Progress to extinction 1

The 100 year old international movement towards collectivism, world government, wealth redistribution, anti-individualism, elitist rule over equalized serf populations – in two words, Left Progressivism – is coming to an end.

In an age when ever more people everywhere are literate, have access to information, can communicate with others anywhere, communal subjugation becomes ever less possible.

Sure there are a few countries where populations still suffer under communist tyranny, notably North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela – and China. It is because China is so badly governed that coronavirus, a new killing disease, has emerged from it and is spreading through the world. The harm will last for decades, but Left Progressivism is slowly but surely, and at an accelerating pace, failing and dying, coming to an end.

It has gone about as far as it can go. Victor Davis Hanson writes about its reaching its peak in America; a point from which its only further advance can be to oblivion:

In 2020 we have finally hit peak progressivism

By that I mean the hard-left takeover of the Democratic Party and the accompanying progressive agenda now have reached an extreme—beyond which will only result in the steady erosion of radical ideology altogether. …

From 2009 through 2016, Barack Obama recalibrated the Democratic Party’s liberalism into progressive radicalism. He opened the border and all but dismantled existing immigration law. Sanctuary cities sprang up with impunity. Executive orders bypassed the Congress. The Iran Deal ignored the Senate’s treaty-making responsibilities. Obama sought to nationalize healthcare. The concept of “diversity” replaced affirmative action, by redefining racial oppression as distinct from historical grievance and economic disparity and instead lumping together 30 percent of the population as nonwhite, and thus antithetical to the new buzz construct of “white privilege”. Fast and Furious, the surveillance of the Associated Press reporters, Benghazi, the weaponization of the IRS, and the use of CIA, FBI, and DOJ to seed the spurious Steele dossier were all written off as proof of the “most scandal free” administration in memory.

But today Obamaism has been figuratively guillotined by the New Jacobins. It is found guilty of crimes of insufficient revolutionary zeal, as well as compromises with the U.S. Constitution and capitalism.

Once considered a crank socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) now leads in many Democratic primary polls. Arriving with him at this moment in our politics is peak progressivism.

First-term socialists—House representatives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her fellow “squad” members, inspired by Sanders—now set the new Democratic agenda. And it is one that is more radical than anything seen in modern American history and largely unsustainable: calls to level a wealth tax and new top income-tax rates of 70-90 percent, to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service, all student debt, an enforceable southern border, the internal combustion engine, and most Second Amendment rights, and to enact multi-trillion dollar new entitlements as outlined in the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, free college, free healthcare for illegal aliens, and reparations.

Identity politics so rules the rhetoric of the new progressive party that all of its—exclusively white—primary finalists vie to be most vocal in the ritual damning of their own country (that has ironically ensured their own influence, power, success and wealth) as inherently “racist”.

Outside of the political sphere, peak progressivism had reinvented the university, rejecting Martin Luther King, Jr’s vision of racial integration and assimilation, by demanding racially obsessed dorms, safe spaces, and applications.

There is hardly a First Amendment on campuses anymore. Speakers with unpopular views are shouted down with impunity by student activists. “Trigger warnings” seek to censor required texts. The mere accusation of sexual harassment on campus is synonymous with the suspension of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Amendments. Skepticism over abortion, “climate change”, or identity politics can cancel out a faculty career.

It is hard to imagine where universities go after peak progressivism, since it would be the pure nihilism of abolishing grades, admissions standards, and student fees.

Peak progressivism calls for the abolition of the constitutionally mandated Electoral College. Radicals now fault past failed schemes to pack the federal and Supreme Court with left-wing justices only because they failed, and thus advance ways to make court-packing work in the present. The bolder among them wants to reconfigure the U.S. Senate into a proportionally representational house or abolish it altogether.

All that would be left after that would be the formal abolition of the U.S. Constitution itself.

Primary candidates compete with one another to water down voting laws, variously demanding that 16-year-olds, felons, and illegal aliens should be given the franchise.

The now far-Left Democrats fail to see that when their hopes for election lie, as they do, with criminals, lunatics, illegal aliens and the immature, there is something wrong with their policies.

Gay marriage, which Obama opposed in 2008 and later promoted after reelection, is now passé. The new civil rights cause celebre is transgenderism, an ancient syndrome known in the past under a variety of clinical definitions that affects less than half of one percent of the population. Who, after these peak progressive ideas, would be left as ineligible to vote—12-year-olds, those on death row, the rest of the earth’s population?

All moderate Democratic presidential candidates long ago dropped out. Those who have not, such as Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg, are in virtual reeducation camps, as they promise to progressive rivals and the media to renounce most of their past positions, effusively apologizing for prior incorrect thinking and failure to become sufficiently “woke”. …

The much-discussed “intersectionality” is a construct, a myth. The history of ideological extremism is instead a war of all factions against one another.

We see just that in the peak progressive primaries. Michael Bloomberg is deemed a racist and sexist. But then so is Joe Biden. Bernie Sanders supposedly hires racists and sexists and won’t honor minimum wage laws. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) thinks Bernie is condescending to women and minorities. Pete Buttigieg thinks he is the victim of Joe Biden’s subtle anti-gay political adds, and feels, but does not articulate, that the black community is inherently anti-homosexual. The race to tag others as victimizers and selves as victimized is endless.

Radicals also vie to make rivals look counter-revolutionary, as they advance ever more incoherent and unhinged schemes without a clue that they are losing not just moderate support but even liberal followers. The more Warren feels she must become the purest peak progressive on the debate stage and the most radical in the U.S. Senate, the more her former supporters feel she is either a conniving opportunist or nuts or both. …

Peak progressives cannot possibly live up to their rhetoric fantasies and so suffer from rank hypocrisies. Redistributionists like Warren and Sanders either fly on private jets or choose non-egalitarian first-class commercial. Hollywood stars who mouth crazy [socialist, egalitarian] Oscar and Grammy ceremony platitudes vie with each other to wear multi-thousand-dollar clothes, live in mansions, and own yachts—as they drive down ratings to historic lows.

Not long ago, progressive pundits on CNN and MSNBC declared the current indicted lawyer Michael Avenatti presidential material for his fabrications and lies that were used to smear Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Where does a network go after that?

It is not only “hard to imagine where universities go after peak progressivism”, or where the networks can “go after that”; it is impossible to see a destination for the Left itself, in America or anywhere else in the world.

Except to extinction.   

Cuba 1

If this video were seen by all Bernie Sanders enthusiasts, it might put them off socialism. No? Well, let’s say some of them? No? Okay, but maybe a few of them? No?

Posted under communism, Cuba, Socialism by Jillian Becker on Friday, February 7, 2020

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What makes for the common good? 22

We can usefully start with two quotations:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.
― Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol 1

Which is  a description of capitalism in practice. It is a beautiful system. Individuals provide goods or services that other people want and therefore pay for. The greater the demand, the more rewarding the provision, the more profitable the business. If the demand is too great for the labor of the provider to meet on his own, he can pay people to help him. How much he pays will depend on how much the employee contributes to the profit: his contribution must be worth more – twice or three times as much – as his pay to make him worth hiring.

I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Senator Marco Rubio does not agree with Adam Smith and Ayn Rand. He believes that the butcher, the brewer, the baker, must carry on their businesses as benevolent enterprises. And that we live to serve others.

He does not say so in as many words, but his opinions amount to those sentiments.

Which he writes about at National Review in an essay adapted from a speech he delivered at the Catholic University of America. We quote the greater part of his essay:

Large corporations have become vehicles for shareholders and banks to assert claims to cash flows, rather than engines of productive innovation. Over the past 40 years, the financial sector’s share of corporate profits increased from about 10 to nearly 30 percent. The share of profits sent to shareholders increased by 300 percent. This occurred while investment of those profits back into the companies’ workers — and future — dropped 20 percent. Last year, corporations on the S&P 500 spent more than a trillion dollars buying back their own shares. These are the largest corporations in the world collectively saying, “We don’t have anything to invest in.”

This is what it looks like when, as Pope Francis warned, “Finance overwhelms the real economy.”

A phrase that means nothing. But then, Pope Francis knows nothing about Economics. He’s  a “liberation theologist”  – an oxymoronic god-worshiping communist. And Rubio, the ostensible conservative, quotes him as an enlightening sage?

The world is full of enterprises to invest in. But Rubio wants the investment to be ethical according to his own judgment of what is ethically acceptable.

The result has been an economy whose architecture has been rapidly transformed. Despite three years of robust economic growth, millions are unable to find dignified work; they feel forgotten and left behind. We are left with a society with which no one is happy. …

An outright lie. In fact, unemployment is low –  lower than it has been for 50 years.

Rubio goes on to attribute a variety of “social ills” to there being “millions unable to find dignified work”:

The repercussions have extended far beyond the economy: a collapse in churchgoing and community institutions; a decline in marriage, childbirth, and life expectancy; and an increase in drug dependency, suicides, and other deaths of despair. We have condemned the next generation of Americans to be the first to enter adulthood worse off than their parents.

Diagnosing the problem is something we should be able to achieve across the political spectrum, though even that seems challenging at times. Ultimately, deciding what the government should do about it must be the core question of our politics.

Marco Rubio is a Republican Senator. But he he thinks like a Socialist Democrat – that the solution to people not going to church (an outcome of which, if it is true, we heartily approve of course), to a drop in births and life expectancy, to drug dependency, to suicides “and other deaths of despair” and to anything else worth clicking one’s tongue over that goes on in a population of over 330 million, lies with government.

We must start by rejecting the false choice our politics has offered us for almost three decades. First, our financialized economy …

He is alluding to the ways in which money can make money. When you are young and in the prime of life you work for your money; when you are old you let your money work for you. You own bonds and shares. Both the investors and the companies invested in, benefit. Companies get the capital they need to produce goods and services, investors get income and increase their capital worth. It’s one of the joys of capitalism.

Why that is a bad thing for the wealth and happiness or the morals of the nation, Rubio does not explain. Financial markets do not require busy hands, the sweat of the human brow; the physical toil he apparently considers “dignified” and which alone, in his view, brings the worker satisfaction. As if happiness were best pursued at the conveyer belt or the plough or the coalface or the anvil.

“Our financialized economy” was the undesirable result of government decisions, of “policy choices lawmakers have made in the past”. It makes for an undesirable “imbalance” which must be set right, he says:

[R]estoring a balance between the obligations and rights of the private sector and working Americans will require the attention of lawmakers today.

He quotes Pope Benedict (the non-Communist Pope) objecting to “the dominance of ‘largely speculative’ financial flows, detached from real production”.

He argues that money producing money is not good. That the production of material things is good.  That somehow “our financialized economy” has taken us away from a system which, while still capitalist, is geared towards community benefit rather than individual gain. (But which has never existed.) He calls it “common-good capitalism”. And he says we need to get it back.

What we need to do is restore common-good capitalism: a system of free enterprise wherein workers fulfill their obligation to work and enjoy the resultant benefits, and businesses enjoy their right to make a profit and reinvest enough to create high-productivity jobs, which is what I mean by dignified work for Americans. …

The butcher, the brewer, the baker must not give up slaughtering, brewing and baking, but must do it out of benevolence and not self-interest. They must employ workers in order to make them happy, not because their labor is needed by the employer.

It is also possible to reform the Small Business Administration to reinvigorate the legacy of business innovation that delivered Americans to the Moon 50 years ago. …

“Business innovation” did that? And it’s not doing it now is a result of … what? Losing vigor? Letting the financial markets become dominant?

We must remember that our nation does not exist to serve the interests of the market; the market exists to serve our nation. And the most effective benefit the market can provide is the creation of dignified work.

No, the market does not exist to serve the nation, any more than the nation exists to serve the market. The market is the nation serving itself.

His vision is communitarian:

Dignified work allows people to give their time, talent, and treasure to our churches, our charities, and community groups. It makes it easier to form strong families in stable communities and reinvigorates those institutions that bind us together as a people.

Because when you live with, worship with, serve with, or share a community with someone, you know him or her as a whole person. You may not agree with the person’s politics, but you have other commonalities that bind you together.

But when your neighbors are strangers, and all you know about your fellow countrymen is who they voted for, it is much easier to see them as the other.

He invokes the name of a famous Catholic in politics – a Democrat:

In 1968, Robert Kennedy decried the deep cultural sickness of his era that was “discouraging initiative, paralyzing will and action, and dividing Americans from one another, by their age, their views, and by the color of their skin”.

As Kennedy did in 1968, we must accept the indivisible tie between culture and economics, so that once again we can reclaim the motto on our nation’s seal: E pluribus unum — out of many, one.

All of which is, frankly, drivel.

E pluribus unum was chosen as the motto of the United States because many states united to form one new nation. It had nothing to do with communitarianism.

If and how we resolve this will not just define 21st-century America; it will define the century itself. Our future is not ours alone to decide. In China, we are confronted with a near-peer competitor on the global stage.

China is undertaking a patient effort to reorient the global order to reflect its values and its interests at the expense of ours — a global order in which the key industries and good jobs are based in China and controlled by them; in which the principles of freedom of religion and speech are replaced by what the Chinese call “societal harmony” …

Isn’t “societal harmony” the very thing that the Senator is arguing for?

… and in which the right to elect your own leaders and voice dissent is replaced by a totalitarian system that criminalizes protest and imprisons minorities.

Nobody here wants that (except perhaps the American Left, the professoriate, the mainstream media, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez).

An America in which no one is held back by his or her gender, skin color, or ethnic origin is no longer just morally right; it’s a national imperative.

And is not that the American reality (except in the universities where Asians are held back by Leftist administrations because too many of them are high achievers)?

For, in the words of the late sociologist Robert Bellah [a sociologist of religion who had been a Communist in his youth], the American tradition — the “transcendent goal” of our politics — renders sacred our “obligation to carry out God’s will on Earth.”

Let’s repeat that: our transcendent political goal is to carry out the American tradition because by doing so we sanctify our obligation to God. It makes no sense, even as a religious idea.

But Rubio asserts –

That is the task accepted by each generation before us. We are the beneficiaries of their sacrifices and achievements.

Now we must decide whether to accept the challenge of our time and author the next chapter in the story of the nation that changed the world.

How can we not? As we live and act the “chapter” of our time is being “authored” by us.  So – more drivel.

Senator Rubio’s “common-good capitalism” may be good Catholicism, but it is neither good capitalism nor conducive to the common good.

All who live in the same country have certain needs in common – such as roads, sewers, street lighting in towns, bridges, ports, the rule of law, military defense – so it is plainly reasonable for all to contribute to their provision and upkeep. There is no economic or moral imperative that one person pay for another person’s (other than his own natural dependents’) education, medical treatment, shelter – or survival. Because people in civilized cultures are generally humane, however, they help their helpless compatriots. As a personal choice, as voluntary activity, such giving is irreproachable. Charity is neither immoral nor threatening to the economy when it is practiced between consenting adults in private.

But Christian doctrine compelled material charity at the same time as it mercilessly punished dissent. And Christian morality became socialist doctrine. It shouts down Adam Smith, burns Ayn Rand, and inspires Senator Marco Rubio.

Adam Smith proves that the best way to serve our fellow man is to supply each our own needs by providing others with something they will pay for. That is the market. We do not have to love our grocer, only to pay him. As an economic system, it is capitalism. It does not need to be made more palatable with a condiment of sentimental togetherness.

Just as it is, it is good for us all.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the FAIREST of us all? 5

The defeat suffered by the far-left Labour Party in a recent general election in Britain was so decisive, it forces left-wing parties on both sides of the Atlantic to reconsider their policies, and encourages conservatives to hope it is symptomatic of a decline and fall of the Left everywhere.

When we were in the grip of that wild hope, an article in Areo by Helen Pluckrose and James A. Lindsay titled The Left is Having an Identity Crisis drew our close attention.

The title is ironic, intentionally or not, because the Left has been primarily concerned with “identity” ever since Karl Marx drew rigid lines between the classes of the Western world. Your identity in the Marxian view was defined by your class. You were either bourgeois which was bad because you supported the status quo, or you were proletarian which was good because you were destined to make violent revolution. (In his personal life Marx was a social snob, always putting his wife’s aristocratic name and title on his visiting card.) When the proletariats of Europe disappointed the Left after the Second World War, becoming well-off, indistinguishable in their outlook from the bourgeoisie and plainly uninterested in making revolution, a New Left arose with a revised ethic of identity. Henceforth it was the Lumpenproletariat, a vagabond underclass that Marx had despised, that must play the revolutionary role. Their class, the “unemployed and unemployable” (as Herbert Marcuse wrote) was augmented by les misérables of the Third World (Frantz Fanon’s “wretched of the earth”) and others who were powerless and exploited by the bourgeois patriarchy; notably women and the sexually deviant, and even (sotto voce why not?) felons. These “sections” of society would unite under the red banner of socialist revolution, which no longer had to be violent. Instead the Left would advance to power by taking control over the institutions of the Western democracies – or where that proved impossible, by discrediting them. The author of the plan, Antonio Gramsci, described it as “the long march through the institutions”.The sections, united in purpose throughout the world, would get the levers of power in their hands and then change our world that has evolved over millennia, our world of many nation-states, of European and male supremacy, of capitalism and private ownership and unequal wealth, into One World of material equality and moral beauty.

In this drama, your identity according to the categories of the New Left is what matters about you. You are black, female, homosexual, or in the nostalgia of the theorists a worker, so you are expected to take part in, or at least assist, the long march. You are expected to be on the Left.

And now the Left itself is having a crisis of identity? What is it about its Leftness that is troubling it?

Pluckrose and Lindsay, who declare themselves to be liberal and not socialist or “identitarian”, reflect on what is happening in and to the Left in Britain and America, and set about defining, diagnosing, and prescribing a cure for the problem:

The Left is in crisis. We no longer present a cohesive movement, and we no longer form coherent political parties. We are a fractured and ill-defined mess, our goals are diffuse and scattered, and we are hemorrhaging supporters from what should be our base—the working class, liberals, and racial and sexual minorities. It is not clear that left-wing parties and movements are currently listening to that base or have its best interests at heart.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the recent British election, which was disastrous for the left. Labour lost key seats, including in areas that have voted left for close to a century, and experienced its worst drubbing in four decades. An outright majority was won by surely the least credible Tory Prime Minister in living memory.

That’s Boris Johnson they’re talking about. A man who was born to be Prime Minister of England, very possibly a good one. He has sworn to take Britain out of the European Union which is  a corrupt and undemocratic political darling of the Left, so of course the Left abominates him. To persons on the Left, he is almost as bad as our great President Trump.

It seems uncomfortably likely that this disaster is soon to be mirrored in the US by the re-election of Donald Trump for a second term, despite the fact that the American public has had four years—beginning with his 2015 campaign—to notice how manifestly unfit he is to be the leader of the western world. The pressing questions at the moment are, what’s going on? and what, if anything, can we do to stop it?

They do some quite credible analysis of what’s going wrong on their side:

Let’s start with what isn’t going to work. It simply will not do to blame these electoral results on the idea that the majority of the population is ignorant, hateful, or unaware of their own best interests. This is the attitude—made popular throughout the educated left by a growing commitment to elitism and critical theories—that got us into this mess in the first place. This attitude is particularly worrying because it leads leftist activists to double down on exactly those things that are killing the left.

If left-leaning parties around the world hope to have any future electoral success, they need to ditch both elitism and identity-based theory and develop some self-awareness. They need to start listening to the people they are supposed to represent so that they can understand what people actually want from a left-wing party. Only in this way can the left heal its fractures and form a strong and principled movement, with political parties that the general public can trust and respect.

The policies of left-wing parties need to come from the people—not represent revolutionary ideologies most do not share or appreciate having imposed upon them for their own good. The public will not stand for this—nor should they. It is absolutely right to reject the social engineering projects of theorists, activists, and the privileged elite who, like self-appointed philosopher kings, want to order society according to their ideological vision of how things should be rather than how they are or realistically could be.

People who reject the ideologues’ vision are not all racist, sexist, and xenophobic bigots or radical capitalist absolutists. Liberals and working people, who form an overlapping majority, generally have strong opinions on what will make their lives better and society fairer, and they are increasingly deciding that right-wing parties are closer to providing this. Barely electable as those might be, that’s still miles better than being totally unelectable. This is a point our left-wing parties seem utterly unable to grasp—as our elections keep demonstrating. This calls for humility and introspection from the left, rather than doubling down and denigrating the masses for their wrongthink.

Ah, yes. It seems that whenever the workers are given a chance to express their political preference, they choose wicked but rewarding capitalist conservatism over morally beautiful but materially deficient socialism.

But Pluckrose and Lindsay, and probably all Leftists, assume that “most people” really want a left-wing government. One that is not too radical.

So Left-wing parties must strive to keep themselves from becoming too radical. But it’s not easy for them:

Left-wing parties and movements generally have a harder job maintaining consistency and cohesion than conservative ones because of their progressive nature. Progress requires change, moving with the times, and finding new directions. It requires fighting for certain advances and then, when these are achieved, fighting for new ones. Conservatives generally have an easier time with continuity because they seek to conserve aspects of society that they see as good, as well as upholding consistent principles, rooted in consistent moral intuitions of individual responsibility, respect for tradition and authority, cultural cohesion, and family. While differences do exist within conservatism—especially between libertarian fiscal conservatives and religious and/or social conservatives—there are natural limits as to how much principles can change and evolve when they are firmly rooted in the drive to conserve.

Progressives, on the other hand, are always trying to move forward and address new injustices and inequalities. The drive to progress necessarily manifests in many different directions at the same time and these can even contradict each other. One good example of this is the vitriolic conflict between the radical feminists, whose rejection of gender is rooted in an adaptation of Marxist class struggle, and the self-ID trans activists, whose conception of gender is rooted in postmodern queer theory. These groups are both decidedly left-wing and yet they do not agree.

Another such conflict came to light when Goldsmith University’s Feminist Society endorsed the Islamic Society’s protests against communist feminist, Maryam Namazie, due to her criticism of Islamism. For progressives to make progress, their competing aims therefore need to be balanced within a consistent ethical framework—a liberal framework—that can prevent the left from repeatedly fracturing because of incompatible aims and conceptions of the world.

… [There is a] current deadlock between the three main elements of the left [which are]: the radical (or socialist), identitarian (“Social Justice”), and liberal left. She argues that the  liberal left must strongly champion liberalism, as an overarching principle by which the valid concerns of the other strands of the left can be judged. Neither socialism nor identity politics can win back the voters who have gone over to the right because most people support regulated capitalism and universal principles of fairness and reciprocity, regardless of identity. This is perfectly compatible with profound concern about the disadvantages people face because of their class, race, sex, or sexuality.

The socialists—who prioritise the material realities of economic and class issues—and the identitarians—with their myopic and obsessive focus on race, gender, and sexuality as social constructs perpetuated in language—cannot easily cooperate with each other, without a broader framework that is neither socialist nor identitarian. The left needs to focus on both economic and identity issues. … [R]ight now most people want a combination of center-left economics and center-right stability. We can achieve this by restoring liberalism to the heart of left-wing politics and rejecting the lure of illiberal alternatives.

Liberalism, in its essence, seeks incremental reform to address social injustices, and it does so on the level of the individual and the universal. That is, liberalism seeks to produce a society in which every individual has access, in principle, to everything society has to offer, regardless of economic background, race, gender or sexuality. Liberalism is not (as its socialist and Social Justice critics claim) a belief that society has already achieved that aim and a corresponding denial of any continuing disadvantages caused by economic inequalities or prejudice.

On the contrary, by insisting on the rights of the individual and universal principles of non-discrimination we can oppose the barriers impeding any social group. This is the approach taken by the Civil Rights Movement, liberal feminism, and gay pride—with great success. … Critics of liberalism are right to warn us that focusing only on the individual and the universal can lead us to overlook issues disadvantaging specific groups. But we can address these criticisms most effectively by appealing to a broader liberal framework, not by attempting to overthrow it.

We have moved into a new stage of history. The battles the left fought over the past half-century have largely been won. We cannot go back to focusing on miners’ rights and trade unions, or on securing equal pay for women, outlawing racial discrimination, or legalizing homosexuality: we have won those wars. In fact, much of the right supports these advances now too.

So far, not much to make us feel irresistibly compelled to argue.

But next they explain what liberalism means to them:

We have new battles to fight. These include combating climate change, securing our place on the world stage and within the global economy, and fostering a cohesive multiculturalism, free from moral relativism and enforced conformity. The left now finds itself pulled in many directions at once. This is the source of its profound identity crisis.

The intractability of the problem facing the left was made abundantly clear by the recent UK election. Constituencies such as Grimsby and Blyth voted Conservative after decades of being staunchly Labour. As Aditya Chakrabortty points out, this is largely due to changes in working class political identity:

While the party bigwigs threw their weight about, the mines and the manufacturers, the steel and the shipbuilding were snuffed out. With them went the culture of Labourism: the bolshy union stewards, the self-organised societies, most of the local newspapers. Practically any institution that might incubate a working-class provincial political identity was bulldozed.

Workers have other concerns now, and it seems they did not feel that Labour was addressing them. In areas that were long-term Labour strongholds—and which have now turned Tory—a majority of working people also voted Leave in the Brexit referendum. This points to a deep and fundamental rift that cannot easily be ignored—and some of the responses to this division highlight many of the same issues that triggered working-class support for Leave in the first place.

[Jeremy] Corbyn’s Labour Party was torn between honoring the wishes of the many working people who wanted to leave the European Union and those of its liberal and cosmopolitan supporters, who strongly supported Remain. After dithering on the issue for a couple of years, Labour finally compromised by calling for a second referendum, a solution that, by calling Mulligan on the results of the first Brexit referendum, seems not to have mollified its working class base in the least. Since then, a YouGov survey found that Labour voters were more likely to think the next Labour leader needed to be more centrist and that the general population overwhelmingly did not care for identity politics, at least in the realm of gender.

The Economist has described Labour as out of touch with the working class, particularly in the north. …

While the issue of Brexit is far more complicated than a simple left-right divide, it highlights a profound disconnect between the old, class-conscious left and the new identity-conscious (read: identity-obsessed) left. By attempting to satisfy both of them at the same time, Labour is tearing itself apart. We can also see this in the anti-Semitism that now plagues the party, which is a consequence of attempting to come to terms with postcolonial guilt by acknowledging Britain’s role in the current tensions across the Muslim world. As a result, Labour often supports conservative Muslims over liberal ones, and condones—or actively endorses—the sexism, homophobia, and antisemitism that comes along with that position, leaving British Jews in a very vulnerable position. These deep inconsistencies have led many centrist and liberal voters in the UK to believe that the Tories better represent their interests than can Labour.

These political challenges are not confined to the UK. In the US, the Democratic Party is flailing, as it attempts to satisfy both its economic and identitarian wings, in the run-up to the 2020 elections. While the majority of the left and center—and a significant part of the right—hope that a reasonable, electable presidential candidate will emerge from within the Democratic Party, they’re forced to stare wild-eyed as the vast majority of the current and past hopefuls catalogue their pronouns in their Twitter bios and declare that “the future is female” and “the future is intersectional”.

Meanwhile, the activist base—the only ones interested in these displays—write articles fixated on the identity politics surrounding these candidates. Joe Biden is just one more old, white man who needs to step aside (even though he has tremendous support among black Americans, as does that other old white man, Bernie Sanders, who is polling in second place). If you don’t support Elizabeth Warren, even as she panders endlessly to the far-left fringe, it’s because you’ve bought into systemic misogyny (or condone Trump’s allegedly racist mockery of her as “Pocahontas”). Pete Buttigieg, who would be America’s first openly gay president if he were elected, isn’t gay enough. He may be married to a man but, we’re told, he isn’t really gay because he’s straight-passing and not a queer activist. …

Note of possible relevance: Pete Buttigieg’s father, Joseph Buttigieg, translated into English the works of no less a Communist Superhero than Antonio Gramsci himself.

This leaves left-wing parties in a quandary. They need to move with the times but are currently unsure where those times are going.

“The times”, aka History, is seen by theLeft as an agent with a purposeful will. It – not human thought and action – shapes events. Human beings are the tools of History – though its ultimate purpose is their perfection. A Marxian thesis which still lingers with the Left.

Marx believed his envisioned revolution was inevitable – though also in need of action by the “revolutionary class”.

A contemporary Labour MP, Jess Phillips, believes the working class needs a Labour government, even if it is not revolutionary. She writes in the Guardian:

The truth is, there are corners of our party that have become too intolerant of challenge and debate. The truth is, there is a clique who don’t care if our appeal has narrowed, as long as they have control of the institutions and ideas of the party.

We’ve all got to discover the courage to ask the difficult questions about the future of our party and the future of the working-class communities who need a Labour government. Because the alternative is that the working-class voters who, in despair, lent the Tories their votes on Thursday, never take them back.

It is time for the left to acknowledge this wake-up call. If the election of Donald Trump in the US and the catastrophic collapse of Labour in the UK haven’t made it obvious that we have a problem, it is unclear what will. The left cannot continue to try to impose a set of ideological values held by only a tiny minority of the left-leaning public and then blame that public for not electing a left-wing government. While trying to find its footing in today’s society and address the injustices and concerns of most of its natural base, the left has fallen into the trap of listening to noisy ideologues rather than average liberal and leftist working people. How much more evidence do we need that this does not work? When will we start listening to what people overwhelmingly want—a society that meets their material needs and feels fair and ethical? When will the left commit to being liberal again?

We ask: for what do “working class communities need a Labour government”? If the (somewhat) right-wing governments elected in the United States and Britain meet their material needs – and in the US at present the Trump administration is amply doing so – and if that seems “fair and ethical” to the voters, what can a reformed right-shifted left-wing government do for them? Can such a government, with redistributionist welfare policies designed by “noisy ideologues” to achieve fairness as an ethical ideal, meet material needs more amply?  No. That’s the whole point. Planned economies do not work. Equality of wealth, equality of power, equality of talent, equality of achievement, all that is meant by “social justice”, will never be brought about by History, nor can it be made to happen by ideologues, whether noisily by revolution or silently by their gaining control of the institutions of democracies.

The Left is failing because Leftism as such, whether “liberal” in the contemporary sense (“combating climate change, securing our place on the world stage and within the global economy, and fostering a cohesive multiculturalism … meeting material needs and feeling fair and ethical”), or uncompromisingly socialist, or defiantly “identitarian”, cannot succeed.

The law, by treating all sane adults equally, may sometimes be “fair”; but nature will not be, nor History, nor any political party.

Fascist socialism versus Islam 3

President Trump will keep Americans safe from both Democratic Socialism and Islam while he is in power. But what will happen after him?

Is the American future to be fascist-socialist under Democratic rule – as California is now (see our post immediately below, Californian left-fascism, a model for the nation? November 15, 2019)?

Or is it to be Islamic?

Islam is already exerting decisive power in Europe. Most effectively in Sweden and France. And it is steadily advancing towards domination in America.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, acronym CAIR,  has announced that it wants to get 30 Muslims into Congress. And there are at least 100 members of Congress who would welcome CAIR’s chosen members into their company it would seem, since 100 members of Congress have written letters to CAIR to affirm their friendship with that Hamas-connected organization. Ninety-seven of the signatories are Democrats, three are Republicans.

The fascist-socialist Democrats and militant Islam are in alliance now, presenting a common front to their shared arch-enemy, President Trump with his tens of millions of followers. But the time may all too possibly come when one or the other – likely the Democrats first – will, by crooked means (because they cannot do it by honest election), take command of all three branches of government. Then the allies will become rivals and enemies.

Both are global and totalitarian in ambition, a similarity which will make them rivals.

And although they both suppress individualism, demand doctrinal orthodoxy and punish heresy, their differences of doctrine and character will make them enemies.

The New Left is:

Secular

Egalitarian

Libertine

Western, middle-class, modern, academic  

Revolutionary

Islam is:

A god-worshiping religion  

Male dominated

Puritanically prurient

Oriental, tribal, archaic, bellicose

Unalterable

So they way it looks now, if the worst should come to the worst, the American future will be either fascist-socialist or Islamic.

The question is: when the conflict between them comes as it must, which of the two dark forces is likely to prevail?

Posted under Europe, Fascism, France, Islam, Leftism, Socialism, Sweden, United States by Jillian Becker on Sunday, November 17, 2019

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Physicians or philanthropists? 6

There cannot be a “right” for one person that puts an obligation on another person.

There cannot be a “right” for everyone that puts an obligation on some people.

A “right” to health care imposes an obligation on medical practitioners.

Yet the Democratic candidates for the November 2020 presidential election believe that medical treatment is a “human right”.

That old Communist from way back, Bernie Sanders – elected to the Senate as an Independent but running for the presidency as a Democrat – explicitly insists that it is.

Dr. Kevin Pham writes at the Daily Signal:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was recently on comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show to discuss … his vision for health care in America.

He calls his plan “Medicare for All”.

In one interesting statement, Sanders described the rollout of his plan: “I want to expand Medicare to include dental care, hearing aids, and eyeglasses, and then what I want to do is lower the eligibility age the first year from 65 down to 55, then to 45, then to 35, then we cover everybody.”

Cover? Covered by insurance? No. “Free” health care for all would not be paid for through a system of insurance. It would be paid for through taxes. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, all health care workers would be employees of the government.

The plan, Dr. Pham points out, is more accurately called “Medicaid for All”.

[It] would cost over $30 trillion in the next 10 years in ideal conditions

So probably very much more …

… but still require physicians and providers to take a pay cut of up to 40% and continue working with the same productivity.

And of course a great many more of them would be needed.

Physicians are already heavily burdened with their workload. In the 2018 Physicians Foundation survey, up to 80% of physicians reported working at their maximum capacity or beyond.

In the same survey, about 15% of physicians reported limiting the number of Medicaid patients they see and an additional 16% did not see Medicaid patients at all.

Of these physicians who do not see Medicaid patients, or limit the number they see, over a third are in primary care, exactly the kind of physicians we need in greater numbers.

[But] … a combination of administrative burdens, delays in processing claims, and low reimbursement rates make it difficult to justify seeing many Medicaid patients.

As Medicaid and Medicare both drastically underpay relative to private health insurance, hospitals and providers have to charge private insurance more to make up the difference.

Under Bernie Sanders’s scheme (and Elizabeth Warren’s vague and colossally expensive plan), there would no private insurance and “the whole system would crumble”.

Providers who participate in Medicaid must accept the government-mandated prices for services and deal with oftentimes long delays in receiving reimbursement that is below the cost of practice. 

Study hard for years at great expense only to earn a pittance? (Oh, I nearly forgot – higher education will also be “free” in that it will be paid for by taxation. Your pathetic little income will be taxed at so high a rate that you’ll be left with nothing but a little pocket-money.)

You would have to be a fanatical philanthropist, or even a masochist, to enter the medical profession under such conditions.

And we haven’t even touched on all the miseries a tax-payer funded national health service inevitably brings to patients – the long waits, the rationing, the overcrowding, the death panels … 

Posted under Health, Socialism, United States by Jillian Becker on Saturday, November 2, 2019

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The sound of no hands clapping 9

Welfare state socialism is justified by its enthusiasts on the grounds that there are some people in every nation who cannot support themselves and have no one to support them, so the state must do it; the entire economy of the nation must be brought under government direction and control.

To ask how many such people there are (nowhere more than thousands among tens of millions) is deemed inadmissible because morally wrong. Why morally wrong? For the same reason that state aid must be given to everyone alike, rich and poor, self-reliant and dependent: because the poor and dependent must not be made to feel different from everyone else. They must be saved not only from indigence but also from humiliation. Therefore the rich must receive social security payments from the state just as the poor do.

Whether or not the poor and dependent actually would be sensitive on that score is not the concern of the Good who decree the welfare. The redistribution of wealth – forcibly taking money from those who earn it to give to others who don’t – has to bring about social equality. So even though it would cost much less to give aid directly to the needy  – cutting out the immense cost of welfare administration – and to let the rest accumulate as much wealth as they can –  thus making generosity to the poor easy – the welfare solution is chosen.

It is chosen because it the virtuous choice. It is the virtuous choice because it both raises the poor and brings the rich down.

It is a Christian idea that those who have are bad and must be abased, and those who have not are good and must be rewarded. In Socialism the idea not only persists, it grows ever more malignant.

If there is not yet a moral requirement that those who can walk must lose their legs because not everyone can walk, and those that can speak must lose their tongues because not everyone can speak, it is coming close.

Universities are carrying the idea in that direction.

Listen to what Breitbart reports here and here and here:

1.Those who are white must be punished because not everyone can be white and to be white is a privilege which must be ended.

A prestigious Scottish university arranged an event titled “Resisting Whiteness” where white people were to be banned from speaking.

Resisting Whiteness, which bills itself as a QTPOC (Queer and Trans People of Colour) outfit …  also planned to set up two so-called “safe spaces” at the University of Edinburgh event — and intended to ban white people from one of them.

We will not be giving the microphone to white people during the Q&As, not because we don’t think white people have anything to offer to the discussion, but because we want to amplify the voices of people of colour,” explained a primer for the event. “If you are a white person with a question, please share it with a member of the committee or our speakers after the panel discussion.”

2.The way we write must be changed because not everyone can master the way we write.

Leeds Trinity University in the United Kingdom has told its lecturers to avoid using capital letters in their classroom handouts because they upset students, and can “scare students into failure.”

3.The way we show our approval must be changed because some don’t like it.

At Oxford University –

The motion to “mandate the encouragement of silent clapping” proposed using the more “inclusive” British Sign Language symbol for clapping — known as “silent jazz hands” (waving both hands by the sides of the body at about shoulder height) — in place of audible applause.

The clapping ban would affect student union meetings and events where traditional clapping and cheering “presents an access issue” to those with anxiety disorders.

The majority in Scotland, England, Europe and North America are guilty of “cultural racism”, “ablist racism”, and the ineluctable “racism” of just being white.

All you can do, ye guilty, is demean and impoverish yourselves in accordance with Christian values.

Here they are according to St. Paul:

We are the filth of the world, the scum, the muck that is scoured from things (1 Cor 4:13) and the lowest of the low (Phili 2:3).

Let us abase ourselves; be fools (1 Cor 4:10); be humble, and associate with the lowly (Rom 12:16).

Bear affliction with patience (Rom 12:12-14) and even with joy (1 Thess 5:16,18).

You must consider all others to be greater than yourselves (Phili 2:3).

Share all you have so that you’ll all be equal in worldly possessions (2 Cor 8:14, Rom 12:13).

It will not be the first time that groundless shame and guilt have brought a civilization to self-destruction.

 

(Hat-tip to Cogito for the three links)

Posted under Christianity, Socialism by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, October 30, 2019

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The pursuit of happiness 57

Gentlefolk in the 18th. century thought that to try to live happily was a reasonable aim, to judge by the statement of the great authors of the US Declaration of Independence. To them it appeared “self-evident” that every person had a “right” (“endowed by their Creator”, or, in other words, a natural right) to his life and his choice how to live it, which surely meant that he would live it as nearly to his heart’s desire as he could.

Horny handed sons of toil, even if as free under the law, were not expected, either by themselves or their betters, to achieve the same forms of happiness. Enough for them if they could earn their daily bread. For that they lived and strove. Their life was the striving. It occupied their hours, their days, their years, their bodies and their thoughts. Success was survival. Survival was for most of them the only reasonable attainable happiness. If some strove for more – excess, property, leisure – and attained it, then happiness abounded. (Happiness, that is to say, as contentment. Other forms of gratification – thrills, excitement, delights of the senses, scoring triumphs – are not our subject. They are experienced episodically and enjoyed to the degree the individual is capable of.)

The welfare state relieved the workers of the need to strive for survival. Now all could be philosophers. The joy of exploring the limitless sphere of the mind was open to all. Universal happiness would reign.

But doesn’t.

The reasons why people commit suicide are many and various, but what they all have in common is that they find life unbearable. So suicide rates might be taken as a gauge of happiness and the lack of it in a population.

The figures for those rates from the last few years (according to Wikipedia – and perhaps not entirely trustworthy) provide some surprises. (Worth noticing in passing – far more males kill themselves than do females everywhere.)

Highest suicide rate in the world: Greenland. Average 82.8 per 100,000 per annum. It is a welfare state.

Google reveals:

As part of Denmark, Greenlanders have access to one of the most extensive social welfare systems in Europe, including universal, nationalized medical care and free state education, including college.

(President Trump has asked Denmark if it would sell Greenland to the USA. Rhetorical question: Would life in Greenland be better, more bearable, happier if it became the 51st. state of the USA, which provides much less welfare? USA suicide average per 100,000 per annum, 14.5.)

Big drop to the next highest. Guyana 30.2, Lithuania 28.27, South Korea 26.6

The average for most European countries is between 12.57 (Germany) and 17 (Belgium).

Britain? Only 7.23!

China? 9.8

Iran 4.8   The state does most of the killing there.

Venezuela 3.2  Nature does it there, because the people are starving and have no medicines. Venezuela is – way beyond a welfare state – a socialist state.

Syria 0.1  Constant civil war rages there.

Pakistan 1.1   People are happy in Pakistan?

Haiti  – a truly miserable place of hunger and disease. Average suicide?  0.0

But back to the pursuit of happiness in the civilized West.

What went wrong? Is it possible that the strivers enjoyed the striving and its meager rewards?

Or did philosophizing bring the newly leisured to ask, “What is it all for anyway?“. And find no answer?

There are thousands of counselors – even millions, we would guess – telling unhappy people how to be happy. There are hundreds of thousands of books giving readers rules for living –  from obedience to which, happiness might be expected.

And there is religion. Religion is supposed to “give meaning to life”.

Does it answer the question “what is it all for anyway?”

Let’s look at an individual case of unhappiness. In America.

At the American Conservative, we found this letter, reproduced by Rod Dreher, to whom it was sent as if to an agony aunt:

Mr. Dreher,

The things you have been writing lately about alienated young men and mass shootings prompt me to reach out to you. I am not a young man anymore, but I am dealing with things that I did not imagine I would be when I was young and newly married. Back then, everything made sense. I feel like I need to tell my story.

My background is that I am a successful businessman (a kind of consultant) living in a well-to-do suburb of a Southern city. My wife and I married relatively early, and had two kids. The boys are in good colleges in other states. They are getting ready to head back to school next week. It has been a real pleasure having them here this summer. Our house becomes a tomb when they are not around.

Four years ago, my wife told me that she didn’t want to be married to me anymore. After almost 30 years, she had had enough. I did not see that coming. We almost never fought. We used to go to dinner together, take family vacations, do things together, etc etc. She just said that she thought she had hitched herself to a man too young, and now that the boys were older and out of the house, she was reconsidering her life. I asked her if there was another man. She said no, and eventually I believed her. I asked her if she wanted a divorce. She said probably so, but she wanted to wait until the boys got out of school. She is a reasonable person with a finance background, and knows that a divorce would cost us a lot at a time when we are supporting two kids in college.

She has a job she loves. I work from a home office. I was so glad when my company gave me the chance to do this. I miss the friendships in the office, but when you talk on your blog about wokeness in the workplace, I always find myself nodding along. A few years back, my company started getting engaged with “diversity and inclusivity” in the workplace. I noticed that every time they would run us all through one of those seminars, we would all come out of it more suspicious of each other. It was crazy. It was as if our bosses were trying to poison the office environment. I got to the point where as a white male, I saw my co-workers as potentially the people who would try to get me fired if I said one wrong thing by mistake. They might have seen me that way too. It was crazy. The more management pushed “diversity and inclusivity”, the more anxious things felt in the office. When the company was restructuring and offered people in my division the chance to work at home, I jumped at it, just to get out of that tense environment.

It was a blessing at first, but nowadays I wonder if that was the right thing to do. The idea of working from home seems great, until you realize that you don’t see people at all. I have a nice home office where I put in my 9 to 5, which is really more like 8 to 7, but everybody does that. If I’m being truthful, I stay in my office longer than I have to on most days, because there is nothing for me outside of it. My wife used to be my best friend. Now we just share a house and a bed. She has friends from her office, and goes out with them a lot. When all this started, I honestly thought she was seeing some guy. I’m not going into the details, but I’m truly convinced that she’s not. She’s just hanging out with other middle-aged women who are sick of their husbands too.

I used to think only men behaved like that. Mother and Daddy have both passed away, but they had a good marriage. Some of their friends got divorced when I was a kid, and it was always the man leaving his wife for a younger woman. They were very judgmental of them, but in a way I still think was right. They were Southern people (I think you know what I mean, Mr. Dreher), and that meant that they thought it was dishonorable for a man to do his wife like that. I internalized that honor code, and have always lived by it, and my Catholic faith. If my wife demands a divorce, I will give it to her, but I won’t marry again. How could I go through an annulment? I can’t say truthfully that this was not really a marriage. I meant it when I said my vows, and I believe my wife did too. I am not going to make bastards of my sons because my wife abandoned me and I want to be married again. Besides, there would be no marrying again for me anyway. I look at myself in the mirror — mid to late 50s, half-bald, pot belly, etc etc. What woman would want me even if I was free to marry her?

I was an only child, so I have no close family to speak of. We are Catholics. My faith is just about the only thing that keeps me going through all this, but it’s thin. My wife refuses to see a marriage counselor. I made the first steps to getting an appointment to talk to our priest, but I gave up because that was hopeless. I feel bad for our priest. He’s managing a big suburban parish all on his own. It would have taken forever to get an appointment, and there was no way he was going to be able to give us the time it would take to save our marriage, especially given that my wife doesn’t want to save it. Besides, there is nothing I’ve ever heard our priest say that tells me he is a man who could help us. He talks like one of those life coaches our company used to bring in for team building exercises, a guy who gets all his ideas from Hallmark cards.

She still goes to mass with me, but just out of habit. When I stand there listening to Fr give his cheerful but empty homilies, I think about what’s keeping me from going home and blowing my brains out. I’m not going to do this because I’m scared of pain and I’m scared of going to Hell. Also, I don’t want to hurt the boys, and make them feel like they did something to cause it or give them something to be ashamed of. However, I think a lot about how little I have to live for anymore. I am not even sure that the boys think of me much, except as “Good Old Dad”…

Nobody can see it. I stand there in church, wearing my coat and tie, and people probably think I have it all together. We drive nice cars, we live in a nice house in a good neighborhood, etc, etc. I am grateful to have a good job that has allowed me to provide for my family. By all the world’s standards, I’m doing well. I have “white privilege”. 

What a joke. When I first started working in my home office, I would dress up in a coat, no tie, and dress pants to go to “work.” It felt right to hang on to that habit. Since my marriage fell apart, I notice that some days I don’t even get out of my pajamas. I sit there at my nice desk doing all my work on my laptop, and go right back to bed at the end of the day without even taking a shower. I know this is pathetic, and if the boys were still at home, I would know to keep up appearances. This is my life.

When the boys graduate and don’t have to depend on us, I guess that will mean Decision Time. I will probably move out, though to all rights we ought to sell the house. I remember the day we bought it, and talking with my wife about that big dining room, and how we looked forward to the kids coming home with their wives and children for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Oh, we sure had big plans for that dining room. We bought a house with a fireplace because we dreamed about sitting around it with the grandchildren. All that is over now, and not because I wanted it to be. I feel so powerless. Maybe I would stay here if either one of the boys moved back, but given the fields they have chosen, I don’t look for that to happen, and even if it did, we would just be keeping up appearances for their sake. Southern people are real good at that, as you know.

What prompted me to write to you is your writings about the loneliness crisis. I am not some white trash 22 y.o. living in a trailer somewhere, playing video games, and living off his Mama, but I am completely isolated in my life. My “video game” is Excel spreadsheets. The friends I had back in the happier days were all “couples friends” through my wife. When she said she didn’t want to be married to me, we stopped having people over, and stopped accepting invitations to other people’s houses. After a few years, those invitations stopped coming. I tried to keep up these friendships with the husbands, but it was awkward. I told a couple of the guys I was closest to about the mess in my marriage, and they seemed sympathetic, but there wasn’t a lot they could do. They all had kids, and their couples friends. Two or three times I went to their dinner parties by myself, but you talk about awkward! I was embarrassed by it all, and just quit going. I miss those guys, and I even miss their wives. We used to be happy all together.

If this is “white privilege”, screw it. I stopped by the shoe repair shop a couple of weeks ago, and there were some black guys my age sitting around talking and laughing with each other. I envied them. I probably make 10 or 15 times more than them, but they are probably rich in ways that I used to be before I went “bankrupt”. I would trade all this so-called “white privilege” for a happy marriage, a strong family, and good friends. Mother and Daddy didn’t have a lot of money, but at least they had that. They also had a small-town church where they felt at home. How can anybody feel at home in a big parish like mine? I was taught to be charitable, especially to the clergy, and I do feel bad for our priest, who is carrying a heavy load. But this ain’t church. I’ve gotten to the point where I sit there during mass and I wonder how many of those men in the pews are just like me: barely holding it together, wondering what the hell we’re living for, ignored by our wives, and starving for friendship. God feels so far away. I have never doubted His existence, but these days, He feels like the Pope — a nice man who lives far away and who doesn’t see us.

I know I sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself. I guess I am. But damn it, I didn’t think things were going to work out like this. I did everything I was supposed to do, and it all fell to pieces anyway. I’m racking my brains trying to figure out how I can fix this, but my wife doesn’t want it to be fixed. She just wants out. I recognize that I am privileged economically and socially, but I’m here to tell you that if you were a working man who drove by my house, and saw me out front mowing our big lawn, you would think I had it made. In fact, you would be looking at a dead man, at a man who secretly hopes he falls over from a heart attack so he doesn’t have to keep carrying this weight of loneliness. At this point, my only purpose in life is to do what I have to do so my sons can have a good life or think they have a good life, until they get to my age and it falls to shit, and they end up doing just what their Good Old Dad is doing.

The thought just occurred to me as I’m writing this that the only real reason we will have to keep our household together after our sons graduate is if one of them can’t find a job, and has to live with us. That’s a sorry state to be in, knowing that the only thing that would keep you and your wife together is an unemployed grown-up child.

I appreciate the opportunity to get this off of my chest. I like reading your blog because even though it’s depressing sometimes, I feel like you talk about the real world, which is more than I get from my priest. I would just ask your readers to keep in mind that when they see people at church, in the store, and at other places, that those people might be suffering in ways that are not obvious. You think folks have it made, but they don’t. You see me getting out of my [luxury car brand] at church, with my wife, and we’re all dressed up and smiling, but from my very jaded perspective, we’re dead people who have no future. At least my wife has the girls from the office.

I’ve thought about asking my manager if I can come back to the office, but I know that’s not a solution. I’m the Great White Male, the source of all evil in the world. Given my run of luck, it would be about right for somebody to falsely accuse me of something, and end up taking away the last I have left from what started out as an American dream. I’d end up jobless and poor, and then the gun to the head might not seem so scary after all.

Sorry. Thanks for listening.

One thing we find particularly interesting about this “confession” is how little the man’s faith does for him. Fear of hell keeps him from suicide. That’s about all.

If he were not a believing Catholic, he might have developed some curiosity about the world he lives in. It has not occurred to him to go exploring in the infinite realm of the mind.

He was happier when his children lived with him. If he had grandchildren living near by he might be happy again. For a while, anyway. Until they grew up. But young men are not quick to marry now and raise a family.

Readers, your comments are needed.

Russia 1

An illuminating article. For us, lifelong students of Communism and the modern history of Russia, almost as full of surprises as of affirmations.

Angelo M. Codevilla writes at CRB:

What 21st-century Russia is in itself, to its neighbors, and to America flows from the fact it is no longer the Soviet Union. As the red flag came down from the Kremlin on Christmas Day 1991, Russian president Boris Yeltsin, when asked what he thought of Communism, nearly wept as he replied: “I wish it had been tried somewhere else.” Vladimir Putin, who famously said that the USSR’s collapse had been a tragedy, nevertheless shares the Russian people’s consensus that their country was Communism’s first and foremost victim, and that no one knows how long it may take to live down its dysfunctions. To its neighbors, this Russia is a rebudding tsarist empire. To Americans, it is a major adversary despite the lack of clashing geopolitical interests.

After Communism

The Revolution of 1917 was possible because socialists, in Russia and throughout the Western world, believed that “present-day society”, as Karl Marx put it, is a jumble of “contradictions”, which could be resolved only by tearing down the pillars of the house. Once that was done, history would end: man and woman, farmer and industrial worker, producer and consumer, intellectual and mechanic—heretofore at odds—would live harmoniously, freely, and prosperously ever after.

Because they really believed in this utopian dream, the socialists gave absolute power to Lenin and Stalin’s Communist Party to wreck and reorganize—to break eggs in order to make a delicious omelette. But Communism, while retaining some of Marxism’s antinomian features (e.g., war on the family and on religion), became in practice almost exclusively a justification for the party’s absolute rule. For example, the economic system adopted by the Soviet Union and by other Communist regimes owed precisely zero to Marx, but was a finely tuned instrument for keeping the party in control of wealth.

The Leninist party is gone forever in Russia because, decades after its leaders stopped believing in Marxism, and after Leonid Brezhnev had freed them from the Stalinist incubus that had kept them loyal to the center, they had learned to make the party into a racket. That, and the residual antinomian features, made Russia into a kakotopia. Russian men learned to intrigue and drink on the job rather than work. Shunning responsibility for women and children, they turned Russian society into a matriarchy, held together by grandmothers. In a thoroughly bureaucratized system, each holder of a bit of authority used it to inconvenience the others. Forcing people to tell each other things that both knew not to be true—recall that “politically correct” is a Communist expression—engendered cynicism and disrespect for truth. The endless anti-religion campaigns cut the people off from one moral system and failed to inculcate another. Alcohol drowned unhappiness, life expectancies declined, and fewer Russians were born.

Religious morality? Communism not a religious morality? Not the same religious morality in certain vital respects? All red capes waving at us bulls!  But for the sake of what’s to come, we’ll only stand and paw the ground – and give a snort or two.

The Russian people rejected Communism in the only ways that powerless people can—by passivity, by turning to anything foreign to authority, and by cynicism. Nothing being more foreign to Communism than Christianity, Russians started wearing crosses, knowing that the regime frowned on this feature of the Russia that had pre-existed Communism, and would survive it.

A louder snort. But on:

No sooner had the USSR died than Russia restored the name Saint Petersburg to Peter the Great’s “window on the West”. Even under Soviet rule, Russians had gone out of their way to outdo the West in Western cultural matters—“nekulturny” (uncultured!) was, and remains, a heavy insult in Russia. Moscow let countless priorities languish as it rebuilt in record time its massive Christ the Savior cathedral to original specifications. As the Russian Orthodox church resumed its place as a pillar of the Russia that had been Christianity’s bastion against the Mongol horde as well as against the Muslim Ottomans, golden domes soon shone throughout the land. Whatever anyone might think of the Russian Orthodox church, it anchors the country to its Christian roots.

Few Americans understood Vladimir Putin’s rise to power at the close of the 20th century as the reassertion of a bankrupt, humiliated, resentful people looking to make Russia great again. Since then, Putin has rebuilt the Russian state into a major European power with worldwide influence. Poverty and a resource-based economy notwithstanding, it is on a sounder financial basis than any Western country. Corruption is within historical limits. The leadership is appreciated by the vast majority, whose national pride and solidarity dwarf those of Western publics. Nearly all Russians approve strongly of its absorption of Crimea. Russia effectively controls Ukraine’s eastern end, and has exposed the West’s incapacity to interfere militarily in the former Soviet empire. In the Middle East, Russia is now the dominant force.

In sum, the Russian bear licks its deep wounds as it growls behind fearsome defenses.

The Neighborhood

Russia’s Westernism is neither imitation nor love of the West. It is the assertion that Russia is an indispensable part of it. The Russians saved Europe from Napoleon, and from Hitler, too. That they did the latter tyrannically, as Soviets, does not, in their minds, disqualify them from their rightful place in Europe, or justify Europeans, much less Americans, trying to limit Russia’s rightful stature. Today’s Russian rulers are not gentler or nicer than the emperor who shook off the Mongol yoke—who wasn’t known as Ivan the Nice Guy. Like their forebears they are calculating Russia’s stature in terms of the limits—primarily in Europe—set by their own present power as well as by that of their immediate neighbors.

Russian writing on international affairs focuses exclusively on the country’s role as a member of the European system. By the 2030s, if not sooner, the Russian government will have filled such territory, and established such influence, as befit its own people’s and its neighbors’ realities, and will be occupied with keeping it. More than most, Putin is painfully aware of Russia’s limits. Its declining population is less than half of America’s and a tenth of China’s. Despite efforts to boost natality, its demography is likely to recover only slowly. Nor is its culture friendly to the sort of entrepreneurship, trust, and cooperation that produces widespread wealth. What, then, are Putin’s—or any Russian leader’s—national and international objectives?

As always, Ukraine is of prime interest to Russia because it is the crux of internal and external affairs. With Ukraine, Russia is potentially a world power. Without it, it is less, at best. But Putin’s pressures, disruptions, and meddlings have shown him how limited Russia’s reach into Ukraine is, and is sure to remain. Hence, Russia’s conquest of Ukraine east of the Don River signifies much less the acquisition of a base for further conquest than the achievement of modern Russia’s natural territorial limit in Europe. The 20th century’s events forever severed Ukraine and the Baltic states from Russia; even Belarus has become less compatible with it. Modern Russia is recognizing its independence, even as the Soviet Union at the height of its power effectively recognized Finland’s. As the Russian Federation’s demographic weight shifts southeastward—and Islamism continues to gain favor there—the Russian government will have to consider whether to shift its efforts from keeping the Muslim regions within the federation to expelling and building fences against them.

As the decades pass, post-Soviet Russia will have to work harder and harder to cut the sort of figure in Europe that it did under the tsars. That figure’s size is the issue. The Russian empire’s size has varied over the centuries according to the ratios between its and its neighbors’ national vigor and power. In the past, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, the Hanseatic powers, Germany, all have shrunken or swollen Russia. Borders and spheres of influence have varied. There is no reason why this should not be so in the future. Russia will neither invade Europe nor dominate it politically because its people lack the political will, and its state the capacity, to do either. During Soviet times, this will and this capacity were the product of the national and international Communist Party apparatus, now gone forever.

A glance back at this gargantuan human structure reminds us of how grateful we should be that it now belongs to history. The Communist faction that resulted from the 1918 split in the international socialist movement—like the rump socialist faction that ended up governing Europe after 1945, but unlike the fascist one—already intended to conquer the world. (Fascism, Mussolini’s invention, recalled some of ancient Rome’s peculiar institutions and symbols—the fasces was the bundle of punishing rods carried by the consuls’ lictors—and added governing Italy through business-labor-government councils. It was not for export.) Communists worldwide came under the firm control of the Soviet Party’s international division run by formidable persons like Andrei Zhdanov and Boris Ponomarev, disposing of virtually unlimited budgets and, after 1929, of the services of countless “front organizations.” These, the party’s hands and feet and its pride and joy, reached out to every imaginable category of persons: union members, lawyers, teachers, journalists, housewives, professional women, students, non-students. Each front organization had an ostensible purpose: peace, through opposition or support of any number of causes. But supporting the “Soviet line” was the proximate purpose of all. Through tens of thousands of “witting” Communists, these fronts marshaled millions of unwitting supporters, helping to reshape Western societies. Soviet political control of Europe was eminently possible, with or without an invasion, because the Soviet domestic apparatus had marshaled Soviet society, and because its international department and front organizations had convinced sectors of European societies to welcome the prospect.

The tools that today’s Russia wields vis-à-vis Europe are limited to commerce in natural gas, and to the opportunities for bribery that this creates—witness Russian Gazprom’s employment of former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Not only do European governments not fear being invaded by Russia, they refuse to diversify their sources of natural gas, and generally oppose American sanctions imposed on Russia because of its actions in Ukraine. The notion among European ruling parties that the voters who are in the process of rejecting them for various “populist” and nationalist options, are pining for Russian-style governance or tricked by Russian wiles is a baseless attempt to sidestep the ruling parties’ own failures.

The Lefty globalists think that? There’s a surprise! Whatever makes them think so? We see the populist movements as being unequivocally towards conservative nationalism, self-determination, personal liberty, not … neo-tsarism.

Europe’s rulers know that Russian military forces are not built to conquer the continent, because these forces lack the wherewithal for large-scale projection of power. Instead, they possess formidable capacity for what soldiers call “area denial”. This fits Russian leaders’ strategic goals, the people’s sentiments, and material constraints. The wars that today’s Russian military are built to fight are in areas that today’s Russian military sees most threatened by the U.S. and NATO, on its borders with Poland and Lithuania (where Russia crushed the Wehrmacht in 1944-45), and in Ukraine, north of Crimea. Russia’s military posture has ever been, and gives every sign of remaining, strategically defensive but operationally offensive. Now as before, when war seems imminent Russia’s operational doctrine calls for taking the initiative in a preemptive manner.

Although Russian strategy would be to surround and seal off foreign troops by air and ground, for the first time in Russia’s history, military manpower is scarce and precious. Economizing manpower is one reason why the country has fully integrated nuclear weapons in ordinary military operations, recalling nothing so much as President Dwight Eisenhower’s doctrine in the 1950s of “more bang for the buck”. To seal off the airspace, and to provide an umbrella for their ground forces, the Russians would use the S-400 air-missile defense system—the world’s best, which is now deployed around some 300 high-value locations. Strikes (or the threat thereof) by the unique Iskander short-range missile would preclude the foreign forces’ escape, as Russian troops moved in with Armata tanks, which carry the world’s best reactive armor.

Possession of perhaps the world’s best offensive and defensive strategic forces—comparable to America’s and far superior to China’s—is why Russia is confident that it can contain within limited areas the wars that it needs to fight. Because Russia has nothing to gain by military action against America or China, this arsenal is militarily useful only as insurance against anyone’s escalation of border disputes, and as the basis for Russia’s claim to be a major world player.

Priorities and Collusion

Russia loomed small in U.S. foreign policy from the time of the founding until the 1917 Bolshevik coup, because the interactions between America’s and Russia’s geopolitical and economic interests were few and mostly compatible. Given that these fundamentals have not changed, it would be best for both countries if their policies gradually returned to that long normal.

But for both countries, transcending the past century’s habits is not easy. The essential problem is that neither side’s desires, nor its calculus of ends and means, is clear to the other, or perhaps to itself. It seems that the main thing Putin or any other Russian leader might want from America is no interference as Russia tries to recreate the tsars’ empire. Thus Russia’s continuing relations with anti-U.S. regimes in Latin America can only be understood as Cold War inertia—the almost instinctive sense that what is bad for America must somehow be good for Russia. The U.S. government, for its part, while largely neglecting Russia’s involvement in the Western hemisphere, tries to limit its influence in Europe while at the same time reaching agreements concerning strategic weapons—a largely Cold War agenda. The soundness of these priorities on both sides is doubtful.

Both Russia and the U.S. fear China, and with good reason. The crushing size of contemporary China’s population and economy frightens the Russians. The fact that some Russian women marry Chinese men (disdaining Russian ones) embarrasses them and has made them more racially prejudiced than ever against the Chinese. Yet Russia aligns with China internationally and sells it advanced weapons, paid for with American money—money that China earns by trading its people’s cheap labor for America’s expensive technology. With these weapons as well as its own, China has established de facto sovereignty over the South China Sea and is pushing America out of the western Pacific. Nonetheless, the U.S. treats Russia as a major threat, including “to our democracy”. For Russia and America to work against one another to their common principal adversary’s advantage makes no geopolitical sense. But internal dynamics drive countries more than geopolitics.

Nowhere is this clearer than with the notion that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election—a charge which has roiled American public life for the past two years and counting. Interference in American life? That is what the Soviet Union was all about. By contrast, current concerns about Russia are a tempest, albeit a violent one, in a domestic American teapot.

In America, the Soviets worked less through the Communist Party than they did in Europe. Here [in America], they simply seduced and influenced people at the top of our society. Even in America prominent persons in the Democratic Party, academia, media, and intelligence services (or who would become prominent, e.g., future Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and CIA Director John Brennan), were Communists more or less openly. Far more important to the Soviets were persons convinced that Soviet and American interests were identical. Harry Hopkins, for example, who ran the U.S. government on President Franklin Roosevelt’s behalf, considered Stalin’s objectives to be so indistinguishable from America’s that the KGB considered him to be effectively Stalin’s agent. By contrast, Alger Hiss, an important State Department official, was one of many controlled Soviet agents within the U.S. government. But the compatibility between Hiss’s views and those of many in the U.S. ruling class was striking. For example, even after Soviet archives confirmed Hiss’s status as a Soviet agent, Robert McNamara, secretary of defense under Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, like many of his class, angrily insisted on Hiss’s innocence.

The comradeship of American liberals and Soviet Communists lasted to the Soviet Union’s end. In May 1983, for example, in an incident widely reported at the time and confirmed by Soviet archives, former U.S. senator John Tunney visited Moscow and, on behalf of his friend and classmate—and prospective Democratic presidential candidate—Senator Edward Kennedy, proposed to KGB director Viktor Chebrikov that Kennedy work with Soviet dictator Yuri Andropov to “arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA” because “the only real potential threats to Reagan [in the 1984 election] are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations”. Kennedy promised “to have representatives of the largest television companies in the USA contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interviews”. Collusion, anyone? Today, with the Soviet Union gone, its moral-intellectual imprint on our ruling class remains.

The contemporary notion of Russian interference, however, owes nothing to Russia. It began when, in June 2016, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) tried to explain how a trove of e-mails showing its partiality for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders got into the public domain, alleging that they had been hacked from its server by Russian agents. To this day, there is zero evidence for this, the DNC not having allowed access to that server by any law enforcement agency or independent party.

Throughout the rest of the 2016 campaign, this narrative merged with one from CIA Director John Brennan and other leaders of U.S. intelligence, who were circulating a scurrilous dossier, paid for by the Clinton campaign, that alleged Trump’s connections with Russia. The Obama Administration used the dossier as the basis for electronic and human surveillance of the Trump campaign. Together, these narratives prompted a two-year investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which found no basis for the dossier, or for a relationship between Russia and the Trump campaign. Nevertheless, the assertion of Trump’s indebtedness to Russia became the pretext for #TheResistance to the 2016 election’s result, led by the Democratic Party, most of the judiciary, the bureaucracy, and the media.

In Europe as well as in America, the establishment’s protagonists have pointed to Russia to allege that their rejection by the voters is somehow “undemocratic”. Larry Diamond in the Wall Street Journal, following Robert Kagan in the Washington Post, wrote that “in one country after another, elected leaders have gradually attacked the deep tissues of democracy—the independence [from sovereign voters] of the courts, the business community, the media, civil society, universities and sensitive state institutions like the civil service, the intelligence agencies and the police.” Voting against the establishnment, you see, is undemocratic!

What Are Our Interests?

Making impossible a rational public discussion of U.S. policy toward Russia is the very least of the damage this partisan war has wrought. American liberals believed the Soviet Union’s dissolution was impossible; conservatives flattered themselves that they caused it. Few paid attention to what happened and how. Once the Soviet Union was gone, the West in general and Americans in particular presumed to teach Russians how to live, while helping their oligarchs loot the country. Russians soon got the impression that they were being disrespected. At least as Soviets, they had been feared. The Clinton Administration was confident that Russia would become a liberal partner in the rules-based international order. At the same time Clinton tried to load onto Russia the hopes that the U.S. establishment had long entertained about global co-dominion with the Soviets. In the same moment they pushed NATO to Russia’s borders—a mess of appeasement, provocation, and insult. Long-suffering Russians, who had idolized the West during the Soviet era, came to dislike us.

As the George W. Bush Administration fumbled at the new reality, it tried to appease Russia by continuing to limit U.S. missile defenses in fact, while publicly disavowing the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; it formally objected to Russia’s dismemberment of Georgia, while effectively condoning it. The incoming Barack Obama Administration tried to go further along the same self-contradictory line by withdrawing anti-missile support from eastern Europe, and quietly promising even more restraint. But when, in 2014, Putin seized Crimea, Obama imposed serious economic sanctions and agreed to place NATO and American troops in Poland and the Baltic States. Then, for the most tactical of domestic political considerations, the Obama Administration, and hence the U.S. establishment, decided to try explaining the course and results of the 2016 U.S. election campaign as “Russia’s attack on our democracy”.

What are the American people’s interests in Eurasia, and how big are these interests? Although today’s Russia poses none of the ideological threats that the Soviet Union did—and despite the absence of geopolitical or any other clashing interests—Russia is clearly a major adversary in Europe and the Middle East. Its technical contributions to China’s military, and its general geopolitical alignment with China, are most worrisome. What, other than Soviet inertia and wounded pride, motivates the Russians? The U.S. maintains economic sanctions on Russia. To achieve precisely what? From both sides’ perspective, it is difficult to see what good can come from this continued enmity.

Today’s triangular U.S.-Russia-China calculus is not comparable to the Soviet-Chinese military confrontation of the 1970s and ’80s, when both the U.S. and China feared Soviet missiles, and the U.S. best served its own interests by implicitly extending its nuclear umbrella over China. Today, the problems between Russia and China stem from basic disparities that U.S. policy obscures by treating Russia as, if anything, more of a threat than China. The best that the U.S. can do for itself is to say nothing, and do nothing, that obscures these disparities. Without backhanded U.S. support for close Russo-Chinese relations, the two countries would quickly become each other’s principal enemies.

Ongoing U.S. anxiety about negotiations with Russia over weaponry is nothing but a legacy of the Cold War and a refusal to pay attention to a century of experience, teaching that arms control agreements limit only those who wish to limit themselves. Russia violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by developing the Iskander missile; the U.S. was right to withdraw from the agreement, but mistaken in ever expecting another country not to arm itself as it thinks best. In that regard, Americans should not listen to, never mind accommodate in any way, Russia’s (or any other country’s) objections to U.S. missile defenses. These are in our clear and overriding interest. Defending America as best we can—against missiles that might come to us from anywhere, for any reason—is supremely our business.

What then are America’s legitimate, realizable demands on Russia?

Putin’s Russia, by its 2015-18 intervention in Syria and its management of Turkey, achieved the tsars’ historic desire for a warm water port. Although the former conquest is firm, keeping Turkey friendly to Russia must ever be troublesome. Absent a friendly Turkey, Russia’s renewed control of Crimea and even the Syrian bases will be of very limited worth for any but defensive purposes. Whatever else might be said of its role in the Middle East, Russia has brought more stable balance to local forces than ever in this young century. Only with difficulty will American statesmen regret that our old adversary now deals with some of the problems that bedeviled us for a half-century.

The U.S. would be more secure geopolitically were Russia merely one of several European powers. But it has always been an empire, whose size has varied with time. An independent Ukraine has always been the greatest practical limitation on Russia’s imperial ambitions. That is very much a U.S. interest, but is beyond our capacity to secure.

U.S. relations with Russia regarding Ukraine are analogous to U.S. relations with Europe 200 years ago. Our overriding interest then was to prevent the Europeans from holding any major part of the Western hemisphere. By stating America’s intention to guard its hemispheric interests while forswearing meddling in European affairs, the U.S. encouraged them to face that reality. Today’s Russia realizes it cannot control Ukraine except for its Russian part, nor the Baltics, never mind the Visegrád states. The U.S. could lead Russia to be comfortable with that reality by reassuring it that we will not use our normal relations with Ukraine or with any of Russia’s neighbors to try to define Russia’s limits in Europe. We should realize that our setting such limits is beyond America’s capacity, and that it undercuts the basis for fruitful relations.

The U.S. prefers the Baltic States, and especially Ukraine, to be independent. But we know, and should sincerely convey to Russia, that their independence depends on themselves, and that we regard it as counterproductive to make them into American pawns or even to give the impression that they could be. Ukraine’s independence—and hence Russia’s acceptance of it as inevitable—depends on Ukraine retrenching into its Western identity, rejecting the borders that Stalin and Khrushchev had fixed for it, and standing firmly on its own feet—as, for example, by asserting its Orthodox church’s independence from Russia’s.

Wise U.S. policy would remove sanctions that previous administrations placed on Russia on behalf of Ukraine. Fruitless strife has been these sanctions’ only result. For example, they emboldened Ukraine to suppose it had U.S. support for presuming it had the same right to navigation in the Sea of Azov, passing under a Russian bridge, as it does in the Atlantic Ocean.

But in accord with the Monroe Doctrine, we should be willing to wage economic war on Russia—outright and destructive—on America’s own behalf, were the Russians to continue supporting anti-U.S. regimes in the Western hemisphere. If you want economic peace with America, we would say, stop interfering in our backyard. We Americans, for our part, are perfectly willing to stop interfering in your backyard.

In sum, nothing should be geopolitically clearer than that the natural policy for both America and Russia is not to go looking for opportunities to get in each other’s way.

Tell them (reprise) 3

The United Socialist States of America?

Is it really possible that the United States of America will vote to become a socialist country? Is the Democratic Party now irredeemably a socialist party? If so, does it as such have a real chance of winning the House, the Senate and the Presidency?

Victor David Hanson writes at Townhall:

A recent Harris poll showed that about half of so-called millennials would like to live in a socialist country. …

But they have no idea what socialism is. Professor Hanson gives several reason why millennials are attracted to what they think it is, including this:

Schools and colleges have replaced the empirical study of economics, history and politics with race, class and gender indoctrination.

Few young activists … know the 20th century history of … Cambodian dictator Pol Pot, Soviet Union strongman Joseph Stalin and Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong [who] each killed millions of their own people.

Today’s students romanticize Che Guevara and Fidel Castro because they are clueless about their bloody careers. The Castro government for over a half-century was responsible for the murders of thousands of Cubans and Latin Americans in efforts to solidify Cuban “socialism” throughout Latin America.

When our schools and colleges do not teach unbiased economics and history, then millions of youth have no idea why the United States, Great Britain, Germany and Japan became wealthy and stable by embracing free-market capitalism and constitutional government. Few learn why naturally rich nations such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela — or entire regions such as Central America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia — have traditionally lagged far behind due to years of destructive central planning, socialist economics and coerced communist government.

The handmaiden of failed socialist regimes has always been ignorance of the past and present. And that is never truer than among today’s American college-degreed (but otherwise economically and historically illiterate) youth.

What can be done to counter the propaganda of the Left which is winning so many with its false promises?

The offering is parceled so prettily: economic equality, guaranteed jobs, free health care, free education. But take off the wrapping, and the contents are poverty, dreariness, staleness,  hopelessness at best, agony and violent death at worst.

Here is our answer, taken almost verbatim from the article titled Tell Them (under Pages in our margin), first posted in mid October 2016, shortly before the election that fortunately brought Donald Trump to the presidency:

Why do millions of Americans “think” that economic equality is morally desirable?

Why are tens of millions content to live on state support without attempting to improve their standard of living by their own efforts?

Why do millions of university students in America admire intellectuals who hate America, such as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and make an icon out of the sadistic mass-murderer Che Guevara?

Why? Because they’ve been told to. They’ve been told that good people do and “think” these things. They want to be good. They believe what they’ve been taught.

The same answer applies to: Why Muslim women believe they must put up with being sexually mutilated and enslaved to men. Why multitudes the world over believe that there was a nation called Palestinians who were driven off their land by aggressive usurping Jews. Why Christians believe that a man who died long ago lives on as one part of a three-part god. Why Muslims and Christians imagine that when you are dead you are still alive in another place. Why Jews believe that their benign and omnipotent God has some unknowable but just purpose in having six million of them enslaved, starved, tortured and murdered by Nazis.

They believe these things because they were taught them. All this was drummed into them. They were raised to know that that is how it ought to be. 

Few if any ideas are easy to spread. To get an idea accepted by large numbers of people takes patience, persistence, conviction, tireless energy on the part of those who want to spread it. The idea need not make good sense, be reasonable, come with proofs that it will work as its advocates say it will. It doesn’t even have to appeal strongly to the emotions. It just needs to become what “everybody” accepts.

If you want your idea to prevail over others, this is what it takes. First the conviction that it is right and everyone should know it. Next, a decision to spread it. Then energy, persistence, patience – and eventually force.

What made Christianity catch on? It wasn’t the life-style – poor, austere, hard, humble. Even the promise of eternal life was not a reliable recommendation as anyone’s eternity could as easily be endless agony as endless bliss (it was and is a 50-50 tossup). The theology was so hard to make sense of that the Church itself to this day has not settled it. And the morality it demanded was against human nature. So what made it succeed? Energy, persistence, patience, indoctrination, force.

See how long it took. From the time St Paul invented “Jesus Christ” to the time the emperor of Rome (Constantine) accepted the new god and the doctrines that had accreted to him, thus making it fashionable to be Christian (just a few decades before force was applied and it became compulsory), nearly three hundred years had passed. Three hundred years of persistent, patient, energetic proselytizing. Even then, it was not securely implanted in the minds of the subjects. One Emperor – Julian – came along and actually tried to reverse the trend by suppressing Christianity and re-instating paganism. He didn’t have enough time. He died in battle, his successors went back to favoring Christianity, and the Emperor Theodosius decreed that Christianity was to be the religion of the state. With him the final phase of force arrived.

Marxist Communism took less time to get a real grip on the minds of multitudes. Means of communications had speeded up considerably between the 4th and the 19th centuries, but still it took half a century (if one arbitrarily dates it from the first publication of Marx’s Das Kapital in 1867 to the success of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917). And still the same method had to be employed: energetic, patient, persistent proselytizingMuch repetition was required. The fever of enthusiasm had to be caught by two generations of intellectuals before the infection became a pandemic. Then came force. 

The creed must become the norm. So pervasive must the doctrine be that anybody who does not subscribe to it wholeheartedly will appear egregious; an oddball, a rebel, a danger to everyone else and even to himself. The orthodoxy must be accepted without question as good, so anyone who opposes it is ipso facto a bad person.

By the late 20th century communications had become even faster, so the New Left, rising in 1968, could achieve the peaks of power in Europe in less than thirty years, and  in America in forty years. It started as a weak revolutionary movement which brought nothing good with it to Western Europe and America, but much that was bad: recreational drugs, AIDS, and terrorism as self-expression. New Leftists complained that they had too much freedom, too much choice, that tolerance of their politics was repressive. And this irrational case was widely accepted, even while, on the other side of the iron curtain, a young man burnt himself to death to protest against the lack of freedom, choice, and tolerance.

The New Left movement was ignorant, blind, puerile, unreasonable, sadistic – yet it became, it has become, the prevailing belief-system of the greater part of the Western world, and at present in almost all “free” countries the standard ideology (or religion) of the state, no matter what political party is in power. How?

The plan was made. The plan was put into execution. Gramsci supplied the phrase for the overall strategy: “The Long March through the Institutions”.   It wasn’t enough that the New Leftists should protest, should threaten and carry out violent attacks, should shout and write and display their slogans. They must take over the institutions of power, everyone of them: the smallest citizens’ groupings – such as library committees – were not too small. But none were too big. Town councils had to be infiltrated and eventually dominated; then newspapers, radio and TV channels; boards of education very importantly; the schools, the universities; the civil service; the law courts; a major political party; then the country’s legislative body, and eventually the pinnacles of power, prime ministerships, presidencies. Police forces and the military were formidable challenges. The tactic was first to discredit them and pressure them from outside by means of public opinion guided by the converted press; then to infiltrate them; finally bend them from within to conform to the doctrine and advance the cause.

Meanwhile books, films, articles, lessons, lectures, systems of reward, prizes must all promote the cause. It took decades, but it succeeded. Even in America now there have been at least two generations raised on New Left doctrine through schools, universities, books, films, the press, and TV.

How otherwise could the free Western world, whose policies and armies opposed the oppressing, enslaving Communist Eastern world, have been successfully converted to the very doctrine that oppressed, enslaved, tortured and mass murdered? It didn’t take reason. It didn’t take persuasion. The idea was no more innately and manifestly true and good than the idea of Christianity. But as in the case of spreading Christianity –  that weird, obscure, muddled, sorrowful, other-worldly new religion – it took conviction, decision, planning, energy, persistence, repetition, on the part of its missionaries. And finally force.

Only Leftist doctrine – government control of the economy, government provision of welfare, confiscatory and punitive taxation – is politically correct now in America. Collectivist thinking is the norm. