How Did We Get Here? – by Bernhardt Writer

Matt Hennessy, writing for City Journal, characterized the state of the 2016 US election. He blames the Democrats for our situation. But, in my opinion, both parties are complicit:

…They’ve spent the last 100 years expanding the scope of executive authority, granting the federal administrative agencies the power of judge, jury, and executioner over their ever-widening dominion. If liberals and progressives didn’t want that awesome, intrusive power to fall into the wrong hands, perhaps they should have heeded the warnings of small-government conservatives, who railed for a century against the bloat, rot, and corruption they saw metastasizing within the District of Columbia. Perhaps they shouldn’t have declared the U.S. Constitution—with its bill of rights and enumerated powers—to be an antiquated relic.

John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge chronicled the rise of progressivism and statism over the past 100 years in their book: The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State. We reviewed it here on this blog over a multi-week period in 2015. Here are some excerpts describing progressivism’s rise:

Beatrice Webb’s vision—the state as the epitome of reason and truth—enabled her to develop the ideology adopted by pro-statists worldwide. To her, the state stood for: planning versus confusion, merit versus privilege, and science versus prejudice…Why cause revolution when the same change could be brought about more lastingly through subversion of society using propaganda and recognized committees of experts.

Beatrice and her husband Sidney founded the Fabian Society as guardians of this socialist transformation. They established the London School of Economics to train a global cohort of social engineers…The Webbs also founded the New Statesman, a weekly review of politics and literature, as the clarion of their revolution.

In the period 1905-1915, the Webbs helped enact redistributive taxation to pay for [British] programs and lessened the stigma of “Poor Laws.” The poor became “victims,” not layabouts…They embraced eugenics as eagerly as they did town planning. The Webbs trusted the judgment of professional experts over the “average sensual man” when it came to bettering the life of commoners.

A prominent liberal ally of the Webbs, John Maynard Keynes, advocated for government intervention to aid Adam Smith’s hidden hand of the market. Although he spelled out caveats to his philosophy, these were conveniently forgotten over the years. His philosophy, Keynesianism, still powers big government.

The British Statist model was adopted by Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, and Peron. They all blended Hegelian state worship into their dictatorships and used the state to control their economies. America, however, took a different turn under the Roosevelts.

Theodore Roosevelt (US president 1901-1909) acknowledged that the Webbs were right when they said that laissez-faire capitalism was over. He established regulatory bodies to constrain the power of corporations over the American people…By not embracing European style statism, with its comprehensive welfare state, he squared-the-circle through his progressive republicanism and saved the US from Europe’s excesses.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for his part, imposed tighter regulation instead of nationalizing broad sectors of the economy in the face of economic collapse and world war. World War II demonstrated big government’s ability to marshal all of industry to the service of war through detailed planning, financial incentives, and coercion.

The same occurred on both sides of the Atlantic and the Pacific…When Winston Churchill returned to power in October 1951, his government did nothing to roll back the welfare state. In the closing days of World War II, international supervisory organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were created under Keynes influence as a result of the Bretton Woods international agreements.

In his article titled: “It’s Not Your Founding Fathers’ Republic Any More,” which we reviewed in 2014 on this blog, Myron Magnet, former Editor-in-Chief of City Journal, says:

President Wilson established in the WWI era the doctrine of the “Living Constitution” administered by the Supreme Court thereby codifying judicial activism that undid civil liberty victories in the aftermath of the Civil War. Secondly, President Roosevelt established prior to and during the WWII era unelected extra-governmental commissions (aka agencies) that have independent legislative, administrative, and judicial powers within themselves. Agencies are created as a matter of course now by legislative action. FDR also strengthened the power of the judiciary to act as a permanent constitutional convention amending the document through their decisions.

Fred Siegel characterized the increasing alienation of the liberal left from common US citizens in his book: The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class. We reviewed his book here and here in 2014. This is a brief excerpt from our review:

On July 30, 1916, at 2:08 AM, saboteurs caused a one kiloton explosion on Black Tom Island off the New Jersey coast, near Liberty Island, in NYC harbor. Two million pounds of munitions on their way to the allies were detonated through a series of fires.

