"Today’s political leaders demonstrate their low opinion of the public with every social law they pass. They believe that, if given the right to chose, the citizenry will probably make the wrong choice. Legislators do not think any more in terms of persuading people; they feel the need to force their agenda on the public at the point of a bayonet and the barrel of a gun." ~ Mark Skousen
The Last Barricade
Column by Terry Hulsey.
Exclusive to STR
“I” comes from the flesh, but [...] “we” comes from the Devil. ~ Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
So much of life is compromise. Rare is the one who maintains his integrity to the end of his life. In this national election year when not one candidate stands for a consistent set of principles, it’s good to ask the question: What is worth fighting for? What must absolutely never be given up?
Right and Left: Fixed/Fallen and Plastic/Perfectible
Though not religious, I must concede that religion, particularly Christianity until recently, has been the bulwark of the idea that human nature is fixed, unchanging, and incapable of perfection. This idea is the irreducible first principle of the Right, with the first corollary that any government that tries to reshape human nature toward perfection must fail, regardless of any force it may apply. The reverse, the idea that human nature is malleable, evolving, and perfectible is the irreducible first principle of the Left, with its first corollary that government is obligated to help positively shape human nature, whether using the fiscal and social policy of bland populist socialism, or the gulag and killing fields of the total state – a distinction within the Left of degree, not of kind.
Historically, both these first principles have implied a kernel of derived principles. Politicians of the Right must rely on the middle class to achieve their political goals. This class benefits most from government abstention from redistributive schemes, since its members share the tax burden about equally with the upper class, without the ability of the upper class to better shelter themselves from its bite, or position themselves for fiscal policy favors. And though traditionally less religious than the poor, except in recent years, the middle class finds its “bourgeois” values confirmed by the Right. “Bourgeois” values prefer political change through the personal moral agents of custom and mores, resorting to government agency only when it is yoked by the principle of subsidiarity. The lower class is politically inert: It does not vote.
It’s these aspects of the Right (its abstinence from government force, its reliance on the middle class, its preference for custom and mores over statute, its preference for subsidiarity over central state intervention) that set the Left in angry antithesis. The effort of the Left is always to try to demonstrate the nobility and humanity of solutions imposed by government force, as led by upper class elites, and to try to demonize the bourgeois values of the middle class. According to the Left, government power is always an agent of good, and any evil stemming from it, even that of Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot, is an aberration, another revolution betrayed, and never its true essence. On the other hand, the common values of the middle class, in their view, must be kept on the short leash held by Leftist intellectuals, lest they devolve into a bloodthirsty Fascism.
“-isms” that Aren’t: Capitalism and Socialism
“Right” and “Left” here signify first principles rooted long before the birth of these terms just over two centuries ago. But then, the terms “capitalism” and “socialism,” when limited to the definitions of “private ownership of the means of production” and “state ownership of the means of production” respectively, fail in a schoolmarmish way to signify this ultimate primacy. Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, following Proudon, does not hesitate in claiming this distinction to be at bottom theological. Those untroubled by religion would say that the ideas are “metaphysical.” For von Mises, praxeology on the one hand, the ultimate aprioristic principle of man’s need to act purposefully, and “the Fourier Complex” on the other hand, are terms coming nearer to this meaning, breaking out of “-isms” that seem to suggest merely wertfrei voting alternatives. In any case, as Hoppe clearly states, “a regime of private property and a statist regime where the rest of us merely obey[:] Ultimately, those are the only two systems from which we have to choose.” The last barricade stands or falls in the battle between these two primary ideas.
Igor Shafarevich, in one of the absolutely necessary books on the subject, The Socialist Phenomenon, a book first brought to the attention of the West in Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 Harvard address, uses the term “socialism” in this ultimate, primary sense.
Shafarevich first examines Chiliastic socialism, that is, socialism in the sense of a “doctrine and an appeal based on it, a program for changing life.”[p2] His survey begins with socialism in the writings in Athens of the fourth century B.C., then in the Christian heresies, in utopias, in novels, and finally in the Enlightenment period, collecting its common properties along the way. Next he turns to socialism as a historical social structure, examining state socialism in the Inca empire, in the Jesuit state in Paraguay, in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China, again winnowing its common properties over time. After this compendious sweep through history, Shafarevich concludes that the “basic principles” of socialism are as follows [pp195-196]:
1. The Abolition of Private Property
2. The Abolition of the Family
3. The Abolition of Religion
4. Communality or Equality.
Of the last principle, he says that it “frequently gives rise to hostility toward culture as a factor contributing to spiritual and intellectual inequality and, as a result, leads to a call for the destruction of culture itself.”[p196] His evidence furthermore allows him to say what socialism is not. It is [pp202-204]:
• not an evolution from capitalism
• not a development from the proletariat
• not a scientific theory.
His conclusions correspond with the pathological “Fourier Complex” described by von Mises under the section “The Psychological Roots of Antiliberalism,” in his 1927 book Liberalism:
“Socialist authors promise not only wealth for all, but also happiness in love for everybody, the full physical and spiritual development of each individual, the unfolding of great artistic and scientific talents in all men, etc. […–] the kingdom of perfection, populated by completely happy supermen. All socialist literature is full of such nonsense.” [p17]
Shafarevich delves into that literature and, offering many examples, shows how so many socialist writers have a lively hatred for property, family, religion, and individual distinctions. Particularly notable is the correspondence between Marx and Engels. Marx had a particular venom for the urbane, polished, and – according to Bismarck – “most intelligent and likable” Ferdinand Lassalle, an international socialist of the more humane type, and a Jew upon whom Marx poured out his most vicious antisemitism.
Though Shafarevich quotes the bile from the psyches of Saint-Simon [p280], Fourier [p281], Schopenhauer [p290], Max Stirner [p290], and Martin Heidegger [p291], perhaps the archetype of the socialist personality is Sergey Nechayev, whose 1869 Catechism of a Revolutionary provides the following sample:
All the gentle and enervating sentiments of kinship, love, friendship, gratitude, and even honor, must be suppressed in him [the socialist revolutionary] and give place to the cold and single-minded passion for revolution. For him, there exists only one pleasure, one consolation, one reward, one satisfaction – the success of the revolution. Night and day he must have but one thought, one aim – merciless destruction. Striving cold-bloodedly and indefatigably toward this end, he must be prepared to destroy himself and to destroy with his own hands everything that stands in the path of the revolution.
The revolutionary […] lives in this world only for the purpose of bringing about its speedy and total destruction. He is not a revolutionary if he has any sympathy for this world. He should not hesitate to destroy any position, any place, or any man in this world. He must hate everyone and everything in it with an equal hatred. All the worse for him if he has any relations with parents, friends, or lovers; he is no longer a revolutionary if he is swayed by these relationships. [emphases in original]
Nechayev is not a straw man, but a real person who died in his cell in Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg in 1882. Do less fanatical socialists exist? Of course. Lassalle, Victor Hugo, anti-communist socialists like George Orwell and Jean-François Revel, otherwise pleasant men like the avuncular Bernie Sanders – dozens of others – come to mind. But for Shafarevich they are dupes like Andrey Lebeziatnikov, the soft-hearted clerk enthusiastic about social progress in Crime and Punishment. The important questions to ask are:
Why is it that history provides such a huge number of leading socialists who are more like Nechayev than Sanders?
Whose ideas will prevail in a contest between a consistent socialist and a socialist dilettante who has already conceded the principle of state power as a general good?
Why did socialist publishers refuse to print Orwell’s Animal Farm and other of his works?
Supposing the economic nostrums of Sanders were to fail, would he likely resort to less government intervention, or more?
The consistent theme of all the variants of socialism is inescapable. Shafarevich:
“Marxism is based on the same psychological foundation as nihilism – a burning hatred for surrounding life that can be vented only through complete annihilation of that life. [...] Marxism accomplished a transformation of the elemental, destructive emotions that ruled Bakunin and Nechayev into a structure that seemed incomparably more objective and hence convincing.”[p277]
This nihilist endpoint of socialism is what Murray Rothbard called “Reabsorption Theology,” which he details in his own account of the chiliastic writings:
“As far as I know, there is no commonly-agreed-upon name to designate this fatefully influential religion. One name is ‘process theology,’ but I shall rather call it ‘reabsorption theology,’ for the word ‘reabsorption’ highlights the allegedly inevitable end point of human history as well as its supposed starting point in a precreation union with God. […]
In the reabsorptionist view, creation, instead of being wondrous and good, is essentially and metaphysically evil. For it generates diversity, individuality, and separateness, and thereby cuts off man from his beloved cosmic union with God. Man is now permanently ‘alienated’ from God, the fundamental alienation; and also from other men, and from nature.
It is this cosmic metaphysical separateness that lies at the heart of the Marxian concept of ‘alienation,’ and not, as we might now think, personal griping about not controlling the operation of one’s factory, or about lack of access to wealth or political power. Alienation is a cosmic condition and not a psychological complaint. For the reabsorptionists, the crucial problems of the world come not from moral failure but from the essential nature of creation itself.”
Rothbard’s “reabsorption theology” is the very heart of socialism described by Shafarevich, a theology which includes the socialism of the New Left. Shafarevich quotes from Eros and Civilization of Herbert Marcuse:
“Narcissus and Orpheus [...] symbolize ‘the redemption of pleasure, the halt of time, the absorption of death; silence, sleep, night, paradise – the Nirvana principle not as death but as life.’ ”[p282]
This “absorption” that resolves the socialist’s metaphysical alienation is inseparably a part of all four basic principles enumerated by Shafarevich, but especially the fourth:
“The usual understanding of ‘equality,’ when applied to people, entails equality of rights and sometimes equality of opportunity (social welfare, pensions, grants, etc.). [... But t]he equality proclaimed in socialist ideology means identity of individualities. The hierarchy against which the doctrine fights is a hierarchy based on individual qualities – origin, wealth, education, talent and authority.”[ p261]
Now we see why an otherwise silly current event has become a pitched battle: Whether a person only outwardly indistinguishable by one gender should use a public restroom for that gender. Framed in this way, most people could care less. After all, if indistinguishable, what difference does it make? But the issue is not framed in this way. The central government reinterpreted the Title IX section of the Education Amendments of 1972 so that gender is not a condition fixed by nature, but a completely malleable and plastic definition, determined solely by what a person claims it to be on any day.
The issue is not the vast sweep of the law (made more threatening by a presidential directive), which applies to any educational institution receiving Federal money – in effect, every public school at every level. The issue is not the validity of gender claims, which most schools tried to accommodate. The issue is not about tolerance. Those who direct and support this initiative do not want tolerance, any more than the North Korean Ministry of State Security wants civic “toleration” of Kim Jung Il. As demonstrated by their fury over the North Carolina bill that would have allowed gender-indifferent single-occupancy restrooms and private property exemption from the law, they want to revolutionize the thoughts and behavior of the majority who find these lifestyles distasteful and immoral as a role model for children, and they are eager to compel this revolution in thought and behavior by law and police power. They want not accommodation, but a revolution in centuries-old belief and behavior, smearing them as “prejudiced” and “racist.” Their rejection of the North Carolina law demonstrates the revolutionary socialist agenda of the federal administration, leveraging the LGBTQIA-MOGAI community, and will not rest until Christianity and other long-recognized standards of civility concede approval.
The issue is that compliance with the federal law makes every public school in the land an indoctrination center for reinterpreting what lies at the core of a person’s individual identity, pulverizing it, and plasticizing it and the family values designed to protect it.
This should be an issue for the last barricade, where battle for the most fundamental principles is joined. But it isn’t. According to Reuters and Gallup polling, the children are mostly captive minds already. I think of a passage in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations:
“Hunting and fishing, the most important employments of mankind in the rude state of society, become in its advanced state their most agreeable amusements, and they pursue for pleasure what they once followed from necessity.”[p118 of the Glasgow edition]
What, in god’s name, is now “followed from necessity”? Everything is safe, insured, safety-netted. The shape-shifting, protean face and voice of Hillary Clinton slips on a new “cause” as easily as a new dress. The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner orders the drone assassination of American citizens, and moves effortlessly between one policy and its opposite. Which position is real? Does it matter? Morality is not “followed from necessity,” since the all-powerful state will insulate the citizen from the consequences of his choices, and the political hack from the consequences of his pontifications. All is posturing, like Beyoncé’s radical chic aestheticization of political violence. Life, stripped of its grit, danger, and vital moral toughness, becomes . . . boring, and yet, without the actor ever being conscious of it, demands that the jaded concoct ever more outrages to simulate the moral valor of real life, a life now become a “most agreeable amusement.”
We are threatened with a human nature that becomes no longer static, fixed. It has been plasticized by culture (e.g., radical gender “re-identification”), by science (e.g., gene manipulation), and by the ascendancy of socialism (e.g., its assault on religion, family, and the individual) in states the world over. The insight of Shafarevich is almost consummated:
“Socialism is one of the aspects of this impulse of mankind toward self-destruction and Nothingness” and is “not guided by conscious intent.” [p295]
Intellectuals: Vendors of Legitimacy
If the true nature of the socialist state is this inhuman, how does it maintain its perennial appeal, in spite of its repeated failures, especially in democratic regimes where the voting public can supposedly remove it from power? In purely political terms, its appeal is maintained by a functionary quite new to history: The public intellectual.
Obviously the affairs of any state require the skills of a literate class. But what specific kind of literate class does a democratic forum require for its proper functioning?
In China for about 2,000 years, a literati of professional bureaucrats ran the Chinese imperium along Confucian principles. The system was successful, without the need for any democratic forum. Needless to say, it was a system of command from the top. But because it embodied Confucian ideals, its ideal was a perfection of virtue in the leader. Even for the West that knows all about virtue, this ideal may be hard to comprehend, especially its emphasis upon a harmony that flows naturally throughout society from a virtuous ruler instead of upon a set of mechanical laws:
Chi K’ang Tzu (a prince of the sixth century B.C. state of Lu) asked Confucius about government saying:
“Suppose I were to kill the unjust, in order to advance the just. Would that be all right?” Confucius replied: “In doing government, what is the need of killing? If you desire good, the people will be good. The nature of the Superior Man is like the wind, the nature of the inferior man is like the grass. When the wind blows over the grass, it always bends.” [Analects 12:19]
In Korea for about 500 years, literati formed the chungin (jungin), the middle class who ran the Joseon (1392–1897) Korean dynasty, also along Confucian principles and also in the absence of democratic principles.
In the West, although the efforts of the Apostle Paul to disseminate a complex theology to a mass audience might characterize him as an archetypical intellectual, his work was not concerned with the allocation of public goods. Closer in this function would be the work of the Christian intellectuals who forged the False Decretals to increase the power and independence of the Church, and who forged the Donation of Constantine, which validated Church properties as a gift from that emperor. Thus before modern times, any case made for a Christian intellectual clearly stands as an aberration from the function and importance of the Church: Its scholars preached and wrote for the salvation of souls, not for the benefit of the state.
The scholars of the Carolingian Renaissance around 900 also seem out of place in this role, since this “renaissance” never reached a wide public nor defined itself in relation to the state.
The Italian Renaissance suggests more plausible candidates. The political works of two of the most notable writers of the period, De Monarchia (1312) of Dante and The Prince (1513) of Machiavelli had influence in spite of condemnation by the Church. With the advent of the printing press in the 15th Century and the burgeoning of the modern state, an agent that we might call the political scholar came into his own. But because his face was turned to wealthy patrons or learned colleagues, not to citizens, who in any case were disenfranchised and unlettered, we cannot designate him an intellectual.
It is with the French Revolution that the public intellectual can truly be distinguished in his modern form. Here he comes to life in his most flamboyant aspect: His ceaseless ranting about politics, his aggressive propagandizing on behalf of a revolutionary state that consciously employs him not just to allocate public goods but to reshape the very consciousness of a democratic mass that is passably literate enough to read his output, and his weakling’s sycophancy for the prevailing power.
It is in this period we find the trait that sets him apart from all his literate forebears: His role not so much as a “second-hand dealer in ideas,” to use F.A. Hayek’s famous snub, but as a purveyor of legitimacy to frail democratic regimes deracinated from the phylacteries of church and the regalia of heredity. This is the great insight of Helmut Schoeck’s Twelve Delusions of Our Time, a book available in English but read by no one: The modern state’s chronic need for legitimacy. Legitimacy is the golden article of trade of the intellectual, the ichor and ambrosia of the all-powerful that only he can provide. Whatever the power of a modern democratic regime, even if it spends more than all other nations on earth on its military, even if it is the economic envy of the world, it remains neurotically anxious that someday a will-o’-the-wisp electorate, aroused by one of the revolutionary democratic credos that ground its power, might awaken and sweep it into oblivion.
The state; public property; democracy; the intellectual: These four work with a baneful synergy. Without public property there is no need for a state, its formal cause, as allocator; without public property there is no need for democracy, its efficient cause, to decide how to allocate it among its many owners; without public property there is no need for an intellectual class to give legitimacy to the necessarily small number who benefit most from its existence.
Democracy cannot be defined without the existence of public goods. And yet this very requirement of its definition makes it fatally unworkable. Consider the classic paradigms for the disposal of property, viz., monarchy, oligarchy, plutocracy, aristocracy. It is easy to imagine a clear assignment of property to the ruling group in each of these cases. But only in the case of democracy is this impossible. It is exactly the insurmountable obstacles to having public goods assigned to its several members that require it to have proxies acting in its name, proxies that must have ever greater discretionary powers as the proportion of public goods increases.
However, the socialist state maintains its perennial appeal, in spite of its repeated failures, even in democratic regimes for reasons far beyond politics, as we shall see.
What “is” is: Why the State Must Be Amoral
The pressures of legitimacy in a democratic state make the trasvaluation of morality in its officeholders inevitable. The following is not a defense of the state, but a description of its true nature.
First, “morality” as applied to a state cannot follow a consistent standard. Can it be said that the United States at least consistently promotes democracy around the world? Wilsonian idealism that sought to “make the world safe for democracy” in fact realized the opposite result, just as its revival by Bush-Rice empowered the Islamic Brotherhood. A person may be admired for his integrity in following a consistent moral principle, the world be damned; but a state is evaluated by the real effect of its collective actions. For the state, unlike for the person, the ends do justify the means.
Second, it is difficult to attach any sensible meaning of “morality” to a state that must act not according to a moral standard, but according to interest, pure and simple. In what sense can Operation Keelhaul be termed “moral”? Or Operation Northwoods? Or the bombing of Hiroshima? Or the internment of Japanese or American Indians? Or any of the countless state killings that anyone can bring to mind? While these cases may have their defenders among statists, many a libertarian would defend the “immorality” of our Founders’ ingratitude toward the French after the Revolution, a perfect anticipation of the statement reported of Italian statesman Count Cavour that “We shall astonish the world with our ingratitude.” Many would have defended the nation’s refusal of “humanitarian assistance” – a morally praiseworthy act in personal, human terms – to Syria and Libya, especially since that “assistance” so often leads to expenditure of blood and treasure on a national scale.
Nevertheless, no democratic officeholder can forthrightly admit that he acts without reference to morality: Democratic outrage would turn him out of office. Therefore, not only must the meaning of “morality” be twisted into new contours, but the officeholder must strive to embody and dignify that transvaluation. Only by means of a transvaluation beyond personal standards of morality could the following more notorious enormities have failed to end a politician’s political career:
“We were not trading arms for hostages.” President Ronald Reagan, March 4, 1987.
“Read my lips: no new taxes.” Republican Presidential nominee George Bush, August 18, 1988.
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” President Bill Clinton, January 26, 1998.
Thus Hillary Clinton told no lie in the conventional sense when she talked about “landing under sniper fire” in Bosnia in 1996, although images of her landing showed no such thing. For the landing represented not her personal experience, but the heroic and salvific action of the American nation, as embodied in herself. Thus Lyndon B. Johnson told no lie in the conventional sense when he declared that the USS Maddox was attacked by North Vietnamese gunboats in international waters in the Gulf of Tonkin in August, 1964. For America, the world’s stalwart against Communism, must act forthrightly against this evil in the person of Lyndon Johnson. This embodiment of state amorality in the person extends not just to the extreme of a media-engendered state personality cult, but subtiliter, in every personal minutia. Thus Al Gore is completely truthful in his claim to have invented the Internet, since the state, which he embodies, is the fountainhead of invention and the great benefactor of mankind. And even when political hacks lie instinctively, unnecessarily, they are right. They are the state.
Theirs is the modern state, charged not just with national defense, full employment, and social justice – mere housekeeping chores for the leviathan, but with an even greater, even nobler duty: Salvation from alienation. As we noted from Rothbard earlier:
“Alienation is a cosmic condition and not a psychological complaint. For [...] the crucial problems of the world come not from moral failure but from the essential nature of creation itself.”
In other words, their greatest duty is outside the realm of mere “moral failure.” The agents of the state are set on a mission to remove alienation, a task which can never be accomplished; but as their good works do not provide salvation from this ill, so neither do their evil works hinder it. Regardless of the consequences of their actions, their sacred mission receives a perverse justification by faith alone in its rightness. The ultimate action of the state justifies, demands, total antinomianism.
Thus we see that the lies of politicians are not Machiavellian, and not compulsive; in fact they are not “lies” at all: They are the untruths of the antinomian state, spoken by those who embody its noble purposes.
A Thin Bulwark
Religion, particularly Christianity until recently, has been the bulwark of the idea that human nature is fixed, unchanging, and incapable of perfection. Why has it not been effective in restraining its antithesis, human nature as completely malleable and shaped toward perfection by the socialist state?
The answer comes, perhaps implausibly, from a great champion of the Christian Right himself, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. Writing in Leftism Revisited, he explains:
“Socialism and communism, though able to invade areas with no Christian tradition, could have sprouted only from civilizations with a strong Christian background. Not only the ethical content of Christianity, but its imagery and doctrine foster socialism.”[p95]
How is that possible when socialism and communism are typically atheistic? Shafarevich:
“[I]t is certainly true that socialism is hostile to religion. But is it possible to understand it as a consequence of atheism? Hardly, at least if we understand atheism as it is usually defined: as the loss of religious feeling.”[p235]
As the previously cited work of Murray Rothbard confirms, much of socialist thought, for example the view of the world as “essentially and metaphysically evil,” is rooted in Christian heresy. In other words, socialism is animated by a kind of religious passion, despite being hostile to formal religion itself.
The fact that Robspierre, Stalin, Pol Pot, and other socialist leaders studied to become members of the clergy may not prove much. But religion, particularly Christianity, will be embarrassed by the answer to the stark question: Which states have been totalitarian throughout history, those that are more religious, or those that are less so?
And how can any blame be attributed to the “backsliding” of adherents, when the theology of every Christian denomination has been hollowed out from within? Lutheran theology has passed from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Nadia Bolz-Weber. Presbyterian theology has passed from John Knox to Mark Achtemeier. Catholic theology has passed from Pius IX to Pope Francis. The ascendant trend in Christian theology is the “emergent theology” of those like Brian McLaren. The latter believes in a Christian faith without “without objective, propositional truth,” without “objective hermeneutics,” and without a creed, while being very jazzed on gentleness, caring, and acceptance. In short, with apologies to Chesterton, on all things Christian, Brian McLaren has open mind like a mouth breather’s open mouth.
This Kiss for the Entire World
This ought to be a time of revolutionary excitement, even adventure, where we stand on the barricades of a world unlike any that has come before. But it’s not. There are no honest, passionate minds locked in a titanic struggle of ideas, but a fog where “ignorant armies clash by night,” speaking in a language ready to excuse violence, possessed by misunderstood slogans and automatic habits of mind.
Is it true that the idea of a fixed, unchanging human nature is the only bulwark against an idea, now ascendant in the world, that threatens to move “beyond freedom and dignity” of the individual? It has certainly been true for Christian culture, until recently. And as T.S. Eliot famously said in Notes Toward the Definition of Culture:
“If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready made.”[p126]
If Christianity is a spent force, what will replace it? Should its replacement rebuild the foundations shattered beneath this primary idea, or should it lean over the edge of the abyss and imagine . . . something else? To those glib atheists eager for this prospect, I say: Better put on some speed because you are living on fumes from an empty bottle. To those glib and slothful anarchists who claim that the market’s Invisible Hand – more invisible than YHWH himself – will whip up something nice out of the rubble, I say: Time to put up or shut up. Herewith I put up something of my own.
The first guide going forward is a study of the Christian heresies. Whatever the status of Christianity, it is our history, the history of the West, and its heresies document the pathologies of the mass mind, and thus are an indispensable reservoir of knowledge won with blood and suffering over the centuries.
In policy matters, I believe two things are most important. The abolition of estate taxes is the easier, more immediate goal. Antiquity is filled with references to the pride of being part of an enduring, honorable family. A great, respected name, endowed with meaningful wealth, is the greatest countervailing power immediately connected to the defense of the individual. Note too, that the industrial revolution was financed not primarily by banks, but by the wealth of families. The next policy change, admittedly longer-term and difficult, is to institute sortition as a replacement for mass democracy. The original Athenian democracy was based on service by lot, not the failed principle of democracy; my proposal, detailed elsewhere, restores the original institution and, I think, overcomes the critical problem of “fairness” in how the initial pool is constituted. Democracy in the modern sense of institutionalized high time preferences will wither as randomly elected talent enact laws to drain it of its life blood: Public goods.
As for the long-term goal of replacing the dead-end nexus of ideas abbreviated under the heading of “Christianity,” I propose, very bumptiously I admit, a modern Confucianism: Free of Christianity’s eschatological absolutism and its teleological history; free of the skull’s echo chamber of an “omniscient” god, free of the perversion of meditation in “personal prayer,” free of the need to escape self-loathing in “redemption,” free of the unearned guilt of an “original sin” – directing the human need for ritual into a modest, not magical ceremony; a polity legitimized by an ethical mandate of heaven, not by majoritarianism; offering the public ideal of being a gentleman, not egalitarianism; with political consummation in a self-sufficient middle kingdom, not an empire. At last one can breathe! Something else is possible!
There is much to explain. One paragraph is hardly the blueprint for an entire culture. But then I could have left the details to the “Invisible Hand,” yes?
I stand shoulder to shoulder at the barricades with those who understand the principles that are in contention. It would be easy but inhumane to dismiss our adversaries as evil. But although the effects of their actions surely are evil, they are not guided by conscious intent. They are still our brothers, though they are pawns moved by unconscious archetypes within themselves, abetted by the sanction of history.
This awareness should provide the moral stamina that would be lost in imagining that the battle is against inhuman monsters. Better to simply imagine that we may have found our sight, and found a possible way out of a cave that has darkened us all for centuries.