…They are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come, he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth, but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.
He writes, repeating words attributed by him to B. W. Newton, author of “Thoughts on the Apocalypse” and “Aids to the Study of Prophetic Inquiry.”
The native monarchy of Nimrod, the theocracy of Israel, the despotic authority of Nebuchadnezzar, the aristocratic monarchy of Persia, and the military monarchy of Alexander and his successors, had all passed away when John beheld this vision. All these methods had been tried — none had been found to answer even the purposes of man; and now another had arisen, the half military, half popular monarchy of the Caesars, — the iron empire of Rome. ‘Five have fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh he must continue a little space’.
That other (though it cannot yet be said to have come so as to fulfill this verse)1,2 and, with one brief exception [i.e.., the eighth kingdom], the last form that is to be exhibited before the end shall come, and it is under this form that the system of Babylon is matured. It is obvious that a monarchy, guided not by the people numerically, but by certain classes of the people, and those classes determined by the possession of property, must be the form adapted for the accumulation of wealth, and the growth of commercial power; for it gives (which pure democracy has ever failed to do), the best security for property without unduly fettering the liberty of individual enterprise…
1 It will not have come in the sense of this verse, until it pervades the Roman world. When all the ten kingdoms have been constitutionalized, it may be said to have come.
2 We are rather inclined to believe that the ‘seventh’ is commercialism, that is, the moneyed-interests in control — A.W.P.
…Everyone who has a general knowledge of the past, and who is at all in touch with political conditions in the world today, knows full well the radical change which the last two or three centuries have witnessed. For a thousand years the Church (the professing church) controlled the governments of Europe. Following the Reformation, the aristocracy (the nobility) held the reins. During the first half of last century democratic principles obtained more widely. But in the last two or three generations the governmental machines of this country and of the leading European lands have been run by the Capitalists. Of late, Labor has sought to check this, but thus far with little success.
In the light of Zech. 5 and Rev. 18, present-day conditions are profoundly significant. It is commerce which is more and more dominating the policies and destinies of what is known as the civilized world. “If we turn our eyes abroad upon the world, we shall find that the one great object before the nations of the earth today is this image of commerce, drawing them with all the seductive influence a siren woman might exercise upon the heart of men. The one great aim on the part of each is to win the favor of this mighty mistress. The world powers are engaged in a Titanic struggle for commercial supremacy. To this end mills are built, factories founded, forests felled, lands sown, harvests reaped, and ships launched. Because of this struggle for mastery of the world’s market the nations reach out and extend their borders” (Dr. Haldeman)
Contemporary Globalism seems to be the fulfillment of this titanic struggle for commercial supremacy. It reminds us of Matthew 6:24,
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Doubtless, there are many particulars respecting [Antichrist’s relations with Jews in Palestine] and all other related subjects, which will not be cleared up until the prophecies concerning them have been fulfilled. We, today, occupy much the same position with regard to the predictions concerning the Antichrist, as the Old Testament saints did to the many passages which foretold the coming of the Christ. Their difficulty was to arrange those passages in the order they were to be fulfilled, and to distinguish between those which spoke of Him in humiliation and those which foretold His coming glory. A similar perplexity confronts us.
To ascertain the sequence of the prophecies relating to the Antichrist is a real problem. Even when we confine ourselves to those passages which speak of him in his connections with Israel, we have to distinguish between those which concern only the godly remnant, and those which relate to the great apostate mass of the Nation; and, too, we have to separate between those prophecies which concern the time when Antichrist is posing as the true Christ, and those which portray him in the final stage of his career, after he has thrown off his mask of religious pretension.
Satan* is persuading many professing Christians that it is their duty to be well informed concerning current events and induces them to waste much time in reading secular literature and in listening in to the radio in order to be so. The “Signs of Times” men are zealously raking over all the “evil” they can find in the moral, political and social realms, as well as in the International Situation; all of which is contrary to Romans 16:19! And what good is accomplished thusly? Not a particle, either for themselves or anyone else…
You and I have no responsibility in the running (government) of this world, nor does He require us to take the burden of such government upon our shoulders. HE is ruling it directing all its affairs. There we may, and should, rest. Your business and my business is to be “wise unto that which is GOOD.”
… Let us prayerfully endeavor to pay more heed to that injunction. Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report … Think on THESE things (Phil. 4:8.)
* And note the very next verse – Rom. 16:20 – opens with the word “And”, after which reference is made directly to “Satan”!
To this stern advice, the A. W. Pink archivist writes,
It is probably wise to note that in the opening exhortation, Pink is not necessarily arguing against being generally aware of current events which are taking place, however he is pushing back against the suggestion that such things should so engross the Christian.
…It is with no doubt in my mind that Pink is notably pushing back against the overemphasis on the end time, or eschatological, prophesying that so dominated early-to-mid 20th century evangelicalism.