This sabotage is viewed as the proximate cause for President Wilson to denounce Germany’s supporters in America as “creatures” of “disloyalty and anarchy [who] must be crushed.” He pushed for and got the Sedition Act of 1918 passed. The Sedition Act extended the Espionage Act of 1917.

Whereas, pre-war Progressives {in the US] hoped to reform a nation of immigrants grounded in the Protestant ethic, Liberals objected to wartime conscription, civil liberties repression, Prohibition, and the first Red Scare. They saw middle class values as a continuation of WWI repressions.

“Like most sensible people,” liberal Harold Edmund Stearns said, “I regard Prohibition as an outrage and a direct invitation to revolution.”

Those supporting Communism and the Soviets used the Sacco and Vanzetti trial (1926-27) as a wedge to draw prominent liberals to their cause. Drawing on declassified Comintern documents, Stephen Koch, in his Double Lives: Spies and Writers in the Secret Soviet War of Ideas Against the West, explains that Willi Münzenberg, the Comintern’s master propagandist, intended:

to create for the right-thinking non-Communist West… the belief that…to criticize or challenge Soviet policy was the unfailing mark of a bad, bigoted, and probably stupid person, while support was equally infallible proof of a forward-looking mind committed to all that was best for humanity and mankind by an uplifting refinement of sensibility.

Münzenberg thought the “the idea of America” had to be countered. Koch noted that Soviet sympathizers used events such as the trial:

to instill a reflexive loathing of the United States and its people, to undermine the myth of the Land of Opportunity, the United States would be shown as an almost insanely xenophobic place, murderously hostile to foreigners.

In 1928, H. G. Wells described his alternative in his book The Open Conspiracy: Blue Prints for a World Revolution (revised and republished as What Are We to Do with Our Lives?) where he states: “the [instinctive fellowship] of the highly competent” ruling class would subject the masses to “the great processes of social reconstruction.” and, through their rule, “escape from the distressful pettiness and mortality of the individual life.” He also wrote:

We no longer want that breeding swarm of hefty sweaty bodies, without which the former civilizations could not have endured, we want watchful and understanding guardians and drivers of complex delicate machines, which can be mishandled and brutalized and spoilt all too easily.

…In this light, American liberalism of the early twentieth century, as distinct from classical liberalism of the nineteenth century, was driven by hatred of the common man, his morals, and his liberty.

Reflecting on the impact of such “liberal” ideology, Kenneth Minogue wrote: Alien Powers: The Pure Theory of Ideology. We reviewed it in this blog. Here is a synopsis of Minogue’s thought on the outcome of implementing such philosophy in our society:

In Western societies, individuals follow customs or conduct projects of which others may dislike or disapprove and the result may be conflict.

However, Western society is predominantly peaceful in spite of potential (or actual) conflict because individuals master internalized rules of law and morality. Poverty, inequality, and disappointment are inevitable consequences of open participation in a risk based society even when it is free from iniquitous societal distortions (e.g., American slavery).

Ideologists say these consequences result from hidden structural flaws that can only be remedied through the destruction of the prevailing system. One must attain the perfection of social harmony. If material possessions cause envy, then all possessions must be jointly owned. Rather than insisting on moral decency to curb envy, ideologists will abolish ownership altogether.

This same approach, rooted in externals, is applied to all inequality and disappointment. Transcendent principles (e.g., morality) are not applicable to unruly minds. Once harmony is achieved there will be no need for the transcendent; all humanity will become one in thinking and affections.

Finally, Myron Magnet writes on how Tocqueville foresaw the “End of Democracy in America” in the 1830s. Magnet, speaking of current society says:

Today’s sovereign…forces men to act as well as suppresses [their] action…As Tocqueville observed, “It is the state that has undertaken virtually alone to give bread to the hungry, aid and shelter to the sick, and work to the idle.”

…And whatever traditional American mores defined as good and bad, moral and immoral, base and praiseworthy, the sovereign has redefined and redefined until all such ideas have lost their meaning. Is it any wonder that today’s Americans feel that they have no say in how they are governed—or that they don’t understand how that came about?

Such oppression is “less degrading” in democracies because, since the citizens elect the sovereign, “each citizen, hobbled and reduced to impotence though he may be, can still imagine that in obeying he is only submitting to himself.”

