhelming strength. Some claim the Age of Enlightenment is to blame. Many know it started in a garden, likely in the near east.

The following nine links and associated introductory paragraphs document our study in chronological order:

Palliative Liberalism or Economic Nationalism

Daniel McCarthy, writing in First Things, describes our current pollical and economic troubles in the article, “A New Conservative Agenda, A Governing Philosophy for the twenty First Century.” He contends that our bipartisan credentialed class’s plan is to ensure its own privileges while placating the service class with divisive identity politics.

For those who are no longer productive, the elite offer “palliative liberalism;” a package of economic measures that stops just “short of restoring inherent dignity and power to work.” The elite class’s economic and cultural interests are “well-served by a completely atomized America, one in which states have not seceded, but individuals have…” (read more)

The History and Danger of Administrative Law – A Review

Administrative law is thought to be a recent threat to the American republic because it appeared in the last 120 years. Considered essential for decades by our leaders to handle the challenges of a complex and modern civilization, it was supposedly unforeseen by the framers of the U.S. Constitution.

Instead, Philip Hamburger proves that this corruption of our republic is very old. In his article, “The History and Danger of Administrative Law,” he says administrative law is the reinstitution of prerogative or absolute power of kings, now enforced by unelected bureaucrats. Hamburger says, “Rather than a modern necessity, it is a latter-day version of a recurring threat—a threat inherent in human nature and in the temptations of power.” It is potentially the end of representative democracy… (read more)

The Historical Origins Behind the Subversion of the Constitution

In his Claremont Review of Books article, “The Left Side of History,” Allen C. Guelzo reviews Bradley Watson‘s book Progressivism: The Strange History of a Radical Idea. According to Guelzo, “Watson has crafted, not so much a historical genealogy of Progressivism, as its historiography.” However, what I found interesting was Guelzo’s description of the descent of American Thought from colonial idealism into post-civil war despair and twentieth century destruction… (read more)

The Historical Origins Behind the Subversion of the Constitution – Part 2

…Marini observes that Moreno “judges historical and political changes in light of an unchanging standard of the public good, or justice, an idea inherent in the founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”

Summarizing one of our recent posts, Moreno says, “The United States is ruled by an establishment nowhere mentioned in the U.S. Constitution… Once a federal republic, we have become a centralized bureaucracy run by an unelected administrative class [that] combines legislative, executive, and judicial functions that the Constitution separated.” This transformation into a bureaucratic state has undercut federalism and the separation of powers. He also says that the congress, executive, and judicial branches are complicit with the states in the destruction of our constitutional republic… (read more)

How the Ruling Class Subverts the Constitution

John Marini, in his article “Abandoning the Constitution,” compares two views on the United States Constitution and whether your rights as citizens are God given and unalienable or merely granted to you (or withheld) by an unelected and therefore unaccountable bureaucracy. Progressivism’s hand in the latter view is apparent. It intends to mold its clients into whatever History demands as determined by experts. In the former view, you determine your life’s course in partnership with your fellow citizens and God’s providence.

Marini uses Thomas Paine‘s writings as representative of a majority of the founders’ views. Paine wrote in his book The Rights of Man,

A constitution is not a thing in name only, but in fact. It has not an ideal, but a real existence; and wherever it cannot be produced in a visible form, there is none. A constitution is a thing antecedent to a government, and a government is only the [creation] of a constitution. The constitution of a country is not the act of its government, but of the people constituting its government… (read more)

The Meaning of Happiness

Some argue that Happiness, in the context of our Declaration of Independence, means material happiness (e.g., property.) Some argue for emotional happiness. Yet others would argue that the word means more (e.g., free assembly, free speech, free exercise of religion, etc.)

…Today’s post contends that ‘Happiness’ means most of these possibilities. However, it means one more than the others. But we must not exclude any of these at our peril. Along the way, we’ll examine the words: Unalienable, Pursuit, Life, Liberty, and Consent, too.

Our sources are essays written by James R. Rogers and a commencement address given by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Rogers, in a series of essays for Law and Liberty, defines Happiness along with the other important words to renew our understanding of our obligations to this nation and our fellow citizens. Solzhenitsyn, in his Harvard University Commencement Address, praises our nation’s founding principles and decries our fall from them. Let us examine the aforementioned words… (read more)

An Undesirable End Game

Edwin J. Erler, in his essay, “The United States in Crisis,” excerpted from his book, The United States in Crisis: Citizenship, Immigration and the Nation-State, says that the progressive goal for the United States of America is to surrender its national sovereignty and governance to a world government led by unelected administrative experts.

Rather than being American citizens, we would become citizens of the world. As world citizens, we would be governed by experts who know what we need better than we can ourselves. In their administration, these experts would be unhindered by the “consent of the governed.”

Actually, without representation, we would be clients of a vast, impenetrable, worldwide bureaucracy. We would be coerced to surrender our liberty for a numbing equality. We would be subjects of an unremitting tyranny. This is the logical outcome of the progressive project that we have documented in recent posts. Let’s examine Erler’s argument… (read more)

Witness, Endurance, and Suffering

The United States of America may be losing its freedoms faster than we expected. What should those who profess Christ as Lord and Savior do?

G. K. Beale, in his introduction to his book, Revelation – A Shorter Commentary, tells us several important things for the times ahead.