What comes to mind, in summary, is,
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16(ESV)
For more than half a century, realist scholars of international relations have maintained that their world view is inimical to the American public. For a variety of reasons—inchoate attitudes, national history, American exceptionalism—realists assert that the U.S. government pursues realist policies in spite and not because of public opinion. …Survey and experimental data on the mass public’s attitudes towards foreign policy priorities and world views…suggest that, far from disliking realism, Americans are at least as comfortable with the logic of realpolitik as they are with liberal internationalism. The persistence of the anti-realist assumption might be due to an ironic fact: American elites are more predisposed towards liberal internationalism than the rest of the American public.
To some, this may be obvious. However, Drezner is speaking to his elite peers. His insight does explain what we see on the national and global stages when certain parties are in power. He has constructed a very useful table of “testable predictions about American preferences.” These distinctions, too, are very useful, though obvious to those who are paying attention.
Realist policy preferences
Liberal internationalist policy preferences
Foreign policy priorities and world views
• Pessimistic or Hobbesian appraisal of international environment
• Pursuit of national interest
• Homeland security and territorial integrity come first
• Balance against rising powers
• Cautiously optimistic or Lockean appraisal of international environment
• Pursuit of interest through international law
• Promotion of democracy, human rights
• Reliance on multilateral institutions to regulate conflict and power in world politics
Justification and support for the use of force
• Violation of state sovereignty
• Containment of a rising power
• Tolerance of costs if the opponent suffers more
• Humanitarian intervention
• Promotion of self-determination/democratic regime change
• Extreme sensitivity to costs of war
Foreign economic policy
• Emphasis on relative gains
• Suspicion of economic interdependence leading to vulnerability
• Hostility to foreign ownership of strategic assets
• Emphasis on absolute gains
• Support for economic interdependence, liberalization
• Acceptance of foreign ownership
He defines the elite to which he refers as those “knowledgeable about foreign affairs and [having] some access to foreign policy decision-makers.” Members include “high-ranking members of the executive branch, members of Congress and their staffs, lobbyists and interest group representatives, journalists, academics, and leaders of labor, business, and religion.” The “members of the executive branch” he mentions are less those of the presidency than those in the administrative state apparatus.
Drezner, after examining surveys and studies, concludes that the hypothesis that Americans are anti-realist is false. Americans “hold some liberal aspirations for their conduct across the globe and believe that morality should play a role in foreign affairs—in the abstract.”
Restating his hypothesis as a question, Drezner writes,
…If American attitudes towards foreign policy have been consistent for decades, and those attitudes are receptive to a realist world view, then why does the anti-realist assumption persist within the academy and the policymaking worlds?
Drezner conjectures that realist policy makers make the mistake of confusing the views of elites with which they associate with those of the mass of the American people,
The liberal internationalist trend is strong among the elites that realist scholars interact with the most—other international relations professors. …It is possible that realists believe that most Americans do not like realism because the Americans they interact with the most—their professional colleagues—are hostile to the paradigm.
This, I think, is a result of self-segregation by class both here in America and the world over that will only increase as globalization reaches its apex. What happens after that has been rehearsed many times in the past (e.g., the Late Bronze Age Collapse.) Complex and efficient supply chain systems collapse under stress.
Lee Smith, in his 2021 editorial, “The Thirty Tyrants,” maintains that “the deal that [our] American globalist elite [has chosen] to make with China has a precedent in the history of Athens and Sparta.” He compares our elite with the Athenian oligarchy who, after Athens’ defeat in the Peloponnesian War, adopted their Spartan victor’s authoritarian ruling principles to subjugate common Athenians and exile, execute, and confiscate the wealth of those formerly in power. Smith writes,
The Athenian government, disloyal to Athens’ laws and contemptuous of its traditions, was known as the Thirty Tyrants, and understanding its role and function helps explain what is happening in America today.
He defines globalism and the globalist elite this way,
Globalism [is] the freedom to structure commercial relationships and social enterprises without reference to the well-being of the particular society in which [these globalists] happen to make their livings and raise their children.
Smith makes this elite’s operating method clear,
The elite…saw enlightened Chinese autocracy as a friend and even as a model—which was not surprising, given that the Chinese Communist Party became their source of power, wealth, and prestige. Why did they trade with an authoritarian regime and send millions of American manufacturing jobs off to China thereby impoverish working Americans? Because it made them rich.
They salved their consciences by telling themselves they had no choice but to deal with China: It was big, productive, and efficient and its rise was inevitable. And besides, the American workers hurt by the deal deserved to be punished—who could defend a class of reactionary and racist ideological naysayers standing in the way of what was best for progress?
…The corporate and political establishment’s trade relationship with China had sold out ordinary Americans.
He calls these people the ‘China Class,’ composed of Democrats and Republicans. The China Class is opposed to the American People, also composed of Democrats and Republicans; some of whom are unaware that they are opposed. Roughly stated, if you can’t afford a private island or citizenship in another country, you are merely a useful instrument in your own demise, no matter how “progressive” you might think you are.