Moreover, democratic citizens love equality more than liberty, and the love of equality grows as equality itself expands. Don’t let him have or be more than me. Tocqueville despairingly concluded, “The only necessary condition for centralizing public power in a democratic society is to love equality or to make a show of loving it. Thus the science of despotism, can be reduced…to a single principle.”

By this last statement, Tocqueville anticipated the controlling idea of Orwell’s classic allegory, Animal Farm: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

***

Progressivism used to stand for progress and truth. But, collectively, we’ve abandoned that paradigm for historical revision and nihilism. Perhaps we should “adjust,” as our leaders say, to a new normal: terrorism, crime, corruption, and complicity. Perhaps…

But, then I remember that the United States of America was founded not upon blood and soil as other nations were but on ideals summarized in our Declaration of Independence and Preamble of the Constitution.

In case you don’t recollect these ideals word for word, 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…

And the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America 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.

***

If you profess Christ as Lord and Savior, why should you care about the direction this country is taking? The Prophet Jeremiah spoke to that question in his letter to all those whom King Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:

…Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7 English Standard Version (ESV)

While He dwelt among us, the Lord Jesus Christ pressed home this lesson:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43-44 (ESV)

And, while characterizing the whole of God’s law, He said:

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31 (ESV)

***

After all this, maybe you’re thinking: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

I think that this election is about consolidating power of the unconstitutional administrative state and persecuting, either overtly or covertly, those opposed to its decisions versus a return to a constitutional republic of, by, and for the People of the United States of America, however tentative that return seems at the moment.

It’s your choice.

Declaration of Independence of the United States of America

Principles for Voting, R. C. Sproul, 27.5 minute MP3, 2012, Associated post, Declaration of Independence courtesy of the National Archives – Charters of Freedom

For your consideration:

The Revolt Against the Masses – A Review (Part 1) — by Bernhardt Writer

As we promised in Quo Vadis III, this post is the first in a series of reviews of the book The Revolt Against the Masses, by Fred Siegel, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

This is one of the books and many articles we’re reading as we prepare Who Shall Be God. WSBG concerns American political and social change filtered through two families’ conflicts. Our goal is to digest the nonfiction materials in support of our fiction writing.

At the outset, we must say that Professor Siegel has helped us understand the experiences we had growing up in NYC during the Sixties. Rising out of the lower part of Inwood, through East Harlem, and to the Upper West Side, via a Mephistophelian deal by which my mother sacrificed herself for my betterment, I attended an upper middle class public school. Yes, from the world’s point of view, who you know is as important as merit. Lucky breaks are, often as not, quid pro quo.

In the feeder Intermediate School (IS) I attended, I learned educational tracking served to segregate and alienate economic groups. Naively, I asked one acquaintance, who got into trouble a lot, why he didn’t study harder since, it seemed to me, he was smart. He (again, we’re talking eleven year olds) said his family and social group wouldn’t permit it. I saw him many years later from a distance and got the impression he was trying to make a life for himself.

At least one child was pushed down an IS staircase the week when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The retributive aggression at the IS broke along economic rather than racial lines. I was subject to abuse at this time because my mother always made sure I wore a white shirt and tie to school. Ironically, my mother raised me to regard a person by their character, not the color of their skin or their economic status.

From there, I qualified for two specialized high schools but selected one over the other from the desire to satisfy the head over the heart. The only preparatory coaching I received during an ongoing teachers strike were group art lessons held by a dedicated teacher in her home. These few classes helped the many children she invited fill out our portfolios.

During my tenure at Stuyvesant, I witnessed the radical movement first hand. Some of those kids (you’d recognize them) are now on the national stage. Inadvertently, I also witnessed one of the last protest marches down Broadway from Colombia University. Of course, while in high school, I experienced the ostracism and mockery of those who thought they were better than me. I ask you, is adult life really any different?

Having gained entrance to Cooper Union though grueling exams, I learned how loosely those trusted with stewardship could act when they changed the rules in their favor. This revelation prompted my one and only act of protest against the irresponsibility of those who were extraordinarily privileged toward those who were not. I did not have Professor Siegel as my teacher while at CU.