…Whether we “Build Back Better” or “Keep America Great,” God is sovereign and will lead His people through the trials ahead. Our duty is to witness openly and not compromise with the world in the face of suffering. (read more)

The Hard Solution

I could summarize the views of those who urge, in the face of an undesirable end game, a renewed “monasticism” or a headlong rush to embrace administrative rule, but I will not; it is tedious and unfruitful. Instead, I propose we consider something much harder to do even as our liberties slip away. We must build back the institutions that we allowed, over the past century, to be coopted and destroyed by those who hate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and favor, instead, purported “freedom and equality.”

…Today, we review arguments from several essayists who recognize it is past time for words; now we must act even if we don’t succeed in our lifetime. Matthew J. Peterson considers the crucial influence of our governing institutions upon us. Jeff Giesea urges us to envision what a problem-solving nation and a competent leadership would look like. The Editors at the American Mind give us the pep talk we need, urging us to restore and build the institutions closest to us. Spencer Klavan explains how we’ve failed to hold our future leaders accountable, what remedies we can immediately deploy, and what we must do for the future. Finally, Bruce Frohnen, citing T. S. Eliot, shows us the price to be paid for the destruction of our religion and culture, our very way of life… (read more)

What is at Stake in Defending the American Way of Life, November 16, 2020, YouTube, Claremont Institute

The Hard Solution

I could summarize the views of those who urge, in the face of an undesirable end game, a renewed “monasticism” or a headlong rush to embrace administrative rule, but I will not; it is tedious and unfruitful. Instead, I propose we consider something much harder to do even as our liberties slip away. We must build back the institutions that we allowed, over the past century, to be coopted and destroyed by those who hate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and favor, instead, purported “freedom and equality.”

Daughter of Niobe bent by terror of Artemis. Uffizi Gallery – Sala della Niobe. Florence, Italy – Photo: Petar Milošević / CC BY-SA 4.0 International license

Today, we review arguments from several essayists who recognize it is past time for words; now we must act even if we don’t succeed in our lifetime. Matthew J. Peterson considers the crucial influence of our governing institutions upon us. Jeff Giesea urges us to envision what a problem solving nation and a competent leadership would look like. The Editors at the American Mind give us the pep talk we need, urging us to restore and build the institutions closest to us. Spencer Klavan explains how we’ve failed to hold our future leaders accountable, what remedies we can immediately deploy, and what we must do for the future. Finally, Bruce Frohnen, citing T. S. Eliot, shows us the price to be paid for the destruction of our religion and culture, our very way of life.

What Is at Stake

In his essay, “We Need New Institutions, Not Arguments,” Matthew J. Peterson says,

It is likely too late in the life cycle of the republic for any argument to matter. Rather, what is needed most these days is active statesmanship in the service of re-formation, renewal, and revitalization.

He rightly emphasizes that too many words have been spilled in a centennial war that requires constructive action. Also, that we find ourselves speaking to those who actively reject our presuppositions so our words can no longer persuade but instead, ineffectively tumble to the floor.

Peterson says our institutions, “the family, the school, the government, the church, and so on,” are in jeopardy. Wisely, he says,

Our institutions—the governing structures of our various kinds of communities—shape the contours of our psyche. The structures of our communities shape our souls…They submerge us in an environment constructed by means of certain principles and toward specific purposes as opposed to others, and this environment shapes the way in which we think and live…They shape us whole, forming our person and our understanding of the world.

This is the classical understanding undergirding conservatism.

When institutions “malform and wound minds and hearts,” as Peterson says, it is time to build new institutions which will form good habits of thought and action in us to correct the course of our society. These institutions are imperative because they shape us in ways unknowable due to their multiple, complex, and subtle influences upon us.

Peterson says,

We must turn of necessity to experience and reality when the dreams that have been implanted in our hearts fail and the ideas in our heads have proven false. It’s all we have left. But this is a hard road, and it limits how far we can travel…

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, refusing to acknowledge the need for new institutions at this point in American life is a form of madness.

He concludes, “What we must do now is show, not tell. It is indeed time to build.”

What Would It Look Like?

Jeff Giesea, in his essay, “America’s Dangerous New Era Demands a New Kind of Greatness,” says,

America is not a failed state. But here’s the thing: we must act like it could become one…Instead of a failed state, some friends now refer to America as a “joke nation.” This is clown world, they say.

The concept of clown world is simple: what our leaders say is the opposite of what happens. Giesea then asks,

…What would it look like to be a serious nation with a serious mission and an inspiring vision? What would it look like to have a competent elite committed to building a bright future for American citizens?

He rightly challenges his peers and us to envision a future that inspires the young to dedicate their lives to its creation and that attracts virtuous people to administer these new institutions. As Giesea says, “It cannot just be about preserving the American way of life, or recovering it, but advancing it.”

The Pep Talk

In their essay, “Against the Blackpill,” the Editors of the American Mind say,

Do not succumb to this icy breath of encroaching despair. #Resist. Buck up, kiddo…Wherever you stand on America, you live within it. This is your country.

And to make it better, the only way out is through. There is no place else to go. Here, we make our stand.

…So, stop retreating into fantasy about the past before our founding, or some utopian future that might occur after it is no more.

Don’t let your favorite -ism deter you from facing reality, rolling up your sleeves, and getting to work. Restore what needs restoration: your families, your churches, your town councils, and all the institutions in which you have influence that constitute our American way of life. Consider which organizations to support based on their contribution for or against our way of life.