As evidence of the China Class’s contempt for the American People, he writes [formatted for emphases,]
Because…China was the source of the China Class’s power, the novel coronavirus coming out of Wuhan became the platform for its coup de grace. So, Americans became prey to an anti-democratic elite that used the coronavirus to:
lay waste to small businesses;
leave them vulnerable to rioters who are free to steal, burn, and kill;
keep their children from school and
[keep] the dying from the last embrace of their loved ones;
desecrate American history, culture, and society; and
defame the country as systemically racist
[all] in order to furnish the predicate for why ordinary Americans in fact deserved the hell that the elite’s private and public sector proxies had already prepared for them.
For nearly a year, American officials have purposefully laid waste to our economy and society for the sole purpose of arrogating more power to themselves while the Chinese economy has gained on America’s.
…The China Class cemented its power within state institutions and security bureaucracies that have long been Democratic preserves.
But how could “our betters,” those with the most privilege, enjoying the fruits of liberty, and charged with the preservation of our heritage, abandon their responsibility? Short answer, the money looked good. Smith writes,
The poisoned embrace between American elites and China began nearly 50 years ago when Henry Kissinger saw that opening relations between the two then-enemies would expose the growing rift between China and the more threatening Soviet Union. At the heart of the fallout between the two communist giants was the Soviet leadership’s rejection of Stalin, which the Chinese would see as the beginning of the end of the Soviet communist system—and thus it was a mistake they wouldn’t make.
Meanwhile, Kissinger’s geopolitical maneuver became the cornerstone of his historical legacy. It also made him a wealthy man selling access to Chinese officials. In turn, Kissinger pioneered the way for other former high-ranking policymakers to engage in their own foreign influence-peddling operations,
Yet it’s unlikely that Kissinger foresaw China as a cash cow for former American officials when he and President Richard M. Nixon traveled to the Chinese capital that Westerners then called Peking in 1972.
It was only in the 1990s with the debates every year about granting China most favored nation status in trade that China became a commercial rival”—and a lucrative partner.
Just after defeating communism in the Soviet Union, America breathed new life into the communist party that survived. And instead of Western democratic principles transforming the CCP, the American establishment acquired a taste for Eastern techno-autocracy.
Tech became the anchor of the U.S.-China relationship, with CCP funding driving Silicon Valley startups, thanks largely to the efforts of Dianne Feinstein, who, after Kissinger, became the second-most influential official driving the US–CCP relationship for the next 20 years.
They Knew Better, But Did It Anyway
We were told economic trade with the People’s Republic of China would moderate their totalitarianism, but the opposite was true. Smith writes,
Yet the past actually should have told Feinstein’s audience in Washington a different story. The United States didn’t trade with Moscow or allow Russians to make large campaign donations or enter into business partnerships with their spouses. Cold War American leadership understood that such practices would have opened the door to Moscow and allowed it to directly influence American politics and society in dangerous ways.
But it wasn’t just about jeopardizing national security; it was also about exposing America to a system contradictory to American values…Trade and foreign policy from the end of WWII to 1990 reflected that this was a consensus position—Cold War American leadership didn’t want the country coupled to a one-party authoritarian state.
Sadly, we marched to our leadership’s tune for too long. We trusted their beneficence. We were lied to. Smith chronicles the China Class’s impact on business, national security, and society. He writes,
More than two decades later, the number of American industries and companies that lobbied against [the 45st President’s] administration measures attempting to decouple Chinese technology from its American counterparts is a staggering measure of how closely two rival systems that claim to stand for opposing sets of values and practices have been integrated.
…All [corporations] exist with one leg in America and the other leg planted firmly in America’s chief geopolitical rival. To protect both halves of their business, they soft-sell the issue by calling China a competitor in order to obscure their role in boosting a dangerous rival.
Nearly every major American industry has a stake in China.
On National Security
“Through the 1980s, people who advanced the interests of foreign powers whose ideas were inimical to republican form of government were ostracized,” says [an unnamed] former [44th President’s] administration intelligence official. “But with the advent of globalism, they made excuses for China, even bending the intelligence to fit their preferences…”
…The American security and defense establishment had their own interest in turning a blind eye to China. Twenty years of squandering men, money, and prestige on military engagements that began in [during the] “War on Terror” have proved to be of little strategic value to the United States.
However, deploying Americans to provide security in Middle East killing fields has vastly benefited Beijing. …American troops are deployed abroad in places like Afghanistan less to protect American interests than to provide security for China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
When a…virus hit in the fall of 2019, Chinese authorities followed the same protocol [used earlier in the year to suppress antipollution dissent], quarantining not just prospective troublemakers but everyone in Wuhan in the hope of avoiding an even larger public outcry than the one they’d quelled in the same city just months before.
There is a good reason why lockdowns—quarantining those who are not sick—had never been previously employed as a public health measure. The leading members of a city, state, or nation do not imprison its own unless they mean to signal that they are imposing collective punishment on the population at large. It had never been used before as a public health measure because it is a widely recognized instrument of political repression.