Growing up in pre-Giuliani NYC, I experienced age appropriate crime. By that, I mean I was always mugged by those my own age. However, my defining memory of the city was the night someone dragged heavy garbage cans repeatedly along the concrete sidewalk in the common courtyard at the center of the block, or so we all thought.

Turns out that was automatic machine gun fire aimed at police officers guarding a city official who lived in the neighborhood. The siren of patrol car after patrol car signaled the fate that was meted out. I read of the perpetrators’ demise years later (but can no longer find the story online).

We thank Professor Siegel for his book and plan to touch on individual and groups of chapters in coming weeks. The following is an inadequate commentary on and condensation of chapter one.

CHAPTER 1 Progenitors

Men, like E. L. Godkin, Charles Francis Adams Jr., Henry Adams, H. G. Wells, Herbert Croly, Randolph Bourne, H. L. Mencken, and G. B. Shaw shaped opinion prior to, during, and after WWI.  They advocated instituting an American intellectual aristocracy, overthrowing middle class values, and destroying American democracy.

Quoting E. L. Godkin, “Plenty of people know how to get money; but…to be rich properly is indeed a fine art. It requires culture, imagination, and character.”

Charles Francis Adams Jr., [grand]son of John Quincy Adams, thought businessmen didn’t have the right temperament to govern. Aristocrats like him should hold office.

His brother, Henry Adams claimed superior men’s intellectual alienation from American life arose because they were underappreciated by the common-man.

H.G. Wells and Herbert Croly, The New Republic’ editor and co-founder, shared Adams’s anti-capitalism. However, they believed the experts Adams hated could be used to destroy the unrestrained capitalism disapproved by the elites.

Wells, heralded as a secular prophet, explained, “The book [Well’s Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought] was designed to undermine and destroy… monogamy, faith in God and respectability, all under the guise of a speculation about motor cars and electrical heating.”

Herbert Croly and Randolph Bourne were the two intellectuals most responsible for liberalism’s ideology.

Croly rejected Hamilton’s commercial republic, Jefferson’s self-reliant landowners, and America’s adherence to the Constitution, political parties, and law courts. Croly said, “The average American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to serious and consistent conceptions of his responsibilities as a democrat,” and, “Democracy must stand or fall on a platform of possible human perfectibility…”

Progressivism [at that time] embraced conventional morality. As a movement, it pursued control over society’s unruly passions. Progressives sought restoration of America’s traditional promises by taming large corporations and major city political machines. Their expression of a social gospel led them to reduce class divisions by outlawing child labor and instituting an income tax. This progressive movement split between those who supported American involvement in WWI and the pro-German opponents of the war.

Bourne, the prophet of multiculturalism, called for southern and eastern European immigrants, not yet corrupted by capitalism, to create a “Trans-National America” to free the country from a puritanical Protestant culture.

Bourne wholeheartedly approved of French preparations for war with Germany. He also liked that Germany’s “war on squalor and ugliness was being waged on every hand,” because “taste is, after all, the only morality.” Bourne wrote, “The world, will never be safe until it has learned a high and brave materiality that will demand cleanliness, order, comfort, beauty, and welfare as the indispensable soil in which the virtues of mutual respect, intelligence, and good will may flourish.”

H. L. Mencken, critic of “Mr. Wilson’s War,” derided Prohibition, preachers, anti-evolutionists, and American democracy. He defined the American people as a “rabble of ignorant peasants.” Mencken was guided throughout his career by a sentiment from G. B. Shaw’s play Man and Superman, “we must eliminate the Yahoo, or his vote will wreck the Commonwealth…”

Both Mencken and Shaw exploited Western culture’s self-defeating vulnerability: its capacity for self-criticism. …Mencken advised Theodore Dreiser, “There can never be any compromise in future men of German blood and the common run of ‘good,’ ‘right thinking’ Americans. We must stand against them forever, and do what damage we can do to them, and to their tin-pot democracy.”