The editors say,

The time for complaining…is over. You are a citizen of the United States of America, and it is now in the grip of a regime crisis and in danger of collapse. Be an adult and act—say what needs saying, create what needs creating, and do what needs doing.

They acknowledge we need better leaders in this fight and predict that some of us who act will become those leaders that we need. They conclude,

Despair profits nothing and will fix none of the problems the despairing so exhaustively explain…The time of the “doomer” …is over. The battle for America’s heart, mind, and soul has begun. Join it.

Better Honors, Better Leaders

Spencer Klavan, in his essay, “Honor in a World Gone Mad,” admits,

…American public honors have utterly and perhaps irredeemably ceased to serve their high purpose. With mounting horror, I have come to feel that all the degrees, titles, and positions of rank we bestow on people are at best irrelevant to, and at worst actively deceitful about, the real qualities of those who hold them…It is a serious problem.

He says that it is an “ancient wisdom that every society will produce more of what it honors publicly.” Prudence and frugality, highly honored, made these past societies great. “The converse also follows,” Klavan says, “Societies which award their highest honors to conformity and dishonesty will produce generations of cowards and liars.”

By trading good grades for feigned political views, we have taught generations to lie and cheat and believe nothing is true or of value. Virtues such as Integrity and inventiveness are discouraged by real or perceived social pressures to conform. These are our future leaders. In response, Klavan quotes Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming,”

…Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity…

The product of this infernal process is a status seeking cohort of leaders who constitute a self-serving and corrupt oligarchy. Even though this state of affairs is widely recognized, no one is penalized for their decadence. He concludes that this is a sign of a dying republic. To this Klavan says, “All republics die, and all civilizations go through life cycles of decay and rebirth.”

However, Klavan doesn’t throw in the towel. He says it’s up to us to speed the rebirth of our Republic,

…It is we who have to figure out how to act in—and hopefully help to heal—a world that calls good evil and evil good. In particular it’s on young people, whose job it is to be lustily ambitious for achievement and passionately ready to build things of worth.

He offers two immediate remedies based on a recalibration of who we honor and why we honor them. Those who live up to virtuous ideals must be acknowledged and rewarded. The first, he says, is rewarding homemaking and motherhood. As Klavan says,

[Celebrate] women not for their achievements in masculine spheres but for living the lives of spousal devotion and maternal nurture that they overwhelmingly long for and love…We ought to make sure that we are holding in the highest possible esteem those who make the world spin—namely, stay-at-home moms…She’s building the future of America: show some respect!

Second, those in business and media must support those young journalists who cover difficult news stories, often without any backing, risking life and limb to bring truth and justice to light. He says, “These are the people who have pursued truth and justice despite the fact that hardly any fancy titles or awards are attached to such things anymore.”

Finally, Klavan says that though we’ve been born into a troubling period in American and world history, we must act:

The hour may not be quite so late as we think, and even if it is: so what? We will build our fortresses and assemble our weaponry. If they are swept away by the tidal wave of the age then at least let us not have it said that something we left undone could have stemmed the tide…For our part, we are bound by honor and duty to make our stand.

Our Way of Life

In Bruce Frohnen’s essay, “T.S. Eliot’s Christianity and Culture: the Problem of Establishment,” he says that religion and culture are aspects of the same thing, our way of life. Even those opposed to our nation’s religious and cultural practice or institutions “must engage it from within its cultural framework.”

Adapting Edmund Burke’s (#30) response to the Jacobins in the French Revolution to our times, we could say, “[What we face] is a war between the partisans of the ancient, civil, moral, and political order of [America] against a sect of fanatical and ambitious [progressives] with means to change them all. It [will not be America] extending a foreign empire over other nations: it is a sect aiming at universal empire, beginning with the conquest of [America].”

On this theme, Frohnen quotes T. S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture, p. 200, as writing,

If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready-made. You must wait for the grass to grow to feed the sheep to give the wool out of which your new coat will be made. You must pass through many centuries of barbarism. We should not live to see the new culture, nor would our great-great-great-grandchildren: and if we did, not one of us would be happy in it.

Conclusion

We have given way for over a century.  Now, we must build the soul restoring institutions we need. If God wills that “the pitiless crowbar of events” arrests our slide toward totalitarianism, so much the better.

Tucker: This Is Why America Is Great, November 13, 2020, YouTube, Fox News

Witness, Endurance, and Suffering

The United States of America may be losing its freedoms faster than we expected. What should those who profess Christ as Lord and Savior do?

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. – Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

G. K. Beale, in his introduction to his book, Revelation – A Shorter Commentary, tells us several important things for the times ahead. He says,

John’s readers live in a worldly culture which makes sin seem normal and righteousness appear strange.

The focus of the revelation John received from God is how the church is to conduct itself in the midst of an ungodly world.

Believers are faced with the choice of lining [up] their lives and conduct…with one perspective or the other, and their eternal destiny depends on that choice.

Believers are always facing the threat of compromise in one form or another. They must submit to the message as John has brought it, or face God’s judgment.

As such, the message of the letter is of relevance and value to all believers of all ages, which is why the vision was given to John.