Eventually, the pro-China [American] oligarchy would come to see the full range of benefits the lockdowns afforded. Lockdowns made leading oligarchs richer…while impoverishing [the 45th President’s] small-business base. In imposing unconstitutional regulations by fiat, city and state authorities normalized autocracy.
I must let his words speak for themselves,
For the pro-China oligarchy, the point of getting [the 46th President] elected was to protect themselves…
What seems clear is that [the 46th President’s] inauguration marks the hegemony of an American oligarchy that sees its relationship with China as a shield and sword against their own countrymen. Like Athens’ Thirty Tyrants, they are not simply contemptuous of a political system that recognizes the natural rights of all its citizens that are endowed by our creator; they despise in particular the notion that those they rule have the same rights they do…
Like Critias and the pro-Sparta faction, the new American oligarchy believes that democracy’s failures are proof of their own exclusive right to power—and they are happy to rule in partnership with a foreign power that will help them destroy their own countrymen.
What does history teach us about this moment? The bad news is that the Thirty Tyrants exiled notable Athenian democrats and confiscated their property while murdering an estimated 5% of the Athenian population. The good news is that their rule lasted less than a year.
Today, please listen to (or read the subtitles of) an excerpt from Pastor Wang Yi’s sermon, “The Gospel and Church-State Relations” preached on May 27, 2018, at Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China. On December 30th, 2019, Pastor Wang Yi was tried in a secret trial and sentenced to 9 years in prison for the crimes of “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations.”
Citizenship is what makes a republic; monarchies can get along without it. What keeps a republic on its legs is good citizenship… Citizenship, after all, is not an entitlement; it requires work. Yet too many citizens of republics, ancient and modern, come to believe that they deserve rights without assuming responsibilities—and they don’t worry how or why or from whom they inherited their privileges…
A free, legally equal, and politically independent citizenry, when translated to the modern American experience, means that citizens of the United States should not follow any laws other than those authorized by their own elected representatives… No one American deserves greater deference under the law than any other… American citizens, bearing natural and inalienable rights bestowed by a supreme deity, are accountable only to themselves…
For citizenship to work, the vast majority of residents must be citizens. But to become citizens, residents must be invited in on the condition of giving up their own past loyalties for those of their new hosts… In return for our rights to pick our own leaders and make our own laws, we are asked to obey America’s statutes. We must honor the traditions and customs of our country. As Americans we cherish the memory of those who bequeathed to us such an exceptional nation, and we contribute… our time, money, and, if need be, safety and lives on our country’s behalf.
(Excerpted from pages 1 – 4)
He maintains that our Republic is on shaky ground and describes from what we came and to which we may return,
Republics are so often lost not over centuries but within a single decade… History is not static…citizenship can wax and wane…and abruptly vanish… A sign of democratic sclerosis is a loss of confidence in the integrity of voting—to the point that it becomes seen as a futile exercise rather than a bulwark of citizenship.
In most regimes of the past, there was one set of laws for the rich, priests, autocrats, and aristocrats and quite another for those without money, high religious or political office, or noble birth and lineage. Or those who gained power by election often sabotaged subsequent elections on the theory of “one election, one time.”
(Excerpted from pages 4 – 6)
Hanson summarizes democracy’s genesis and benefits,
Citizenship… explains the Greek achievement of drawing on the talents and energy of a much-empowered resident and middle-class population… Once protected by laws, rather than by the transitory goodwill and patronage of aristocrats and autocrats, in a practical sense the citizen has far more legal and economic latitude to paint, write, build, farm, create, discover, or litigate… If not worried about being arbitrarily jailed, killed, deprived of his property and inheritance, or told where and how to live, a citizen is more likely to exploit his own talents—and often create wealth for his commonwealth.
(Excerpted from page 9)
From these origins, the idea and practice of citizenship increased in fits and starts; however, it is always in danger of disappearing,
The subsequent postclassical idea of Western constitutional citizenship ebbed and flowed through periods of retrenchment, oppression, and authoritarianism. Nevertheless, it slowly evolved through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment toward an ever-greater array of rights and forevermore inclusion of the formerly dispossessed…
By the twenty-first century, the Western idea of citizenship, after twenty-five hundred years of evolution, neared its logical fruition with the full emancipation of the poor, women, and minority populations after the long-ago abolition of serfdom, indentured peasantry, and chattel slavery…
In a practical sense the privileges of Western citizenship are, in fact, diluting… Just as there was no constitutional government before 700 BC, so there is no rule that there must be democracies and republics in the twenty-first century… Affluence and leisure often prove more dangerous to citizenship than poverty and drudgery.
(Excerpted from pages 10 – 11)
The body of Hanson’s argument explores the tension pulling our Republic apart,
Citizenship in the United States is now being pulled in two different and often antithetical directions, from below and above, spontaneously and yet by design, through both ignorance of and intimacy with the Constitution.
Many Americans do not know or worry much about the consequences of radical demographic, cultural, or political influences for the status of citizenship. They are indifferent to millions of immigrants of uncertain status, veritable resident strangers in their midst… When nearly four in ten Americans have no notion of their rights under the First Amendment, it is easy to curb them.