Mencken wrote three revealing articles for The Atlantic magazine. “The Mailed Fist and Its Prophet,” proclaiming Nietzsche’s “contemptuous of weakness” attitude as Germany’s inspiration. Mencken quoted Nietzsche, “the weak and the botched must perish… I tell you that a good war hallows every cause.” The second article exalted [German] General Erich Ludendorff as a hero. The third, never published essay—“After Germany’s Conquest of the United States”—advocated America’s rule by hard men of a superior Kultur…’

In this light, American liberalism of the early twentieth century, as distinct from classical liberalism of the nineteenth century, was driven by hatred of the common man, his morals, and his liberty. Those motives sound familiar, don’t they?

World Trade Buildings Across the Water, circa 1990, © Edgar de Evia. David McJonathan owns all rights, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

World Trade Buildings Across the Water, circa 1990, © Edgar de Evia. David McJonathan owns all rights, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

Bernhardt Writer is Adolphus’s older, more mature, and handsomer brother. He will contribute reviews, commentary, and essays from time to time. He has contributed anonymously and pseudonymously before on this blog. Please forbear him, he carries on sometimes.

I’m Better Than You?

I’m Better Than You? I know I shouldn’t, but I feel hostile toward someone who indicates, through words or deeds, that they think they’re better than me. Perhaps they’ve denigrated my beliefs, or my world view, or maybe, my God. How dare they do that, I think. They’ll be sorry. God will get them. And I’m not going to warn or pray for them, either.

In his essay, ‘Can We be Good Without God,’ Glenn Tinder describes the setting in which we find ourselves:

The life of every society is a harsh process of mutual appraisal. People are ceaselessly judged and ranked, and they in turn ceaselessly judge and rank others. This is partly a necessity of social and political order… It is partly also a struggle for self-esteem; we judge ourselves for the most part as others judge us. Hence outer and inner pressures alike impel us to enter the struggle.

The process is harsh because all of us are vulnerable… The process is harsh also because it is unjust… Few are rated exactly, or even approximately, as they deserve.

In his book, Revolt Against the Masses, Fred Siegel warns that Nietzsche called for a new aristocracy; an elite to run the world, as H. G. Wells put it. Siegel shows convincingly that this spirit has been at work in the US political system since before World War One.  The C-SPAN talk, in its entirety, is found here.

In the midst of this and other movements, I worry we’ll give our democracy away to totalitarianism.

But Tinder reminds us that something different, sacrificial love, or agape, undergirds our Western moral system:

Agape is the core of Christian morality. Moreover, as we shall see, it is a source of political standards that are widely accepted and even widely, if imperfectly, realized…

Agape means refusing to take part in this process [of mutual appraisal]. It lifts the one who is loved above the level of reality on which a human being can be equated with a set of observable characteristics. The agape of God, according to Christian faith, does this with redemptive power; God ‘crucifies’ the observable, and always deficient, individual, and “raises up” that individual to new life. The agape of human beings bestows new life in turn by accepting the work of God.

So we have agape set against ruthless, condemning judgment. Note that condemning judgment is generally censured whereas discerning judgment is imperative if often lacking. The individual who is exalted by God is simultaneously fallen and at war with God. He or she must discern their entrenched faults to repent of them.

Returning to the initial theme of this essay, when I feel this way, I remember these truths:

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” Romans 12:14-21

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  Matthew 5:43-45

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” Luke 6:22-23

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? …But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:32-36

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” 1 Peter 4:12-13

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matt. 20:25-28; Mark 10:42-45; Luke 22:24-27

“[Peter to the elders] Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;  not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3

“[Paul to the Corinthians] To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” 1 Cor. 4:11-13

“[Paul to the Philippians] Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Phil. 3:17

“…[Make] supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings [to God]…for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way…” 1 Tim. 2:1-4

“Let us not grow weary of doing good…” Gal. 6:9-10

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. Rom. 16:20 …by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Rev. 12:11

This last one takes me aback, but it is as true as the others.

Archangel Michael, Guido Reni (1575–1642)

Archangel Michael, Guido Reni (1575–1642), painted circa 1636, public domain-US

After this life is over, the only thing I want to hear from my Lord is: “well done good and faithful servant…” knowing that, after doing all, I’ve done only what I was supposed to do. And I want that for you too. But that’s ultimately a transaction between you and Him.

This is my hope for you.