Our way of witness to and suffering for the gospel parallels that of our Lord. Beale explains this truth this way,

The analogy of a chess game is also appropriate. The sacrificial move of Christ at the cross puts the devil in checkmate (deals him a mortal wound); the devil continues to play the game of rebellion, but his defeat is assured.

This is an important theme of John’s vision, which seeks to assure believers going through difficult circumstances that God is with them and will faithfully bring them through to final victory.

The church is identified also with Christ as a priest and now exercises its role as priests by maintaining a faithful witness to the world and willingness to suffer for Christ. It defeats the strategies of the enemy even while suffering apparent defeat, yet still ruling in a kingdom (as Christ did on the cross).

Beale also explains how he understands the book. He says,

In Rev. 1:1, John deliberately uses the language of “signify” from Dan. 2:45 portray that what God has been showing him is likewise symbolic. Most of the things that are about to unfold are not to be taken literally (lions, lambs, beasts, women, etc.), but each refers symbolically to another reality or set of realities….The reader is to expect that the main means of divine revelation in this book is symbolic.

Beale says of his approach to the book of Revelation,

We believe the Redemptive – Historical Idealist view is substantially correct but must be modified in light of the fact that parts of Revelation do definitely refer to future end – time events concerning the return of Christ, His final defeat of the enemy, and the establishment of His heavenly kingdom.

There is great comfort to be had from the book of Revelation. In fact, the book itself says,

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. Revelation 1:3 (English Standard Version)

Another thing to do is to learn from the experience of our brothers and sisters in China’s house churches. Hannah Nation and S. E. Wang’s Grace to the City: Studies in the Gospel from China is a good place to start.

Reading Pastor Wang Yi’s essay titled, “Wang Yi’s 14 Decisions: In the Face of Persecution, What Will I Do?,” posted two months before he was arrested by authorities for preaching the gospel, and other posts on that blog are yet another way to benefit from our brothers’ and sisters’ experience.

In times like these, I go back to this,

O Lord, I have heard the report of you,
    and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it;
    in the midst of the years make it known;
    in wrath remember mercy.

Habakkuk 3:2 (English Standard Version)

Whether we “Build Back Better” or “Keep America Great,” God is sovereign and will lead His people through the trials ahead. Our duty is to witness openly and not compromise with the world in the face of suffering.

If Xi Jinping does not repent he will perish! – Pastor Wang Yi, September 10, 2018, YouTube, Wang Yi Sermon Clips

An Undesirable End Game

Edwin J. Erler, in his essay, “The United States in Crisis,” excerpted from his book, The United States in Crisis: Citizenship, Immigration and the Nation-State, says that the progressive goal for the United States of America is to surrender its national sovereignty and governance to a world government led by unelected administrative experts.

Globalism – Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Rather than being American citizens, we would become citizens of the world. As world citizens, we would be governed by experts who know what we need better than we can ourselves. In their administration, these experts would be unhindered by the “consent of the governed.”

Actually, without representation, we would be clients of a vast, impenetrable, worldwide bureaucracy. We would be coerced to surrender our liberty for a numbing equality. We would be subjects of an unremitting tyranny. This is the logical outcome of the progressive project that we have documented in recent posts. Let’s examine Erler’s argument.

According to Erler, constitutional government and the rule of law has existed and continues to exist only in individual, sovereign nations. Historically, liberal democracies rarely, if ever, go to war with each other. This form of governance is the best to guarantee world peace and freedom. A global state, he maintains, does not offer this guarantee.

Those who want global governance say that nationalism, as Erler states, “breeds extremism and leads inevitably to wars, racism, ethnic animosities, exclusivity, corporate exploitation, and many other evils. The way to defeat these evils is for nations to band together into international organizations of one sort or another as a way to dilute or defeat the consequences of nationalism.”

Michael Anton, in his recent essay, “A Tyranny Perpetual and Universal?” says,

Neoliberalism elevates as a matter of “principle” the international over the national; it rejects the latter as narrow, particular, cramped, even bigoted, and celebrates the former as cosmopolitan and enlightened. Neoliberalism is (for now) forced to tolerate nations and borders as unfortunate and unhelpful obstacles but it looks forward to a time when such nuisances finally are behind mankind forever.

Neoliberalism is Anton’s catch-all term for progressivism. His essay is frightening.

Along these lines, Erler says,

…A “world without borders” will, of course, be a world without sovereign nation-states and, consequently, a world without citizens. The idea of “citizens” of the world is a simple solecism. A world without borders will be the “universal and homogeneous state,” the European Union (EU) on a world scale.

But in this “world state” there will be no citizens; rather, there will be clients who are ruled by unelected bureaucrats or administrative experts, much like the European Union is run today. These experts exercise rule without the inconvenience of having to consult or rely on the consent of the people because in this new world, administrative expertise has replaced politics and political choice.

Erler remarks that these “scientific” administrators know better than the people what is good and necessary. Thereby, they make freedom to choose outmoded, deemed to be a dangerous delusion dispelled by their expertise. They believe individual choice leads to bad decisions, so choice must be eliminated. Welfare replaces freedom in this global empire.

Erler summarizes his argument this way,

In other words, it will be a tyranny where the decisions of the experts can be translated directly into practice without the intermediary of the consent of the people. Tyranny will not be alleviated by the fact that it is based on progressive science and administered for the good of humanity. This universal tyranny will be no different—no less severe, no less degrading—than tyrannies of the past.

In fact, this universal tyranny will bring a new kind of terror and violence to its rule; it will be more efficient and more pervasive because it will be backed by all the innovations of science and justified by the advancement of the human estate, the professed goal of modern science from its very beginning. Its protestations of a benign purpose will be a thin disguise for its brutal and psychologically devastating reality.

Clients of the homogeneous state [will belong to] the community of the “free and equal.” [They] will be forced to accept equality as indistinguishable from freedom even if some retain the consciousness of the difference but are afraid to point it out or refer to it.

We need look no further than to the People’s Republic of China for what this looks like.

The American President, in his remarks to the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly gave a powerful rebuttal to the progressive project. This is his argument in his own words,

…The essential divide that runs all around the world and throughout history is once again thrown into stark relief.  It is the divide between those whose thirst for control deludes them into thinking they are destined to rule over others and those people and nations who want only to rule themselves.

…Looking around and all over this large, magnificent planet, the truth is plain to see: If you want freedom, take pride in your country.  If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty.  And if you want peace, love your nation.  Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their own country first.

The future does not belong to globalists.  The future belongs to patriots.  The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbors, and honor the differences that make each country special and unique.

…Freedom and democracy must be constantly guarded and protected, both abroad and from within.  We must always be skeptical of those who want conformity and control.  Even in free nations, we see alarming signs and new challenges to liberty.

…The core rights and values [that] America defends today were inscribed in America’s founding documents.  Our nation’s Founders understood that there will always be those who believe they are entitled to wield power and control over others. Tyranny advances under many names and many theories, but it always comes down to the desire for domination.  It protects not the interests of many, but the privilege of few.

Our Founders gave us a system designed to restrain this dangerous impulse.  They chose to entrust American power to those most invested in the fate of our nation: a proud and fiercely independent people.

The true good of a nation can only be pursued by those who love it: by citizens who are rooted in its history, who are nourished by its culture, committed to its values, attached to its people, and who know that its future is theirs to build or theirs to lose.  Patriots see a nation and its destiny in ways no one else can.

Liberty is only preserved, sovereignty is only secured, democracy is only sustained, greatness is only realized, by the will and devotion of patriots.  In their spirit is found the strength to resist oppression, the inspiration to forge legacy, the goodwill to seek friendship, and the bravery to reach for peace.  Love of our nations makes the world better for all nations.

The progressive project has been in the works for more than a century. Those who love America understand what we are losing. Those who do not, think they are winning. This has happened many times before. By God’s power, it will end, for it is already finished.

A Man vs. A Movement, October 1, 2020, YouTube, American Greatness

The Meaning of Happiness

You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means,”

Inigo Montoya, Princess Bride

Some argue that Happiness, in the context of our Declaration of Independence, means material happiness (e.g., property.) Some argue for emotional happiness. Yet others would argue that the word means more (e.g., free assembly, free speech, free exercise of religion, etc.)

Declaration of Independence

Declaration Preamble, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)  

All of us may be familiar with the following words, but let’s review them anyway:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness

Today’s post contends that ‘Happiness’ means most of these possibilities. However, it means one more than the others. But we must not exclude any of these at our peril. Along the way, we’ll examine the words: Unalienable, Pursuit, Life, Liberty, and Consent, too.

Our sources are essays written by James R. Rogers and a commencement address given by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Rogers, in a series of essays for Law and Liberty, defines Happiness along with the other important words to renew our understanding of our obligations to this nation and our fellow citizens. Solzhenitsyn, in his Harvard University Commencement Address, praises our nation’s founding principles and decries our fall from them. Let us examine the aforementioned words.

Unalienable or Inalienable

In his essay, “What Americans Miss about the Declaration of Independence,” Rodgers states that the Declaration’s inalienable rights are pre-political rights that we receive from our Creator. Governments are instituted to protect these rights. In the United States of America, we have the privilege to have instituted our government as a representative republic.

The essence of our rights’ inalienability, Rogers maintains, is not that our rights can’t be taken away, they can, but that we cannot give them away. They are not ours to give, we have been given them by our Creator. Rogers offers the example,

…People cannot justly commit suicide because humans do not own themselves, rather God owns them. Because our lives belong to God, and so are his to dispose rather than ours, the right we have to life is “inalienable.” We cannot give away our lives.

Because of the principle of inalienability, any government that recognizes a “right to die” has become a despotism. If the right that was taken away was alienable, then the details of the transaction dictate whether the taking is just or unjust. However, when any inalienable right is taken away, that taking is always unjust. It does not matter whether it is an individual or a governmental body doing the taking, it is unjust.

Pursuit

Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr., in his essay, “The Lost Meaning of ‘The Pursuit of Happiness,’” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Jul., 1964), pp. 325-327, said that, in colonial times, “pursuit” meant vocation, occupation, or practice, as in ‘pursuit of medicine,’ or ‘pursuit of law.’

Happiness

Rogers, in his essays, “Liberty, Licentiousness, and the Pursuit of Happiness” and “The Meaning of “The Pursuit of Happiness,” develops the meaning of happiness from 18th century sources.

Today, the unalienable right to the “pursuit of happiness” is understood as “a right to chase after whatever makes one subjectively happy.” This is mistaken. The Declaration’s claim is also misunderstood to mean only the right to pursue what makes you happy but not to obtain happiness. Digging deeper, the fifth and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution imply that happiness is merely a synonym for property. Though acquiring property necessary to life is part of the pursuit of happiness, it isn’t the whole story.

In the eighteenth century, the political use of happiness meant something more. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 says,

As the happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality; and as these cannot be generally diffused through a community, but by the institution of the public worship of God, and of public instructions in piety, religion and morality.

Additionally, Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 says,

Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

From these examples and, according to Rogers, many more of the period, “happiness” in the Declaration means “something more akin to eudemonia, meaning felicity or well-being broadly understood. Critically, it commonly included an ethical or religious dimension…This certainly includes a right to material things, but it goes beyond that to include humanity’s spiritual and moral condition.”

Since this right is inalienable, we do not have the right NOT to pursue happiness, that is, not to practice moral and spiritual well-being. Restating it again, we may not alienate ourselves from the objective moral order. Further, the Declaration says governments are established to protect this right and the others and can be replaced when they become destructive of those rights. The right to pursue happiness, understood correctly, is in direct opposition to progressivism, especially the libertarian streak within it.

Life

In his essay, “God Talk and Americans’ Belief in Inalienable Rights,” Rogers asks, “Why would anyone in his or her right mind give away the right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness?” He points out that debate about assisted suicide and the “right to die” is the same as the debate about whether life is an alienable or inalienable right. As we have seen above, we are not our own, God owns us. So, disposing of one’s own or others’ lives infringes on God’s rights.

Further, Rogers explains,

So, too, we cannot become slaves to another because we are already, as it were, God’s slaves. The irony is that the more abased humanity is before God the greater the dignity humans must accord to each other; liberty, as well as life and the pursuit of happiness, are all the more protected because of rights humans don’t and can’t have over themselves. They are “unalienable.”

However, because we are no longer a religious people, our skepticism undermines our ability to affirm the inalienability of our right to life. This leaves us in a bad place. To this, Rogers asks,

What [are] the implications…if Americans as a people are today ill-suited for the Declaration’s argument, and what the implications are if the Declaration’s argument is ill-suited for America.

Liberty

In the same essay in which Rogers discusses inalienability, “What Americans Miss about the Declaration of Independence,” he examines modern and colonial attitudes toward liberty. He says,

In modern America we think laws necessarily restrict liberty. And they can and often do. But the colonists took the idea of “consent” seriously. A contract between two people restricts future actions once entered. But freely entering into a contract that binds future choices is the epitome of liberty.

Rogers thereby indicates that the Declaration limits individual autonomy with respect to liberty. However, the colonists viewed this binding as also establishing liberty. Rogers says, “Like individuals agreeing to be bound by the terms of a contract…legislation could instantiate their liberty rather than merely restrict it.”

In his essay, “Liberty, Licentiousness, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” Rogers notes of ‘Liberty,’

It simply cannot mean autonomy. [If liberty is inalienable, then its meaning] harkens to the old distinction between liberty and license…There can be no right to licentious behavior, and there cannot be any such right regardless of whether that behavior implicates other people or not.

Needless to say, such an affirmation flies in the face of most educated sentiment in the U.S. today. Indeed, much modern American opinion and, more pointedly, modern judicial opinion, makes it a point to reject precisely that conception of liberty.

Consent of the Governed

Rogers contends, in his essay, “Americans No Longer Believe in the “Consent of the Governed”,”

During the Founding era, the consent of one’s representatives were taken as equivalent of one’s own consent.

…Whether it can be defended philosophically, as a practical matter, most Americans have already jettisoned belief in the proposition. Americans now almost universally reject one of the most-fundamental claims in their Founding document. Something those early Americans believed in strongly enough to fight and die for. That’s a pretty big change.

…What does it mean for the country when most of its people no longer believe one of the Declaration’s fundamental commitments?

In the founding era, Rogers says, “Americans took seriously the idea of the “consent of the governed.”” They exercised this consent collectively through popular votes or through their elected representatives. This consent extended to both the creation of government through the Constitution and to specific policies through law at all governmental levels.

Before the War of Independence, as an example, taxes were considered gifts of the people through their representatives to the British government for just administration of the colonies. Rogers gives the following explanatory illustration,

…A modest tax without consent was objectionable; a high tax with consent was fine. The moral significance of this is difficult to understate if this consent is real: A government with extremely high taxes under the consent theory is no more objectionable than, say, a person having high car payments to pay because that person chose to buy an expensive car.

Turmoil after the war lead Madison and Hamilton to deliberate over the new U.S. Constitution’s power to quell the power of “faction” both at the state and national levels. That is, for example, how to prevent industrial interests from dominating agricultural interests, or for the executive branch to withstand the legislative branch’s greater power. And in each case, how both parties could formulate a compromise to which both would give consent.

These thoughts were captured in Federalist No. 10 and No. 51. The Federalist Papers were meant to convince the nation to affirm our new Republic. Though the Constitution was ratified, Rogers says this is the period when our ‘consent’ started to flag.

We’ve examined the progression from the founding to where we are now in previous posts. Unfortunately, we’ve let those who would overturn the original U.S. Constitution for something else prevail in government, industry, media, and academia. This, I think, is why we, as a nation, no longer give our consent willingly. We no longer agree on the foundation of governance, so how can we agree on decisions within it.

Solzhenitsyn’s Viewpoint

In his speech at the 1978 Harvard Commencement, titled “A World Split Apart,” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn assessed the world’s condition, both in the East and the West. His message was not well accepted. About America’s founding and the West’s decline, he said,

…Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic.

The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking has reached its final dimension and the world wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse.

And commenting on America’s media influence, he said,

Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day.

…This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, blindness, which is most dangerous in our dynamic era. There is, for instance, a self-deluding interpretation of the contemporary world situation. It works as a sort of petrified armor around people’s minds. Human voices from 17 countries of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia cannot pierce it. It will only be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events.

This assessment still pertains to our own situation, even thirty years after the fall of the USSR.

Conclusion

So, what new insights do we gain about our Declaration of Independence? I, for one, never appreciated the depth of it. As Rogers said,

Liberty, as well as life and the pursuit of happiness, are all the more protected because of rights humans don’t and can’t have over themselves. They are “unalienable” [because they are God given.]

We also have to consider that the Declaration, viewed as a contract, is binding on a people who freely affirm the Creator and we no longer do. In fact, this is the very root of our divide in this country. The Progressives and their coreligionists worship Man. Those who adhere to the Declaration and the Constitution, understood in their original meaning, affirm God, the Creator.

What the 2020 Election is All About: Preserving the American Way of Life, October 13, 2020, YouTube, Claremont Institute

How the Ruling Class Subverts the Constitution

John Marini, in his article “Abandoning the Constitution,” compares two views on the United States Constitution and whether your rights as citizens are God given and unalienable or merely granted to you (or withheld) by an unelected and therefore unaccountable bureaucracy. Progressivism’s hand in the latter view is apparent. It intends to mold its clients into whatever History demands as determined by experts. In the former view, you determine your life’s course in partnership with your fellow citizens and God’s providence.

Marini uses Thomas Paine‘s writings as representative of a majority of the founders’ views. Paine wrote in his book The Rights of Man,

A constitution is not a thing in name only, but in fact. It has not an ideal, but a real existence; and wherever it cannot be produced in a visible form, there is none. A constitution is a thing antecedent to a government, and a government is only the [creation] of a constitution. The constitution of a country is not the act of its government, but of the people constituting its government.

[A constitution] is the body of elements, to which you can refer, and quote article by article; and which contains the principles on which the government shall be established, the manner in which it shall be organized, the powers it shall have, the mode of elections, the duration of Parliaments, or by what other name such bodies may be called; the powers which the executive part of the government shall have; and in [summary], everything that relates to the complete organization of a civil government, and the principles on which it shall act, and by which it shall be bound.

A constitution, therefore, is to a government what the laws made afterwards by that government are to a [judiciary court]. The [judiciary court] does not make the laws, neither can it alter them; it only acts in conformity to the laws made: and the government is in like manner governed by the constitution.

It is on this basis, therefore, that the Declaration of Independence says, 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

And the U.S. Constitution says,

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Marini, summarizing Paine, says, “[These are not binding agreements] of government with the people. It is the people who assign government its role, which is the protection of [the people’s] individual rights; when it fails to do so, it must be altered or abolished…It is the people who established a constitution. It was the Constitution, or the [binding agreement] of the people, which instituted and limited the power of government, by subordinating governmental institutions to the authority of a written constitution (and separating the powers of the branches of government).”

Alternatively, and in keeping with Watson’s five principles of progressivism:

There are no fixed or eternal principles that govern,

The state and its component parts are organic [and] involved in a struggle for never-ending growth,

Democratic openness and experimentalism…are the fertilizer of the organic state,

The state and its components exist only in History,

Some individuals stand outside this process…an elite class, possessed of intelligence as a method,

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his September 1932 “Commonwealth Club Address,” portrayed the U.S. Constitution as a ‘living’ document with no permanent principles of governance and exchanged the sovereignty of the people for that of the government. He wrote:

The Declaration of Independence discusses the problem of Government in terms of a contract. Government is a relation of give and take, a contract, perforce, if we would follow the thinking out of which it grew.

Under such a contract, rulers were accorded power, and the people consented to that power on consideration that they be accorded certain rights.

The task of statesmanship has always been the re-definition of these rights in terms of a changing and growing social order. New conditions impose new requirements upon Government and those who conduct Government.

This subtle sleight of hand was not well received at the time, but never-the-less discloses the illogic foisted upon the American people. Roosevelt proclaims government sovereignty over that of the people and puts government, and its agents, in charge of the people’s economic and societal wellbeing without limits. Roosevelt insisted:

The issue of government has always been whether individual men and women will have to serve some system of government or economics, or whether a system of government and economics exists to serve individual men and women.

Marini rejoinders Roosevelt thusly,

Understood in this way, the economic (and social) system must come under the control of government before it can serve the people. And government must, of necessity, become the arbiter of rights, both economic and political. The will of the people must be established by government before it can be put into effect by the technical expertise of its bureaucracy. At that point, politics must give way to administration.

Roosevelt’s progressive “bargain” does away with God’s provision of the people’s rights and replaces it with the administrative state as the source and defender of their rights.

After illuminating the bifurcation between conservative and progressive understandings of government as represented by Paine’s and Roosevelt’s writings, respectively, Marini goes deeper. He says the progressive view and its embodiment, the administrative state, prevail in America’s governance.

Progressivism does not subject itself to natural or rational limits nor is it understood in terms of immutable truths as the foundation of rights and happiness. An evolving concept of freedom establishes the intellectual and moral foundation of each historical epoch. Society’s problem becomes reconciliation of conflicting individuals’ wills in all life’s activities to achieve equality of freedom of will.

In this regime, society’s principles are knowable through empirical measurement and analysis. This is known as positivist social science. It discovers epochal principles which are encoded in evolving law. The government is constituted in these mutable laws.

Harry V. Jaffa examined this regime in “Judicial Conscience and Natural Rights: A Reply to Professor Ledewitz” 11 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 219 (1988),

For what is most important about left- and right-wing jurisprudence today is not that they are of the right or of the left, but that they are “result oriented.” Their so-called principles are not in their premises, but in their conclusions.

They differ in the particulars of their “value judgments,” but not in the subjectivity of that which they propose as the ground of constitutional law. Calling their subjective preferences “traditional morality” [or original intent] on the one hand, or “human dignity” on the other, does not make their preferences any more than “value judgments,” or less subjective. If the basis of law is believed to be subjective, however, then the basis of law is believed to be will, not reason.

The goal or perfection of the law, according to the whole tradition of western civilization, is that it should be, in Aristotle’s words, “reason unaffected by desire.” This is what law means according to the natural rights and natural law teaching of the Declaration of Independence. But law that rests upon nothing but “value judgments” is desire unaffected by reason.

Roscoe Pound, who became Harvard Law School dean in 1916, insisted that “the science of law is a science of social engineering having to do with that part of the whole field which may be achieved by the ordering of human relations through the action of politically organized society.”

To Jaffa and Pound, Marini says,

In denying the authority of reason, law itself, in the service of will, came to be understood in terms of social reconstruction. When coupled with the method of positive science, the State and its government provide the possibility of the ongoing transformation of society and man.

Social sciences and positivist law replaced theology and reason as the foundation for expertise to carry out the will of the people. Marini concludes, “But for this to work, the people and their representatives would have to give up their reason so as to enable the social scientists to carry out their will. In short, they must give up the right to rule themselves.”

The administrative state consolidated itself after Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. The congress gave up legislation born of deliberation for oversight of the executive branch administrative agencies it creates. The Judiciary then determines policy resulting from executive branch agency controversies. The people no longer find representation within the unelected administrative bureaucracy.

As Charles Kesler wrote in the Claremont Review of Books (“The Tea Party Spirit,” Winter 2009/10):

When our founders thought about law, they often thought along the lines of John Locke, who described law as a community’s “settled standing rules, indifferent, and the same to all parties,” emphasizing that to be legitimate a statute must be “received and allowed by common consent to be the standard of right and wrong, and the common measure to decide all controversies” between citizens.

Speaking of the rules that the administrative state encrusts upon modern congressional directives, Kesler says,

They operate not by setting up fences to protect each man’s liberty. They start not from equal rights but from equal (and often unequal) privileges, the favors or benefits that government may bestow on or withhold from its clients. The whole point is to empower government officials, usually unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, to bless or curse your petitions as they see fit, guided, of course, by their expertness in a law so vast, so intricate, and so capricious that it could justify a hundred different outcomes in the same case.

Discussing the ramifications, Kesler says,

Faster than one might think, a government of equal laws turns into a regime of arbitrary privilege. A “privilege” is literally a private law. When law ceases to be a common “standard of right and wrong” and a “common measure to decide all controversies,” then the rule of law ceases to be republican and becomes despotic. Freedom itself ceases to be a right and becomes a gift, or the fruit of a corrupt bargain, because in such degraded regimes those who are close to and connected with the ruling class have special privileges.

Thus, Kesler reveals the sordid underbody of progressive administration.

Summing up, the administrative state exercises the science of law, i.e., “value judgments” or desire unaffected by reason, to social engineer the populace. The people must give up their reason to enable social scientists to carry out their will. That is, they must give up the right to rule themselves. Freedom itself ceases to be a right and becomes a gift, the fruit of a corrupt bargain, because only those who are close to and/or connected with the ruling class have special privileges.

To these things, Marini says,

In these ways, [the administrative state] subverts the aspiration for the fundamental ideal of government, that which makes human community possible, the desire for justice. As James Madison noted, “Justice is the [goal] of government. It is the [goal] of civil society. It ever has been, and ever will be pursued, until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.” When justice ceases to be the [goal] of government, the natural rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and liberty itself, become ever more precarious.

Nonetheless, all is not well within the administrative state. It seems that all modern bureaucratic governments are faced with the paradox of being less able to govern, the more completely they try to administer the social and economic details of life in society.

Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve.

Myron Magnet, in his recent Claremont Review of Books review of Amity Shlaes Great Society: A New History, titled “Poverty Won,” says:

As Amity Shlaes shows in her cautionary Great Society: A New History, those trillions [of dollars expended by the 1964 War on Poverty] only made matters worse. As the clamor swells to compound LBJ’s mistake, Shlaes provides a sobering postmortem, dissecting how and why, when government presumes to reshape society, the result is likely to be gory.

This is the regime we are living in now. It seems that the progressives wish to level American society via, among other means, mostly peaceful protests (and the violence that is implied by this euphemism.) Do not let them. Vote for your children’s liberty and self-governance. Vote early if you can reliably.

Which America Do You Choose? | The Heritage Foundation, October 12, 2020, YouTube, The Heritage Foundation