Conservatism: what is it? 1

Russell Kirk is a Catholic conservative. We were sent the link to an essay of his titled Ten Conservative Principles by a friendly Catholic commenter on our Facebook page.

As (we reasonably suppose) the essay was drawn to our attention to challenge our view of conservatism as atheists, here is our response.

Kirk declares – rightly – that conservatism is not an ideology. In fact, he says, “conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order”.

So far as it is possible to determine what conservatives believe, the first principles of the conservative persuasion are derived from what leading conservative writers and public men have professed during the past two centuries. …

We would look back further than two centuries – to the great new morning of European culture, the Enlightenment. Otherwise, we’ll accept what he has said so far without argument.

It is almost true that a conservative may be defined as a person who thinks himself such. The conservative movement or body of opinion can accommodate a considerable diversity of views on a good many subjects …

[While] it is not possible to draw up a neat catalogue of conservatives’ convictions … I offer you, summarily, ten general principles; it seems safe to say that most conservatives would subscribe to most of these maxims. …

The following articles of belief reflect the emphases of conservatives in America nowadays.

First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order.

Here we start contending with him. While our view of what moral behavior should be is probably the same in many practical instances as Kirk’s, our understanding of why we should behave in these ways, and how we know we should behave in these ways, is different.

Kirk says:

That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.

We agree with Kirk that human nature can be said to be constant in that it is not transformable as Marxists think it is and should be; and that what is moral and immoral in principle is not altered by time. But only a believer in a god – a benevolent one who concerns himself with human behavior – can state that there is a “moral order” that was “made for man”, and that “man was made for” a moral order.

He goes on to state this Christian view even more plainly:

This word order signifies harmony. There are two aspects or types of order: the inner order of the soul, and the outer order of the commonwealth. Twenty-five centuries ago, Plato taught this doctrine, but even the educated nowadays find it difficult to understand. … Our twentieth-century world has experienced the hideous consequences of the collapse of belief in a moral order.

We think Plato queered philosophy for all time with his conjecture that there are two worlds: this material one where we live our mortal lives, and another one, abstract, ideal, higher, that we knew before we were born, and will know again after we have died. This one, solid as it seems, Plato taught is not real; it is a world of shadows. The other one, the ideal world, is real.  To reiterate: What we experience as real is not real; what Plato imagined is real. How did Plato ever sell that notion to his own elite audience? And how come it has survived through the ages? It is the source of the Christian belief that life in this world (the only world we know for sure exists) is a sojourn in a place of testing, a place of sorrows, and has little value: while heaven is the world that matters, a place of eternal bliss. Plato and Christians believe that people’s “souls” go to the higher world when they die if they’ve been good.

While we concede that there is much immorality in our time – as there always has been and always will be – we do not see that there has ever been a “moral order”. The Christian churches did their utmost to force people –  with extreme intolerance and appalling cruelty –  to conform to their own moral code of mandated love, forgiveness, gentleness, humility and self-sacrifice. (Self-sacrifice because life in this solid world is not important, and martyrdom will win you a place in that rumored heaven.)

… It has been said by liberal intellectuals that the conservative believes all social questions, at heart, to be questions of private morality. Properly understood, this statement is quite true. A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society – whatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society – no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be.

We have no argument with most of that if by “the inner order of the soul” he means the convictions, values, standards people hold. A society composed of individuals who live by high moral standards will be a good society. (Only we see nothing wrong with “gratifying appetites” as long as it is not at the expense of others. The asceticism of Pauline Christianity enters Kirk’s portrait of the conservative here.)

Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity.

Adherence to custom and convention are not necessarily a bad thing, but should never be an excuse for refusing to change when change is called for. Continuity of social institutions that have been time-tested and found to be useful to human life and happiness is obviously a good thing. But they should not be resistant to necessary change: a matter of evolution rather than decreed reform. Kirk is right in saying here that  “Change … ought to be gradual and discriminatory, never unfixing old interests at once.” It is a point he returns to when he comes to his tenth principle.

He suggests that the “body social is a kind of spiritual corporation, comparable to the church; it may even be called a community of souls”. We prefer to speak of common interests, of co-operation for mutual benefit, and of patriotism.

Apart from that, we don’t think his discussion of this “second principle” is worth much examination.

Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription.

Conservatives sense that modern people are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, able to see farther than their ancestors only because of the great stature of those who have preceded us in time. Therefore conservatives very often emphasize the importance of prescription – that is, of things established by immemorial usage … Our morals are prescriptive in great part. Conservatives argue that we are unlikely, we moderns, to make any brave new discoveries in morals or politics or taste.

To put it another way: relying on the wisdom of the ages, continuing with what has been found to work, is often sensible. But again, tradition should not become bondage. As times change, new difficulties arise that need new solutions.

It is perilous to weigh every passing issue on the basis of private judgment and private rationality. The individual is foolish, but the species is wise, Burke declared. In politics we do well to abide by precedent and precept and even prejudice, for the great mysterious incorporation of the human race has acquired a prescriptive wisdom far greater than any man’s petty private rationality.

We do not think private rationality is petty. We cannot avoid making our own judgments. On whose judgment can we rely if not our own? Even if we decide to rely on the judgment of our ancestors, or our parents, or our teachers, or our political leaders, we ourselves judge it right to do so.

Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence. Burke agrees with Plato that in the statesman, prudence is chief among virtues. Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity. Liberals and radicals, the conservative says, are imprudent: for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away. … Providence [God] moves slowly, but the devil always hurries. Human society being complex, remedies cannot be simple if they are to be efficacious. The conservative declares that he acts only after sufficient reflection, having weighed the consequences. …

We agree with that as a general principle – overlooking Providence and the devil. But life in civilized lands is no longer leisurely. Travel is fast. Communication is fast. Catastrophe can come fast upon us. “Conservative” cannot be allowed to become a synonym for “obsolete”.     

Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety. They feel affection for the proliferating intricacy of long-established social institutions and modes of life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and deadening egalitarianism of radical systems. For the preservation of a healthy diversity in any civilization, there must survive orders and classes, differences in material condition, and many sorts of inequality. The only true forms of equality are equality at the Last Judgment and equality before a just court of law; all other attempts at levelling must lead, at best, to social stagnation. Society requires honest and able leadership; and if natural and institutional differences are destroyed, presently some tyrant or host of squalid oligarchs will create new forms of inequality.

Except for his notion that there will be a Last Judgment, we agree with that too.

Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of Imperfectability. Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, the conservatives know. Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created. Because of human restlessness, mankind would grow rebellious under any utopian domination, and would break out once more in violent discontent—or else expire of boredom. To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things. All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk. By proper attention to prudent reform, we may preserve and improve this tolerable order. But if the old institutional and moral safeguards of a nation are neglected, then the anarchic impulse in humankind breaks loose: “the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell.

There too, we largely agree. We would not say, however, that human beings are “imperfect”, since we know of no standard of “perfection” against which they can be measured. Christians of course believe in the Fall, in original sin, the inherited guilt of all mankind because of a first man and woman’s disobedience to a creator god. We find that idea repulsive and ridiculous. We reckon that to live is to suffer; that we are all capable of doing wrong, and there are habitual criminals and sadists among us, which is why we need the rule of law; that each one of us in his pursuit of happiness will find other individuals in his way; that rational self-interest is an enormously useful guide to living successfully with others and treating each other well.

Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked.  … Upon the foundation of private property, great civilizations are built. The more widespread is the possession of private property, the more stable and productive is a commonwealth. Economic levelling, conservatives maintain, is not economic progress. … [A] sound economic basis for the person, the family, and the commonwealth is much to be desired. …

We strongly concur. And at last he mentions freedom – but only in passing, in connection with private property. We would put freedom as the highest value.

He pays more attention to “the community” than the individual.

Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism. Although Americans have been attached strongly to privacy and private rights, they also have been a people conspicuous for a successful spirit of community. … It is the performance of our duties in community that teaches us prudence and efficiency and charity.

We have cut out most of this section of Kirk’s essay. Of course we are for co-operation with our neighbors to provide for our shared needs and desires, from street lighting to street parties. And while charity is certainly a better means of redistribution than socialism, neither charity nor socialism is a solution for poverty. Self-reliance in a free economy is the best solution.

Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions. … In the name of liberty, the French and Russian revolutionaries abolished the old restraints upon power; but power cannot be abolished; it always finds its way into someone’s hands. That power which the revolutionaries had thought oppressive in the hands of the old regime became many times as tyrannical in the hands of the radical new masters of the state.

Knowing human nature for a mixture of good and evil, the conservative does not put his trust in mere benevolence. Constitutional restrictions, political checks and balances, adequate enforcement of the laws, the old intricate web of restraints upon will and appetite – these the conservative approves as instruments of freedom and order. A just government maintains a healthy tension between the claims of authority and the claims of liberty.

There is more to this section, but that is enough to convey his point. We agree with it well enough. Only, we would express our view on liberty and restraint differently. We say that the duty of government is to protect the liberty of the nation as a whole and of everybody in it; and that individual freedom should be restrained by nothing but the freedom of everybody else.

Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society. The conservative is not opposed to social improvement, although he doubts whether there is any such force as a mystical Progress, with a Roman P, at work in the world. When a society is progressing in some respects, usually it is declining in other respects. The conservative knows that any healthy society is influenced by two forces … its Permanence and its Progression. The Permanence of a society is formed by those enduring interests and convictions that gives us stability and continuity; without that Permanence, the fountains of the great deep are broken up, society slipping into anarchy. The Progression in a society is that spirit and that body of talents which urge us on to prudent reform and improvement; without that Progression, a people stagnate. … The conservative … favors reasoned and temperate progress; he is opposed to the cult of Progress, whose votaries believe that everything new necessarily is superior to everything old.

Change is essential to the body social … The conservative takes care that nothing in a society should ever be wholly old, and that nothing should ever be wholly new. This is the means of the conservation of a nation, quite as it is the means of conservation of a living organism. Just how much change a society requires, and what sort of change, depend upon the circumstances of an age and a nation.

We agree with him about the forces of Permanence and Progression, and the need for judicious change.

But then again with his final paragraph we take issue. He harks back to Plato, back to the two worlds, back to the Christian illusion that there is a “moral order in the universe”.

The great line of demarcation in modern politics … is not a division between liberals on one side and totalitarians on the other. No, on one side of that line are all those men and women who fancy that the temporal order is the only order

As we most emphatically do …

…  and that material needs are their only needs …

As nobody does!

… and that they may do as they like with the human patrimony. On the other side of that line are all those people who recognize an enduring moral order in the universe, a constant human nature, and high duties toward the order spiritual and the order temporal.

We find no “enduring moral order in the universe”, no “order spiritual”. But we share quite a lot of ideas with Kirk’s conservative – enough to make it obvious that you do not have to be a Christian to be a conservative, even in America.

But we find Kirk’s description incomplete. He has left out an idea that we hold indispensable to Western conservatism. (We stress “Western” conservatism because elsewhere the word has other meanings. In Russia, for example, since 1991, the conservatives are those who want Communism back.)

The missing principle is what Adam Smith called “the natural order of liberty”. We call it the free market. (Karl Marx, who hated it, called it Capitalism.)

When Kirk stresses the importance of private property, the missing principle is hovering there behind his sentences; but though he expatiates on the virtue and necessity of owning property, he does not declare an opinion on a right and wrong way of acquiring it.

Ideally, we would like to be able to go about our daily business without thinking about government, without being aware of government; confident that we are protected by the law, and by our nation’s military might; free to do what we please, always remembering that “the freedom of my fist ends where your nose begins”.  That for us is conservatism.

And here is our portrait of an atheist conservative: a free, self-reliant, rational person; realistically suspicious of human nature; who knows that to prosper he must have something to sell – a good, a skill, a service, an invention – that others will pay him for; who behaves towards others with rational self-restraint, keeping social interaction pleasant with the customs of civility, but being always ready to defend himself with lethal weapons if he has to. He holds justice in high esteem, knowing it is hard to be just but that the effort must never be abandoned. He honors the legacy of freedom and political order that his forebears have won for him. He knows the value of what he inherits, and will preserve it and bequeath it; but he’ll also adapt to changing circumstances, and is not a slave to convention. He knows and fulfills his responsibilities. He expects his fellow-countrymen to tolerate his differences from them as he tolerates theirs from him. He will not want power over others, and not tolerate them having power over him except within limits he consents to. He seeks success and happiness in this world, not expecting to be rewarded or compensated in some rumored “afterlife” on the other side of physical death or political revolution. He does not abase others by pitying them. He does not kneel to anyone, literally or figuratively. He moves at ease in his own country. He says what he wants to say. He tolerates no encroachment on his property. He keeps what he earns (as much as legally possible from government), and spends it as he chooses.

 

 

(Hat-tip for the Russell Kirk essay to our Facebook commenter Robert Wilkins)

Posted under America, Christianity, Commentary, Conservatism, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tagged with , , , ,

This post has 1 comment.

Permalink

A kaleidoscopic shift of the political pattern of Europe 2

New political parties have been rising in many European countries to oppose established policies of both leftist and conservative governments, particularly policies towards the European Union and immigration.

Most of the new parties are on the Right, but recently some have been formed – or have quite suddenly grown from being inconsequential groupings into forces to be reckoned with  – on the Left.

The newly aggressive parties of the Left are mainly in the South, in countries at the receiving end of EU subsidies, angry that the subsidies are not substantial enough.

The new parties of the Right are mainly in the North, in countries at the paying end of the system, angry that they have to subsidize the failing economies of the South.

That sections of the Left should see how badly Europe needs a strategy for survival, should find fault with the EU, and object to unending immigration of dependents into their already hard-pressed welfare states, is a startling development. It means that new political patterns of alignment and opposition are emerging.

In the following article, which we quote from Gatestone, Peter Martino writes about the new parties’ concern with the adverse economic effects of EU membership. He only touches on immigration as a factor in the intensifying discontent which prompts the formation of new political organizations, movements and agendas, but it is in fact quite as hot an issue.

Last week, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) won a landmark victory in the Rochester & Strood by-election. With this win, UKIP secured its second Member of Parliament. The UKIP candidate, Mark Reckless, won 42.1% of the votes, thrashing the Conservatives (34.8%), Labour (16.8%) and the Liberal Democrats (0.9%). It was the first time ever that UKIP stood in Rochester & Strood. The party won votes from all the major parties. The Conservatives lost 14.4% of the votes, Labour 11.7% and the Liberal Democrats a whopping 15.5%.

UKIP is expected to do very well in the British general elections next May. Last month, a poll predicted the party could win up to 25% of the vote in these elections. In the 2010 general elections, the party had only 3.1%.

UKIP stands for the preservation of the Britain’s national identity. It opposes the European Union (EU) and wants Britain to remain a sovereign nation rather than become a state of a federal Europe. The party is also critical of mass immigration, in particular from Eastern Europe. Though Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, carefully avoids the issue of Islam, the party has also become the refuge of voters who worry about Islamization. Above all, however, the party embodies the dissatisfaction of the electorate with the traditional political establishment.

As such, UKIP is part of a broad trend that can currently be perceived all over Western Europe.

In Spain, a poll this week said that Podemos, a brand new party that was established only nine months ago, is currently the largest party in the country with 28.3% of the vote. The governing conservative Partido Popular of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy would finish second with 26.3% and the Socialist Party would get only 20.1%. Three years ago, in the November 2011 general elections, the Partido Popular won 44.6% of the votes.

Unlike UKIP, Podemos is a party that clearly belongs to the left of the political spectrum. Podemos (the Spanish for We can) was founded by “anti-capitalist” academics and trade unionists who want to “oppose the dominating EU politics from the left”. Unlike UKIP, Podemos does not want to abolish the EU. On the contrary, since Spain is receiving billions of euros in EU subsidies, a majority of the Spaniards clearly want their country to remain an EU member state.

However, the party opposes the austerity policies that the EU is imposing on Spain as a prerequisite for the continuation of the flow of EU subsidies. Both the Spanish Socialist Party and Prime Minister Rajoy’s Partido Popular are perceived by voters as implementing the same set of EU-prescribed policies.

In this regard, Podemos does resemble UKIP, which also accuses the British political establishment of simply implementing EU mandated policies. In Britain’s case, the dissatisfaction with the EU stems mostly from British taxpayers having to pay billions to the EU, which are then transferred to countries in the south of Europe [such as Spain -ed], where governments use them to fund welfare programs. In this sense, the rise of leftist tax-and-spend parties (or rather tax-other-countries-and-spend parties), such as Podemos, reinforces the rise of parties such as UKIP in the north of Europe.

Indeed, all along the Mediterranean, parties opposing the EU-mandated austerity policies are growing spectacularly.

One of the keynote speakers at Podemos’ recent first-ever party congress was Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Greece’s neo-communist party Syriza. In last May’s European elections, Syriza became Greece’s biggest party with 26.5% of the votes, ahead of the governing Nea Demokratia party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Syriza draws on the same kind of sentiments as Podemos and is popular for exactly the same reasons.

The same is true of Italy’s Five Star Movement, led by the comedian Beppe Grillo, which, with 21.2% of the vote, became the country’s second largest party in last May’s European elections.

And the same is even true for the Front National of Marine Le Pen in France. Ms Le Pen claims that without the euro, the EU’s common currency, there would be “no need for austerity”. Drawing on anti-EU sentiments, the Front National became the largest French party in last May’s European elections with 24.8% of the vote.

The popularity of these parties is still rising. A recent poll in France revealed that Marine Le Pen might win the next French presidential elections, not just in the first round, but also in the decisive second round. It is the first time ever that the FN leads in a presidential poll against France’s two major parties, the Socialist PS and the Center-Right UMP.

In the countries to the north, however, the popularity of the parties opposing the EU subsidization of the southern countries is rising equally spectacularly.

In the Netherlands, the anti-establishment Party for Freedom (PVV) of Geert Wilders is currently the biggest party in the polls. Wilders has consistently opposed the bailing out of countries such as Greece and Spain with Dutch taxpayers’ money.

In neighboring Germany, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a party established last year to oppose eurozone bailouts, is shaking up politics with its astonishing wins in recent state elections.

In Sweden, the Sweden Democrats (SD), opposing both immigration and the EU, won 13% of the vote in last September’s general elections, but their popularity keeps rising. Last week, an SD spokesman said the party is currently expected to win up to 18% of the vote.

All across Europe, the electorate is deeply dissatisfied and disillusioned with both the Conservative and the Social-Democrat parties of the political establishment. Voters no longer see much difference between the traditional political protagonists, who are perceived as imposing an EU agenda that, for various reasons, is seen as bad for the country.

In Europe judging by the polls, political landslides are on the way.

The French pandemonium 4

Today we post under Pages (listed at the top of our margin) the next essay in the series by Jillian Becker titled The Darkness of This World (Part Two).

The title of the new essay is The French Pandemonium (One).

It continues a discussion of the Romantic movement which – the series argues – arises from the same need in the human psyche that requires religion. In France, the most influential poets, novelists, essayists and philosophers have been those who have cultivated rebellion against what they call “bourgeois society”. Some of the most eminent of them bluntly declare that their rebellion is a choice of Evil.

Of course not all the French writers of the post-Enlightenment centuries have been Romantics or conscious advocates of Evil. But those who “chose Evil” stoked the fires of destructive rebellion in generations of European intellectuals and have had by far the greater effect on history. In the twentieth century they became so popular and powerful that they helped create the New Left; incited seasons of violent protest demonstrations on city streets throughout Europe and even on other continents; inspired the formation of European terrorist gangs; and implanted their anti-civilization ideology as a new dogma in schools and academies throughout the Western world, including America. As the series continues it will explain how the anti-Americanism of the Left, even in America itself, springs from the European intellectual movement against our civilization.

Here is the first part of the essay:

A pandemonium is a gathering of all the demons or devils. Devils are expected to be noisy, so the word has come to mean a deafening cacophony of shrieking voices.

What the voices of this pandemonium clamor for, is “Evil”. It is not an insult to call them demons; it is an acknowledgment of their choice. They choose Evil, they call for Evil, they acclaim Evil, they are for Evil.

And what are they against? They are against What Is. They are against our civilization. They are against the bourgeois, whom they hold responsible for everything that’s wrong with our civilization: free enterprise industrialization; liberal democracy; parliamentarianism; conservatism.

It was in France that the clamor was loudest among certain poets and novelists and philosophers to épater le bourgeois – shock the bourgeoisin the nineteenth century, reaching a crescendo between the world wars of the twentieth century, rising again after the end of the second. A racket of foaming hate; a literary hue and cry after the middle-class citizen.

As you may have noticed, the bourgeoisie is, in fact, the all-achieving class. Almost everything of value since the Enlightenment, including the Enlightenment itself, has issued from the middle-class; every invention, every discovery, every advance, with so few exceptions they can be counted on a few of your fingers. But to the demons of poetry and philosophy and revolution, the bourgeois was everything that was wrong with Life: the bourgeois with his politesse, his prudence, his order and cleanliness, his comfortable house, his good-quality clothes, his well-stocked larder, his prosperity, his faithfulness to duty, his thrifty habits … “No, no,” the scornful voices yell, interrupting me. “Its not just that, it’s … it’s … it’s his complacency, his bad taste, his narrow-mindedness, his privilege, his exploitation of underdogs, his obsession with material things – and his stupid sexual inhibition. Those, don’t you see, are the unbearable traits that make him a worthy target of our artistic fury. He does not, cannot feel as we do. Down with him! Grind him into the dust! ”

But it is the againstness itself that characterizes the demons. If every one of those despicable things about the bourgeois were overcome or destroyed (as every one of them was in Communist Russia), and civilization wholly laid to waste, the urge would rage on, its hunger unappeased, hunting its everlasting prey: What Is. To them, as to the Gnostics of old, everything that is here is bad; the good lies beyond.

Whatever words have been used to describe the Paris fashions in scorn – modernism, post-modernism, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction – they are all expressions of rebellion. To be a rebel is to be heroic. Despised and rejected by the bourgeois herd, the rebel is a martyr to his deep passion for art, his higher vision of a better world.

To protest against the bourgeois idea of what is good, the demons advocated doing whatever the bourgeois considered evil. They placed themselves in a French counter-tradition, a line that runs from Rousseau with his belief in the primacy of feeling and sentiment, through Robespierre with his Terror, the Marquis de Sade with his penchant for sexual torture, the nineteenth century poets Charles Baudelaire with his Flowers of Evil and Arthur Rimbaud with his Season in Hell, and on through the intellectual trend-setters – whom we will come to – of twentieth century French literature and their continuing effects. There are still reigning French demons in the twenty-first century. It is a dynasty of the defiant. …

You can find all of it here.

What conservatives should do now 16

A new American conservatism? It’s not here yet – not even on the horizon – but we’re thinking about how and what it might be.

[Added after discussion in the comments section with Azgael:] We atheist conservatives are, or could be, an incipient movement. We must be prepared to say what we stand for, and not seem to be locked in the past. So we invite readers to tell us their thoughts. Help us define a new Conservatism for a new era.

We’ll start with what should be kept out of a future libertarian-conservative manifesto.

Sex and gender. There’s no need for the sex and gender choices of individuals to be treated as matters of political importance. Not constantly, anyway. Hardly ever, actually. We all know there are many ways people seek sexual satisfaction, but they are not res publica (public affairs). Needless to say there is, always has been and always will be, homosexuality, heterosexuality, bestiality, polygamy, orgies, sado-masochism, pornography, rape, pedophilia and pederasty, and good old fashioned procreation in the marriage bed. All fine and dandy – except the bestiality, the rape, the pedophilia and the pederasty. Let consenting adults do what they will with what’s their own. Only, if it should happen that a child is conceived by someone in the course of her pursuit of erotic delight – a biological effect that happens often enough to keep the world populated – then the privacy is terminated. The advent of a third party, not able to express consent or refusal, alters the story. It becomes a matter of ethics, and so, marginally, of politics (public affairs).

Religion. Religion should be as private as sex. For many it is, and they should be left to enjoy or endure it as they choose. It will not cause public offense unless it is constantly bruited about. But organized religion is egregious. With luck it will die out. To the non-religious, public worship by congregants might be viewed as comparable to orgies; an emotional – or the religious would say “spiritual” – equivalent of sexual communion. Public expressions of an eroticism of the “spirit”. A pornography of superstition. There would be absolutely no loss to any consistent and reasonable set of political principles if religion were to be totally cut out of them. (Some political ideologies, such as Islam, are formed only to serve a religion, and therefore should have no place in the political forum whatsoever.)

As for what should be put in, there are first the everlasting principles:

Individual freedom

Free-market economy

Small government

Low taxes

Strong defense

Upholding and defending the Constitution

Defending states’ rights

What should be added to them?

 *

Soon now the Republicans will be in control of both the House and the Senate. What will they do with the power they have regained?

Here are some sketchy notes for new policies. The need for them is urgent because of the damage done to America by the far left pro-Islam world-government-favoring regime tragically elected to power in 2008:

Secure the borders and scrupulously enforce existing immigration laws.

Withdraw from the United Nations and all its agencies, confiscate its headquarters at Turtle Bay, and pay not a dime more to assist or promote any of its programs and purposes.

Cancel every treaty to do with arms and the sea that puts the US at a disadvantage.

Facilitate the fullest possible development of energy resources, especially natural gas and shale oil.

Stop negotiating with terrorist groups in the Middle East, and stop keeping the Palestinians as a beggar nation on handouts.

Support allies and punish enemies.

Prohibit the application of any foreign system of law.

Repeal the laughingly-so-called Affordable Care Act, and let there be nation-wide competition among health insurers.

Hugely reform education.

Lift and curb regulations on business.

Abandon the minimum wage.

Hugely reduce all taxes. Introduce flat rate income tax. Tax forms, 2 pages max.

Hugely reduce entitlements and phase them out.

Reduce the size of government.

Abolish the Fed, the EPA, Fannie and Freddie … Oh the list of institutions and agencies needing to be abolished is very long. But the Fed must be the first to go. Abolitions will reduce the size of government.

Overhaul the IRS to make it serve the nation and not terrify everyone.

Root out corruption in government as far as possible.

*

Readers are invited to expand, reduce, correct or re-write these first-thought suggestions of ours.

Posted under Conservatism, United States, US Constitution by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tagged with ,

This post has 16 comments.

Permalink

Leaving religion for good 6

We dearly love an article we can enjoy examining critically. Best of all we like an opinion that we partly agree with and partly do not.

This article is by Star Parker, whose columns at Townhall on political issues we generally like. And here  again we have no quarrel with her political views. It is her conviction that religion is necessary and good that sparks our opposition.

A new Pew Research Center survey of opinion about the importance of religion in American life shows an interesting picture.

Over the last 12 years, the percentage of Americans that think religion is losing influence in American life has increased dramatically. In 2002, 52 percent of those surveyed said religion is losing influence. In 2014, 72 percent of Americans said religion is losing influence.

To us, of course, that’s good news.

However, while increasing numbers of Americans feel religion is losing influence, most feel this is a bad thing.

Fifty-six percent say that the waning influence of religion is a bad thing compared to 12 percent that say it is a good thing.

In a survey done by Pew in 2012, 58 percent of Americans said religion is “very important” and only 18 percent said it is not “too important” or “not important at all”.

This raises some interesting questions.

One clear one is why, when Americans think religion is very important, has the percentage of Americans who think religion is losing influence in American life increased almost 40 percent over the last 14 years?

Another one is what are the political implications? Certainly, in the Republican Party, there is an increasingly vocal libertarian leaning faction that sees religion as costly political baggage.

Yes – and that is one of the libertarian views with which we are in strong sympathy.

I attribute why almost three fourths of Americans feel that religion is losing influence in American life, while most feel this is a bad thing, to the law of unintended consequences.

She goes on to describe the disaster of welfare policies. We too think they have been – and continue to be – disastrous.

Many Americans have been unwittingly supporting policies for more than a half-century that they thought were good ideas and consistent with their values which have been neither. Now more Americans are beginning to appreciate the damage that has been done and how far the nation has strayed from their own sense of right and wrong.

Take the example of welfare.

When Aid to Families with Dependent Children program was dramatically expanded in the 1960s, it seemed morally correct for government to get more aggressive in the lives of the poor, particularly poor black women. … Massive increases of government in the lives of low-income black families were accompanied by a tripling of single parent households and out-of wedlock births, laying the groundwork for intergenerational poverty.

Right. Those have been and are the causes of “intergenerational poverty”.

But we omitted a sentence. It was this:

Who appreciated that the program would undermine the very religious, traditional values that keep families intact, essential for the work ethic that leads people out poverty?

It may well have been the case that Church-taught values contributed to a belief that children should be born to married parents. Many held that belief also because it is plainly best for children to be raised by a mother and a father. The principle is good whether endorsed or not by a religion.

We contend that it is because the state took over the responsibility of providing for children that men could so easily opt out of the traditional role of bread-winner to their families. It was government incursion into private life that did the damage to believers and non-believers alike. Their religion or lack of it had nothing to do with the “unintended consequences” of welfarism.

Now it’s happening in the whole country. As we’ve gotten more government telling Americans how to save for retirement, how to deal with their health care, how to educate their children – American families have been damaged and out-of-wedlock births have increased six-fold from 1960 to 42 percent today. Government has displaced family.

Right.

Some say today we have competing views about the role of government.

Conservatives and progressives do have different views about the role of government. That is not a matter of opinion, but a fact.

I would say we have competing views about what life is about.

Yes. We think life can be “about” anything that free individuals want to make it. Star Parker thinks that life was created, and the creator had a purpose, and that purpose, though impossible to define, is somehow helped along by this or that set of religious doctrines. About which set of doctrines in particular, there are “competing views” among the multitude of religions, each of which claims to teach “the truth”.

One view – a decidedly secular, materialistic view – sees no mystery in life.

We have a decidedly secular view – materialistic too in that we see the need to sustain our physical existence as well and as pleasantly as we possibly can. But we do not think there is no mystery.  On the contrary, we are aware that humankind knows very little. To learn more, to explore what we do not know about our universe and ourselves is the most exciting adventure of our conscious lives, and discovery is the engine of all progress.

Pretending to know that there is a purpose to life known only to a supernatural being who created it but chooses to keep his purpose secret, is to opt out of the great adventure.

The left wing version, which dominates the Democratic Party, says government can solve all of life’s problems.

Or most of them. And it’s a wrong and dangerous belief.

The hard-core libertarian version, found among some Republicans — says just leave everybody alone — you don’t bother me and I won’t bother you — and everything will work out for the best.

That is an absurd encapsulation of the libertarian view. No intelligent libertarian thinks that if people are left to make their own choices, if they are self-reliant, “everything will work out for the best”. Every individual will make his own successes and failures – and take responsibility for them. He knows that government cannot solve “all life’s problems” – and, what’s more, does a pretty poor job of solving the one problem it exists to solve: how best to protect liberty.

The other view maintains that you can’t have a free society that is not also a virtuous society.

A free society starts off with the virtue of being a free society. Freedom needs to be protected by law, and, if it is, crime will be punished, foreign enemies will be kept away, and the people can prosper. How good they are in their private lives remains forever dependent on individual character and choice.

It was what George Washington meant when he said in his farewell address that “of all the dispensations and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports”.

We are sorry we can only partially agree with George Washington on this. Morality, yes. Religion? What religion has a history that can withstand moral criticism? Some – Christianity and Islam in particular – have a history of carnage and cruelty. That Christianity preaches against both make its actual record all the worse.

It is my sense that more Americans are beginning to wake up to the unintended, damaging consequences of the often well-intended government policies they have been supporting for many years.

More Americans are beginning to appreciate that we can’t separate our fiscal and economic problems from our moral problems and that if we want to recapture our freedom and prosperity, we must recapture our virtue.

Certainly. But we won’t do that by returning into the mental darkness of religion. We can do it by limiting the powers of government and recovering the idea of liberty as the highest value. That is political and moral virtue.

Forward to the past 11

What does a conservative in the US most want to conserve? We would say: A commitment to liberty, the founding principle of his country. American conservatives may differ from each other on questions of religion, foreign affairs, entitlements and the economic “safety-net”, homosexual marriage and abortion, even on defense, but if they are not loyal to the Constitution and the idea of individual freedom that it enshrines, they are not true conservatives.

In Britain too, conservatives are dedicated to the defense of the traditional and hard-won liberties of the people.

In Russia, being a conservative means something different. The very opposite. What Russian conservatives want to conserve is their long and almost completely unbroken tradition of tyranny. The quarrel within their ranks would now, in post-Soviet times, be chiefly over whether they want a return to the Red Tyranny of Bolshevism, or the older tradition of Tsarist oppression, where cause for national pride may more confidently be found.

Owen Matthews, author of  Stalin’s Children, writes in the Spectator (UK) about a conservative Russian military leader:

Strange times throw up strange heroes — and in Russia’s proxy war with Ukraine, none is more enigmatic than the Donetsk rebel leader Igor Girkin, better known by his nom de guerre of Igor Strelkov.

In a few short months, Strelkov has gone from being an obscure military re-enactor to the highest-profile rebel leader in eastern Ukraine. But at the same time Strelkov’s fame and outspoken criticism of Vladimir Putin for failing to sufficiently support the rebels has earned him the enmity of the Kremlin. Moreover, Strelkov’s brand of sentimental ultra-nationalism, extreme Orthodoxy and Russian Imperial nostalgia offer a frightening glimpse into one of Russia’s possible futures.

In the West, we are used to seeing Putin cast as a dangerous adventurer and nationalist. But to Strelkov, and to the millions of Russians who have come to admire him, Putin isn’t nearly nationalist enough.

Within weeks of his arrival in eastern Ukraine in May this year, apparently on his own initiative, Strelkov quickly became the highest-profile rebel leader thanks to his discipline and military bearing. A veteran of wars in Bosnia, Transnistria and Chechnya, Strelkov is a reserve colonel in the Russian army and a former (and possibly current) officer in Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU. With his clipped moustache, pressed fatigues and careful charm, Strelkov styles himself on a pre–revolutionary Tsarist officer. In May he mustered a 2,000-strong local defence force in Slavyansk, banned his troops from swearing and ordered two of his own men to be summarily executed for looting.

He wrote a manifesto calling his troops “an Orthodox army who are proud that we serve not the golden calf but our Lord Jesus Christ” and declared that “swearing is blasphemy, and a Russian warrior cannot use the language of the enemy. It demeans us spiritually, and will lead the army to defeat”.

Russian state television built Strelkov up as a hero. The nationalist writer Egor Prosvirnin praised him as the “Russian God of War” who “rinks the blood of foreign mercenaries to the last drop, and then asks for more”. …

And then, in mid-August, Strelkov mysteriously resigned his post as “defence minister” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic — along with two other Russian citizens who had been the civilian heads of the rebel Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. All three rebel leaders were replaced by Ukrainian citizens.

The most obvious explanation for the reshuffle is that Moscow is preparing a negotiated settlement where the Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine — or Novo-Rossiya, “New Russia”, in Russian nationalist parlance — will be given some degree of autonomy within Ukraine. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — from young soldiers’ Instagram selfies tagged to locations inside Ukraine to the Russian regular soldiers taken prisoners of war on Monday by Kiev’s troops — Moscow has also continued to insist that it is not a combatant in Ukraine. Clearly, having Russian citizens at the helm of supposedly autonomous rebel republics and their armed forces was a diplomatic inconvenience to the Kremlin which needed to be fixed — and pressure was put on Strelkov and his cronies to quit.

But there’s another, deeper meaning to Strelkov’s fall from favour. Though he’s often portrayed as a stooge of Moscow, Strelkov has in fact been consistently critical of the Kremlin’s failure to act decisively to annex eastern Ukraine as it annexed Crimea in spring. “Having taken Crimea, Putin began a revolution from the top,” Strelkov wrote in June. “But if we do not support [this revolution] now, its failure will sweep aside both him and the country.”

Strelkov’s close associate Igor Ivanov, the head of the rebel army’s political department, has also furiously denounced the “Chekist-oligarchic regime” of Vladimir Putin and has also predicted that Putin will soon fall, leaving only the army and the church to save Russia from chaos.

This mix of militarism, religion and a mystical faith in Holy Russia’s imperial destiny to rule over lesser nations has deep roots. Ivanov was until recently head of the Russian All-Military Union, or ROVS, an organisation originally founded by the White Russian General Baron Pyotr Wrangel in 1924 after the victory of the Bolsheviks in the civil war. Its guiding motive was to preserve the Tsarist ideals of God, Tsar and Fatherland. For much of the 20th century, ROVS was the preserve of elderly emigré fantasists — before a new generation of post-Soviet nationalists like Ivanov breathed new life into the organisation as a home for Russian ultra-nationalists who hate Putin’s brand of crony capitalism.

A similar outfit is the Narodny Sobor, or People’s Assembly, which describes itself as an “Orthodox-Patriotic organisation devoted to fighting ‘liberasts’ and western values, to promoting Orthodoxy, and to preserving the traditional family”, according to a recent study by Professor Paul Robinson of the University of Ottawa. In Russia, the Narodny Sobor has, along with the Russian Orthodox church, successfully campaigned for a tsunami of conservative legislation to be passed by the Duma, from banning swearing on television and in films to prohibiting the spreading of “homosexual propaganda”. The head of the Narodny Sobor’s Ukrainian branch is Igor Druz — a senior political advisor to Strelkov who has denounced the Kiev government as “pederasts and drug addicts”.

On the face of it, Strelkov and his ilk and Putin should be on the same side. They share a nostalgia for a lost Russian greatness — indeed Strelkov has a degree in history and was until recently an enthusiastic military re-enactor, playing White Guard and second world war officers. And this year, in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, Putin has abandoned years of hard-edged pragmatism and economic prudence and moved towards the kind of mystical, Orthodox nationalism so beloved of the ROVS and Narodny Sobor crowd.

Yet as Putin prepares to sign off on some kind of compromise peace deal with the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, there will be millions of Russians brainwashed by months of state television’s patriotic propaganda who will agree with Strelkov that Moscow is selling the rebels down the river.

Strelkov himself has little chance of becoming a serious opposition figure to Putin; he is too stiff and too weird for public politics. But Putin’s main challenger, when he comes, will be someone of Strelkov’s stamp.

We tend to think of Vladimir Putin as being most politically vulnerable from the left — from the liberal, western-orientated professionals who came out in their hundreds of thousands on the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg three years ago to protest at Putin’s third term. But in truth Putin’s real vulnerability is from the right — from the racist football fans who rioted unchecked through central Moscow in 2010; from prophets of a Russian-led Eurasian empire such as Alexander Dugin, who was in the radical nationalist opposition to Putin before falling temporarily into step with the Kremlin in the wake of the Crimea campaign; and from militaristic ultra-conservatives on the Russian religious right.

So for the countries of Eastern Europe emancipated from Russian servitude barely a quarter of a century ago, there is not only the growing threat of re-subjugation, but the probability that it will be applied according to the whims of a madman, a religious fanatic living out fantasies of Tsardom and limitless imperial expansion by military means.

Left down, right up 1

A video made by conservative Rod Shelton in strong attack mode. (“God” is mentioned in passing, but is moved along briskly.)

 

(Hat-tip to our Facebook commenter Ramon Homan)

Good thinking 6

Daniel Hannan speaks as intelligently as always in this interview. We are somewhat less favorably impressed by the present Conservative government of Britain than he is, but  we fully agree with everything he says about America – how great it was, how wrong it’s going. And we also like what he says about the EU. Asked by the interviewer if he see the Euro in danger of collapsing, Hannan replies, “No, I see the Euro in danger of surviving.”

 

(Hat-tip Don L.)

Libertarian conservatism 4

From time to time visitors to this website or our Facebook page query the idea – even the possibility – of there being such a thing as atheist conservatism. They are – almost always, as far as we can make out – Americans whose understanding is that the word “conservative” denotes Christian conservatism. To them, therefore, to speak of  “atheist conservatism” is to commit a contradiction in terms. Some have called it an oxymoron.

In Europe too, conservatism has a Christian coloration. Conservative political parties usually declare themselves to be Christian –  for example, the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) of Germany. But their support does not come only from Christians. And in Britain the established Church of England has been called “the Conservative Party at prayer”, but the party does not exclude members of other Christian denominations or other religions, or the non-religious.

Yet it is an American conservatism that we embrace. It is faithfulness to the Constitution, to the essential idea that the United States was intended to embody as a nation: the idea of individual liberty protected by the rule of law.

The shortest answer we give to those who accuse us of being self-contradictory is to tell them what our prime principles are:

  • individual freedom
  • a free market economy
  • small government
  • low taxes
  • strong defense

And we point out that those are core principles of American conservatism. The Constitution – southern state critics please be reminded – does not require citizens to be Christian, or religious at all.

Just as often, perhaps even more often, we are told that we cannot be both conservative and libertarian: that the two traditions are separate and even inimical to each other, to the point of being mutually exclusive. Even if that were  true (and we don’t think it is), we consider it unnecessary to take tradition into account. The issue needs to be looked at philosophically, not historically. Our conservatism, holding the firmly conservative principles we have listed, is manifestly a conservatism of liberty.

And we think it is now, more than ever before, that the libertarian view should direct the political agenda of conservatism. A heavy counterweight is needed to bring America back from its tipping over into collectivism by the Left. Individual freedom urgently needs to be saved.

What is stopping conservatives from accepting libertarianism as its future? The libertarians themselves. Frequently, their public statements reveal them to be inexcusably ignorant of world affairs. They often advocate naive isolationism. They seem to lack a sense of what matters. The legalization of drugs could be wise and necessary, but it is not worth making a hullabaloo about  when jihad is being waged against us. A person should arguably be able to marry any other person or persons – or things – that they choose, but it is much more important that America should remain the world’s sole superpower.

John Hinderaker also thinks that this should be “the libertarian moment”. And he too reproaches libertarians with an underdeveloped sense of what matters to the existence, liberty, safety, and prosperity of the nation. 

He writes at PowerLine:

Every major strand of American conservatism includes a strong libertarian streak, because the value of liberty is fundamental to just about all conservative thought. But today, especially, is said to be the libertarians’ moment. What once was a fringe movement, politically speaking, has moved front and center in our political life.

And yet, in my view, libertarians of both the capital L and small l varieties punch below their weight. They have not contributed as much as they should to the conservative movement. This is partly because libertarians tend to founder on foreign policy, where many are merely modern-day isolationists. But it is also because they have tended to focus on secondary, or tertiary, issues of domestic policy.

A couple of years ago I was invited to a gathering on behalf of Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico who then was a libertarian candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I was well disposed toward him, but when he started talking, his first subject was legalization of drugs. Now he is the CEO of a marijuana company. Rand Paul is probably the leading libertarian at the moment; he purports to take seriously the threat that someone drinking coffee in an American cafe will be struck by a drone-fired missile.

American liberty is indeed under attack, and a libertarian movement is needed more than ever. But the threat to freedom is not drug laws or drone attacks.

The principal threat is the administrative state, which increasingly hems in everything we do and depends hardly at all on the will of voters. …

Calvin Coolidge, who knew the Progressives well and understood how antithetical their vision of government is to America’s founding principles [said]:

It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter [the Constitution]. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Today we labor under an administrative state that has metastasized far beyond anything Coolidge could have imagined. It constrains our freedoms, it lays waste to our economy, it has largely rendered Congress irrelevant, and it threatens to make just about anyone a criminal, since no one can possibly keep track of all of the myriad regulations with which we are encumbered. And let’s not forget that the administrative state is run by liberals, for liberals.

Despite the fact that it is antithetical to the Constitution and to American traditions, there is little opposition to the administrative state as such. Conventional politicians suggest that regulations can be made less irrational and less burdensome – a good idea, certainly – but hardly anyone questions the fundamental concept of Congress delegating its powers to unelected and mostly unaccountable agencies that are charged with managing just about every aspect of our lives. Nearly everyone considers the administrative state, as such, to be inevitable.

Why don’t libertarians stake out a “radical” position on domestic policy? Why not argue, not just for a moderation in the inevitable drift toward a more and more powerful administrative state, but for a return to the Constitution’s central principle – the very first words of Article I – that “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…”, a Congress that is accountable to the people.

A battle is being fought for the liberties of the American people and, frankly, it isn’t going well. The fight has little or nothing to do with drugs and drones. If libertarians are serious about preserving and expanding liberty, they should join the fight that matters. A libertarian movement that focuses on a rollback of the administrative state would be “radical,” but it also would put libertarians in the vanguard, not on the fringe, of American conservatism.

The transformation of America into a communist state … can it be stopped? 5

David Horowitz was a “red-diaper baby”. In his own words:

I was a leftist as early as I can remember. Raised in a Communist family and surrounded by radicals my entire childhood, I could hardly be anything else”.

– Until

A  friend of mine named Betty Van Platter was murdered by the Black Panthers in 1974. … I  was forced to question my most basic beliefs, and that began my long and difficult journey to sanity.”  

We’ve just received a booklet from the David Horowitz Freedom Center, titled Rush Limbaugh’s Conversation with David Horowitz. (The whole of the conversation, which took place six months ago in November, 2013, can be read here.)

The following  are extracts from it:  

Horowitz: … According to a Pew poll, 49% percent of young Americans have a favorable view of socialism. What is socialism? It is a system that leads to mass misery, mass impoverization, and human slaughter. That’s what it means. Yet almost half of the young think it’s benign …

RUSH: … I look at so-called conservative commentators in Washington who seem to be content to commentate, but they don’t have any interest in beating this back. I don’t want to mention names, but most of them are that way. Same thing with the Republican Party. You come from the left. You’re one of the founders of the New Left. You’ve emerged; you were in the inner circle. You’ve spent much of your career trying to explain who these people are, the destructive, vicious malice that they have.

HOROWITZ: Yes.

RUSH: And you don’t think — this is astounding to me — you don’t think that the Republicans or conservatives really yet comprehend the seriousness of the threat.

HOROWITZ: No.

RUSH: Wow.

HOROWITZ: No. Otherwise they wouldn’t be squabbling among themselves so much. There’s another thing going on, and that is that the left controls the language. Our universities, our schools, our mainstream media are gone [into the hands of the left] — so if you pick a real fight with the left, you get tarred and feathered, as you know all too well. Conservatives are brought up in a healthy way; they mind their reputations, they don’t want to be bloodied, they don’t want to be looked at as kooks and extremists, which are the terms of abuse that are used.

RUSH: That’s true.

HOROWITZ: Obama is a compulsive, habitual liar. He makes Bill Clinton look like a Boy Scout. Clinton spun things and he did lie about something very personal and embarrassing to him, but Obama lies about everything, and all the time. And yet it’s taken five years for people to start saying this. Including conservatives. Take so-called single payer health care. Why do we use phrases like “single payer?” It’s communism! If the state controls your access to health care, which is what this is about, they control you.This is a fundamental battle for individual freedom, which is what conservatives are about, or should be. But who’s saying this about Obama’s plan to organize health care along communist lines?

RUSH: Let’s talk about persuasion a second. I’ve got true believers in my audience, and I’ve also got elements of the low-information or the swing-voter segment, and then a few leftists who listen. One thing I have discovered over the course of my career is that whenever I’ve used the word “communism” to describe, say, typical modern-day liberals, people say, “Oh, come on, Rush! They’re not communists!” It ends up being counterproductive, because I have found people don’t want to believe that about somebody like Obama. How do we go about persuading people that it is what it is?

HOROWITZ: That’s a very good question. … I think the language problem is a very serious one. I once tried to launch the word “neo-communist.” We talk about neo-fascists, so how about neo-communists? But that doesn’t work. People look at you as a relic if you use the term. But you have to at least say what their agenda is, and their agenda is controlling, is destroying individual freedom. That’s the way I would do it. By continually reminding people of what their agenda is. It’s anti-individual freedom. You can’t talk about the national debt just as an accounting problem. It’s taking away the freedom of future generations. It means that you have to work for the government instead of yourself. Currently we work something like half our lives for the state. Every other day we’re working for the government instead of for ourselves. What Obama is doing is diminishing the realm of freedom. Conservatives need to keep bringing that up all the time. …

RUSH: You pointed out that Democrats are always in lockstep, in contrast to Republicans, who are all over the place rhetorically and strategically. You said, and I’m quoting here, “The result is that a morally bankrupt, politically tyrannical, economically destructive [Democrat] Party is able to set the course of an entire nation and put it on the road to disaster.” David, people always ask, my callers ask me, “Why don’t the Republicans do ‘x’? Why don’t they do this? Why don’t they do that?” So let me ask you why. Aside from what you’ve said, that there’s a fear of being castigated by the media, mischaracterized. … Republicans simply don’t want to have mean things said about them. They want to be liked by the people who run Washington, D.C. But I don’t even see any pushback from the Republican Party. They’ll go after Ted Cruz and they’ll go after Sarah Palin and they’ll go after Mike Lee, but they won’t go after Obama.

HOROWITZ: Exactly. I have never seen Republicans conduct such bloody warfare as they do against conservatives. They don’t do that to Democrats, ever. And I think it’s great that all the people that you mentioned, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, are people, finally, who don’t care what The Washington Post says, don’t care what The New York Times says, and don’t care what the Republican establishment says. That’s the way it has to be done. I will tell you that the big difference between the left and the right that I saw when I came into the conservative movement 30 years ago was that the right had no ground army. I watched as the Democratic Party was pushed to the left by the activists in the streets — the MoveOn.org people, the Netroots — until it’s now just a left-wing Party. It was Howard Dean, a 60s leftover, who launched the anti-Iraq war campaign that shifted the whole Democratic Party. But on the Republican side, there was nobody pushing from the right. There was no ground war, no force pushing on Republicans from the grassroots. Now we have the Tea Party.

RUSH: You come from the belly of the beast. …  You lived this stuff. You were a leader of the left in your youth. Talk about MoveOn.org — these are average Americans. They may make $50,000 a year. The Netroots, they’re a bunch of people in their pajamas, sitting there blogging and posting. What do they think is in it for them? They are not people Obama is prospering.

HOROWITZ: What’s in it for them is the fact that progressivism is a religion, or a crypto-religion. Like religious people, they believe the world is a fallen place. But they also believe that they can be its saviors. Salvation and redemption are … going to come … from the movement they are part of, from the organized left. What they get out of this is the consolation of religion. They get a sense of personal worth; they get a meaning to their lives. That’s what drives them. It’s not money. It’s much more powerful. When Whittaker Chambers left communism, he said, “I’ve left the winning side for the losing side.” Why did he think that? Because communists have ideas they’re willing to die for, and conservatives don’t. Conservatives have to get that idea. They have to understand that their freedom will be lost if we don’t stop the left.

RUSH: About stopping them. …  Can the right triumph ever again?

HOROWITZ: I remain an optimist, which brings me to the second problem with conservatives. In addition to their decency and their not wanting to make enemies and not wanting to turn politics into war, they’re fatalists. If you think you’re going to lose, you can’t win. That’s very basic. I believe there’s a lot of hope. The ideas of the left are bankrupt. They don’t work. We’re seeing this now with Obamacare. Ludwig von Mises wrote a book in 1922, titled: Socialism. He explained that you can’t centrally plan a large economy, and he showed why. 1922. That’s almost 100 years ago, yet the Democratic Party rammed through Obamacare, ignoring what the last 100 years has proved. They’re going to organize the health care of 300 million Americans with their computers. It’s lunacy. Yet it’s the policy of the whole Democratic Party. They’ve staked their political future on this. … To sell Obamacare, they claimed — lied — that it’s to cover the uninsured. But it doesn’t even do that. Everything they said about Obamacare is a lie. Why? Because their real agenda is not health care. It’s to create a socialist state. To do that they need comprehensive control over people’s lives. I never thought I’d be saying this, because I didn’t see it even in a remote future, but we’re on the brink of a one-party state if they were to succeed. If you are ready to use the IRS politically, if you have access to every individual’s financial and health care information, and if your spy agency can monitor all communications, you don’t need a secret police to destroy your opponents. Anybody you want to destroy, you’ve got enough information on them and control to stop them. That’s how close we are to a totalitarian state. They want to control your life — for your own good of course — even to the point of whether you can buy Big Gulps. That’s not incidental.

RUSH: No, it’s not. Now when this kind of thing happens … I wonder about the average American, somebody who’s not an activist like you or me. Do they not see this, and if they don’t, how can they be made to see it?

HOROWITZ: I don’t think they see it. Most people are averse to politics and don’t pay that much attention. However, Obamacare is going to make them pay attention because his plan affects so many people. You have to start using moral language against these people. I want to hear our guys saying, “This is a threat to individual freedom. You are attacking the freedom of every American when you run up the debt like this. You are attacking the freedom of every American when you put them all in a government-controlled program like this. Government should not have this information.”  …  Every time they have a program that hurts individual liberty, we need to stop talking about it as though it was just about money. The money figures are so big, trillions, nobody can even grasp them, unless they’re very involved in the economy and understand it — and then they probably are Republicans. …  

RUSH: … Freedom requires personal responsibility. …

HOROWITZ: … We need to use a moral language. Notice when the left attacks, it’s always using moral language. Racist, sexist, homophobic, whatever. These attacks sting. We don’t use language like that. We need to. It’s they who are racist. …  Why are we letting them get away with their destruction of inner-city minority communities? Detroit, Chicago: why weren’t the disasters Democrats have visited on these cities huge in the Republican campaign last time? Democrats control these cities, they’ve controlled them for half a century and more. They’re ruining, destroying the lives of young black and Hispanic kids in these cities, and poor whites there as well. They’re 100 percent responsible for that, yet we never mention it. It is beyond me. … They don’t want to be at war, and particularly a moral war, with other Americans. But that is the reality. The left has already made it that. Republicans are treated as though they’re of the Party of Satan. That goes with the religious nature of leftist beliefs. Progressives believe that they are creating the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and that people who oppose them are the Party of the Devil. That’s the way they fight. We have to use that kind of language. Fight fire with fire.

RUSH: You’re nailing it. You came up with something … that I think is worth repeating, and to me it’s brilliant. I would never have seen it had you not pointed it out. You write that the fall of soviet communism had the unforeseen effect of freeing leftists from the burden of defending failed Marxist states, which in turn allowed them to emerge as a major force in American life. That’s so right on. The failure of communism, ironically, led to a rebirth of it in this country. We wipe it out in the Soviet Union, and a shining example of its atrocities goes away, and it becomes a tougher sell to educate people what it is. 

HOROWITZ: Exactly, and leftists saw that at the time. That’s the first thing they said about it. …  That’s why connecting them to the communists is very important. It’s part of the battle. Republicans, and conservatives as well, have let the foreign policy issue, national security, slip off the political radar. Barack Obama is a supporter of the Islamofascists. He’s supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that wants to … destroy America. Obama and Hillary have supported them. Their Administration is infiltrated by Islamist agents. That’s why Benghazi is so important, and why I’m really encouraged that Republicans haven’t let it totally disappear. …

If conservatives and Republicans do learn at last to “fight fire with fire”, can America’s leftward slide be stopped? Can America be restored to a country that values and protects the freedom of the individual? Rush asks Horowitz if the rule of the left – of the Democratic Party – will “implode”.

HOROWITZ: I think they’re going to go down in flames in the coming election. I’m hoping for that, and I can’t see how that won’t happen.

So David Horowitz, at this point, is optimistic.

We would like to share his optimism. But we have one difference of opinion with him which makes us less sanguine that a Republican victory – even if led by a person such as Ted Cruz who understands the urgency of the need to recover from the leftward slide – is almost certain.

He says, in the same conversation, “we need morality, religion, laws”. Morality and laws, yes, we need them. But religion? He means a religion with a god – to oppose the communist religion which has no god. He observes with wonder the inability of the left to learn from the horrible history of their religion that it only creates widespread misery and sheds lots of blood. Yet he fails to learn from the much longer horrible history of god-worshipping religions that they created widespread misery and shed lots of blood.

We immensely admire the great work David Horowitz has done, and continues to do, teaching Americans the awful truth of the left’s ideology, and actively combating it.

But if the right insists on sticking “God” into its political platform, the left is much less likely to “go down in flames”.

Older Posts »