On the other hand, some elites believe that they know the Constitution all too well and therefore believe it in dire need of radical deletions and alterations to fit the times. They envision an always improving, changing, and evolving Constitution that should serve as a global model for a vast, ecumenical brotherhood, requiring a global administrative state to monitor and enforce its ambitious idealism.
(Excerpted from pages 13 – 14)
He divides his exposition according to these two tensions which he terms “precitizenry” and “postcitizenry.” Hanson summarizes his “precitizenry” argument this way,
The notion of precitizenry reflects ancient economic, political, and ethnic ideas and customs that were once thought antithetical to the modern democratic state. Yet, in organic fashion, they are reappearing and threaten to overwhelm the American commonwealth. (Page 14)
His argument against precitizenry is further divided into chapters titled Peasants, Residents, and Tribes. He writes,
Peasants [reviews] the ancient argument that to be self-governing, citizens must be economically autonomous… Without a middle class, society becomes bifurcated. It splinters into one of modern masters and peasants. In that situation, the function of government is not to ensure liberty but to subsidize the poor to avoid revolution and to exempt the… wealthy, who reciprocate by enriching and empowering the governing classes.
Residents argues that [sovereign] states must privilege citizens over mere residents… Citizens live within delineated and established borders. They share a common history. Their sacred physical space allows them to pursue their constitutional rights without interference from abroad. Living on common and exclusive ground encourages shared values, assimilation, and integration and defines national character… Yet we now live…in an age [where] …an accident of birth should not deprive any of the planet’s eight billion people from entering and living in the United States. Citizenship, however, is not indestructible.
Tribes reminds us why all citizens should give up their own ethnic, racial, and tribal primary identities… Only through such a brutal bargain of assimilation can they sustain a common culture in a century in which superficial racial and tribal differences, the fuel for many of history’s wars, are becoming no longer incidental but recalibrated as essential to the American character… Once a man owes…more loyalty to his first cousin than to a fellow citizen, a constitutional republic cannot exist.
(Excerpted from pages 14 – 16)
The second half of the book, describing postcitizenry, “[focuses] on the even greater dangers to citizenship posed by a relatively small American elite.” This part is divided into chapters titled Unelected, Evolutionaries, and Globalists. Hanson writes,
Unelected chronicles how an unelected federal bureaucracy has absorbed much of the power of the US Congress, yearly creating more laws and regulations than the House and Senate together could debate, pass, and send to the president for signing… Even the office of the presidency…often lacks sufficient knowledge to control the permanent legions deeply embedded within the state… The bureaucratic elite believes that it can and should preempt any elected official who deems it…dangerous. If the citizen cannot elect officials to audit, control, or remove the unelected, then he has lost his sovereign power.
Evolutionaries …are the unapologetic grand architects of dismantling constitutional citizenship, inordinately represented by political activists, media grandees, the legal profession, and academics… As progressives, …they accuse the Founders of lacking our modern wisdom, today’s enlightened education, and the benefits of a constantly improving, innate human nature… The evolutionaries are, by all means [necessary], …in a trajectory toward a 51 percent, majority-vote-rules nation, without sufficient constitutional and long-accustomed guardrails.
Globalists …explains the current fad that Americans are transitioning into citizens of the world. An ancient but unworkable idea of cosmopolitanism has reemerged, now driven by privileged utopians empowered by twenty-first-century global travel, finance, and communications.
On the one hand, they are cynical critics of American exceptionalism and nationalism. On the other, they wish to extend American-style democracy and liberal tolerance across the globe—but without much thought about where such singular ideas arose or why so much of the world has always resisted them.
Globalism’s chief characteristic, however, is more mundane. Its architects focus on the distant and anonymous abroad, less so on concrete Americans nearby …In the end, globalization may not westernize the planet so much as internationalize America.
(Excerpted from pages 16 – 18)
In summation, he writes,
…Everything that we once thought was so strong, so familiar, and so reassuring about America has been dissipating for some time. The year 2020, in the manner of other revolutionary years, such as 1848, 1917, and 1968, has peeled away that veneer of complacency and self-satisfaction. Contemporary events have reminded Americans that their citizenship is fragile and teetering on the abyss—and yet the calamities can also teach, indeed energize, them to rebuild and recover what they have lost. (Page 18)
Despite massive immigration of the last half century, with immigrants traditionally more prone to have large families, the national median family size has shrunk dramatically. The 1960s average of 2.3 children per family has declined to a current 1.9. That figure is well below the 2.1 percent rate necessary to maintain current population size. When we speak of a “dying citizen,” we can take that phrasing quite literally: Americans are not reproducing themselves and are starting to follow European models of slow-motion demographic suicide. (Page 35)
Hanson suggests Americans must exercise their citizenship more vigorously, at county, state, and federal levels, in order to recover our Republic.
What is interesting is that Alexis de Tocqueville made corresponding observations at the beginning of the Republic in the 1830s in volume 1 and volume 2 of his book Democracy in America. He contended that American liberty could deteriorate into anarchy at one extreme or despotism at the other. Anarchy results when individuals refuse to subject their freedom to the Republic’s laws and customs. Despotism results when individuals relinquish liberty, either under coercion or by free will, for dependence and servitude to an elite class. He went further by saying that democracy, viewed as equality of outcomes, would atomize and level society and lull each individual into mass conformity administered by a central bureaucracy.
De Tocqueville presaged the fall of the Republic that Hanson now warns us against. This is the precipice upon which we stand. It makes you wonder at Augustine’s thoughts as he shepherded his flock in the midst of Rome’s fall. John Adams, of course, said,
…We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
I hope God uses me, by means of first losing my personal freedom, to tell those who have deprived me of my personal freedom that there is an authority higher than their authority, and that there is a freedom that they cannot restrain, a freedom that fills the church of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.
Many say Isaiah was referring to a mere man; some say this one and some that. Yet, it is clear from the context that Isaiah refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, beyond the immediate circumstances that he was addressing in his own time. How else could it be if God Almighty were to walk among men? His eyes must have been “blind,” and His ears must have been “deaf” to the sins committed by those around Him.
Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:5-7 (ESV)
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Luke 7:21-23 (ESV)
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17(ESV)
And, finally, contemplate this,
Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:27-28 (ESV)
If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27(ESV)
The book, Nuclear War – The Moral Dimension, by James W. Child, argues that a strong conventional defense, an invulnerable second strike, counterforce capability, and stateman-like prudence deters nuclear war for all sides, even if exercised by only one party. He advocates mutual arms control as circumstances permit. Published in 1986, this work confronts the US–Russia conflict. However, it is still applicable in the multipolar world we live in now.
In the book’s conclusion, Child lays out principles to abide by (quoted and paraphrased below),
1. We have an overwhelming moral duty to avoid nuclear war – Except at the cost of totalitarian slavery or utter annihilation, any cost to avoid it must be borne. Such war, especially a first strike, serves no policy objectives.
2.We must take all reasonable steps which can now be taken to avoid nuclear war. – He says this means, at a minimum, two things. First, strategic nuclear forces must be strong enough to deter and secure enough to survive a nuclear attack. Second, that conventional forces are effective enough to deter conventional aggression. Though the first is mostly met, as we’ve seen in the recent past, the second is not and we foolishly open ourselves to no alternative but nuclear escalation. Establishment of a “hotline” with China is essential to avoid an “inadvertent war,” a war no one wants but no one can avoid, such as happened with World War I. We must also pursue arms control, both nonproliferation and arms reductions, in an effort to lower the chance of nuclear war that benefits all parties.
3.We have a moral right to fight a nuclear war if we are attacked by nuclear weapons. – We have a moral right and duty of self-defense which entitles us to destroy our adversary’s ability to make war (military and industrial targets) or to command making war (governmental, party, and internal security apparatuses.) This “counterforce” retaliation would save millions of American citizens and allies.
4. We have a duty to take great pains to minimize noncombatant casualties. – The unrestrained slaughter of millions of civilians is never justified. Defensive targeting must deliberately reduce collateral civilian deaths. This duty also requires improving weapons accuracy which enables lowered nuclear yields to achieve the same counterforce effects. With this care, we have the moral right to put the adversary’s population at risk if we are to deter aggression and save our own citizens and those of our allies. Citizens have the duty to restrain their governments from aggression and if they fail to do so, they relinquish their absolute immunity as noncombatants. Each side’s citizenry has this responsibility and risk.
5. Within the bounds set above, we have the moral right to use nuclear weapons in our own defense in order to extinguish the war-making capacity of any nuclear aggressor. – It is not a “necessary evil.” It is morally justifiable. Once something safer comes along, such as workable, multilateral disarmament, we would be irrational and immoral not to avail ourselves of this preferable alternative. But until such time, we need not be made to feel guilty by those long on moral indignation but short on genuine alternatives.
Child concludes with these remarks,
We must develop strong, unfrightened, affirmative attitudes toward the risk of nuclear war. Only then can we disenthrall ourselves from myths and perhaps lessen the danger. We must see the threat of nuclear war as it is: of large but still human dimensions; a very difficult but ultimately tractable problem. But like all really important problems of human existence, the solution will come in bits and pieces to be slowly and patiently assembled: a more secure deterrent force replacing a vulnerable one here; a mutually adopted measure against accidental war there. In this painstaking process, we must dare to bear the risk of nuclear war if we are ever to make that risk go away.
This brief summary doesn’t do Child’s thesis justice but will have to suffice. His book is a thought provoking read. Child died in 2005 at the age of sixty-four. He left a legacy of mentoring, moral thought, adventure, and uplifting comradery.
For different reasons, a historicist or futurist might cite the following scripture to say that, ultimately, deterrence must fail,
But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 2 Peter 3:7(English Standard Version)
I am reading Victor Davis Hanson’s book, Carnage and Culture. His main thesis is that the remarkable success of the western way of warfare is not due merely to technological superiority, and not to biology nor geography, but to cultural strength and resilience. As I read certain passages, it struck me that he’s describing the terrifying and terrible fourth beast of Daniel 7. Mind you, not the horns or kings, but the mechanical beast itself. Here’s Daniel’s depiction:
After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns…
“Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet…
This fourth beast is terrifying, dreadful, and exceedingly strong; unlike any prior kingdom in its inorganic nature. Its implements of destruction are made of iron and bronze. It devours the whole earth, tramples it down, and breaks it into pieces; an apt description of the warfare this kingdom executes. It sounds like Western warfare from Alexander the Great through General Colin Powell and beyond.
To be fair, Hanson caveats his thesis with the statement:
While I grant that critics would disagree on a variety of fronts over the reasons for European military dynamism and the nature of Western civilization itself, I have no interest in entering such contemporary cultural debates, since my interests are in the military power, not the morality, of the West. (Preface)
This is as it should be. Great power can be used for good or for ill. There are just and unjust wars.
Elaborating on his thesis, starting with its Greek origins, Hanson writes:
…The Greeks fought much differently than their adversaries and that such unique Hellenic characteristics of battle
—a sense of personal freedom, superior discipline, matchless weapons, egalitarian camaraderie, individual initiative, constant tactical adaptation and flexibility, preference for shock battle of heavy infantry—
were themselves the murderous dividends of Hellenic culture at large. The peculiar way Greeks killed grew out of consensual government, equality among the middling classes, civilian audit of military affairs, and politics apart from religion, freedom and individualism, and rationalism. (Page 4)
Explaining the motivation of the Western nations, he says,
Western armies often fight with and for a sense of legal freedom. They are frequently products of civic militarism or constitutional governments and thus are overseen by those outside religion and the military itself. (Page 21)
Western warring is often an extension of the idea of state politics, rather than a mere effort to obtain territory, personal status, wealth, or revenge. (Page 22)
Westerners, in short, long ago saw war as a method of doing what politics cannot, and thus are willing to obliterate rather than check or humiliate any who stand in their way. (Page 22)
These sharp engagements quickly settled conflicts decisively. However, Hansen observes, there is a downside,
I leave the reader with the dilemma of the modern age: the Western manner of fighting bequeathed to us from the Greeks and enhanced by Alexander is so destructive and so lethal that we have essentially reached an impasse. Few non-Westerners wish to meet our armies in battle. (Page 98)
The only successful response to encountering a Western army seems to be to marshal another Western army. The state of technology and escalation is such that any intra-Western conflict would have the opposite result of its original Hellenic intent: abject slaughter on both sides would result, rather than quick resolution. (Page 98)
Whereas the polis Greeks discovered shock battle as a glorious method of saving lives and confining conflict to an hour’s worth of heroics between armored infantry, Alexander the Great and the Europeans who followed sought to unleash the entire power of their culture to destroy their enemies in a horrendous moment of shock battle. That moment is now what haunts us. (Page 98)
Interestingly, the West’s principle of military accountability to civilian rule has enabled it to recover from horrendous defeats. Among other examples, Hanson cites Rome’s defeat by Hannibal at Cannae,
Polybius ended his excursus about Rome’s remarkable constitutional and military system with a final thought on the aftermath of Cannae: For although the Romans had clearly been defeated in the field, and their reputation in arms ruined, yet because of the singularity of their constitution, and by wisdom of their deliberative counsel, they not only reclaimed the sovereignty of Italy, and went on to conquer the Carthaginians, but in just a few years themselves became rulers of the entire world. (3.118.7–9) (Page 132)
In conclusion, Hanson says that the western way of war may lead to a frightening future,
Thucydides, who claimed he wrote history as “a possession for all time,” reminds us that states fight for “fear, self-interest, and honor”—not always out of reason, economic need, or survival. Honor, even in this age of decadence, despite the gloomy predictions of Plato, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Spengler, still exists and will, I think, still get people killed for some time to come. (Page 449)
The most obvious worry is the continual spread of Western notions of military discipline, technology, decisive battle, and capitalism without the accompanying womb of freedom, civic militarism, civilian audit, and dissent. (Page 451)
…Can the non-West import our weaponry and military organization and doctrine apart from the cargo of their birth (i.e., free citizens, individualism in command hierarchy, constant audit, and oversight of its strategy and tactics)? (Page 451, edited)
Even should our present adversaries adopt consensual government, free speech, and market economies, would they then really remain our adversaries? Would the embrace of Western culture gradually smother centuries of religious, ethnic, cultural, and racial hostility to the West itself? Perhaps, perhaps not. (Page 452)
States that become thoroughly Western are less likely to attack the traditional West, but not less likely enough to ensure that they will never attack the traditional West—and each other. (Page 452)
The more the world becomes thoroughly Western, it seems to me, the larger the Europeanized battlefield shall become. (Page 452)
The peril to come, however, is not just the spread of atomic weapons and F-16 fighter jets but much more so the dissemination of knowledge, rationalism, the creation of free universities, perhaps even the growth of democracy, capitalism, and individualism themselves throughout the world—the real ingredients, as we have seen in these case studies, of a most murderous brand of battle. (Page 453)
I have yet to finish the book, but the point is clear: Western military power, if not its liberties, will spread throughout the world and be its own worst enemy:
“Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”Rev. 13:4b(ESV)
It is rare to see any scientist acknowledge God’s ways and the nature of His creation. Our sciences, sadly even the hard sciences, have mostly abandoned the concept of evidential, objective truth. The idea of holding intellectual inquiry accountable to measurable reality very often goes by the wayside.
…Freedom-of-will and destiny can “peacefully co-exist” in a way consistent with the aphorism “All is foreseen, yet choice is given.”
The concept of free-will is mainly that the past may define the future, yet after this future effect takes place, i.e., after it becomes past, then it cannot be changed: we are free from the past, but, in this picture, we are not necessarily free from the future. Therefore, not knowing the future is a crucial requirement for the existence of free-will…
Suppose there is a person who can see into the future, a prophet. Then while we, at the present are making a decision, and have not yet decided, the prophet knows exactly what this decision will be.
At this point, as long as this prophet does not tell us what our decision will be, we are still free to make it, since we know that if the prophet had told us what our decision was going to be, then we would be free to change it and his prophecy would no longer be true.
Therefore, the prophet could be accurate as long as he doesn’t tell us our future decision. [That is,] we are still free to make decisions based on nothing but the past and our own mind. Our decisions stand alone, and the prophet’s knowledge does not affect our free-will.
They argue that reality obeys rules (quantum mechanics) that support this view.
Remarkably, this describes the relationship between God and His creatures. God says of man through Solomon:
[God] has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11b(English Standard Version)
As a result of my studies, I’ve concluded, we must pray. The main reason to pray in our circumstances comes from Paul’s remark in his Letter to the Ephesians:
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.Ephesians 6:11–13, ESV
Clearly, no action in our flesh can prevail in this warfare.
Relative to this struggle, Albert Barnescomments on Daniel’s prayers that are recorded in the Book of Daniel, chapter 10. In this chapter, Daniel discovers that the answers to his prayers are the result of angelic warfare. Barnes has some surprising insights into Daniel’s prayer and the answer he receives. He says in regard to verse 13:
…The great truth is, that the answer to prayer is often delayed, not by any indisposition on the part of God to answer it, and not by any purpose not to answer it, and not by the mere intention of trying our faith, but “by the necessary arrangements to bring it about.”
[Prayer] is of such a nature that it cannot be answered at once. It requires time to make important changes; to influence the minds of men; to remove obstacles; to raise up friends; to put in operation agencies that shall secure the thing desired. There is some obstacle to be overcome. There is some plan of evil to be checked and stayed. There is some agency to be used which is not now in existence, and which is to be created.
The opposition of the “prince of Persia” could not be overcome at once, and it was necessary to bring in the agency of a higher power – that of Michael – to effect the change. This could not be done in a moment, a day, or a week, and hence, the long delay of three “full weeks” before Daniel had an assurance that his prayers would be answered.
So, it often happens now. We pray for the conversion of a child; yet there may be obstacles to his conversion, unseen by us, which are to be patiently removed, and perhaps by a foreign influence, before it can be done. Satan may have already secured a control over his heart, which, is to be broken gradually, before the prayer shall be answered.
We pray for the removal of the evils of intemperance, of slavery, of superstition, of idolatry; yet these may be so interlocked with the customs of a country, with the interests of men, and with the laws, that they cannot be at once eradicated except by miracle, and the answer to the prayer seems to be long delayed.
We pray for the universal spread of the gospel of Christ; yet how many obstacles are to be overcome, and how many arrangements made, before this prayer can be fully answered; and how many tears are to be shed, and perils encountered, and lives sacrificed, before the prayer of the church shall be fully answered, and the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.
The duty, then, which is taught, is that of patience, of perseverance, of faith in God, of a firm belief that he is true to all his promises, and that he is a hearer of prayer – though the blessing seems long delayed.
Daniel prayed earnestly for the restoration of his people to their land and received an answer that far surpassed his request. His desire was pure. However, we must check our motives if we are to expect answers. James cautions:
You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?James 4:2b–4a, ESV
However, if our motives are in line with His commandments, then, whatever the request might be, John reminds us:
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.1 John 5:14–15, ESV
Then, like Daniel, we persevere and wait patiently, with trust in God, for the answer to come.
I must leave you with a sermon by Pastor Wang Yi. On December 30th, 2019, Pastor Wang Yi was tried in a secret trial and sentenced to 9 years in prison for the crimes of “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations.” His sermon is titled, “Persecution is a Test.” Unless you understand Mandarin, please read the subtitles; I think it’s worth the effort.
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).
…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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
…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.
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.
…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.
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.
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.
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…
…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.
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.
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.
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.
…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.
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.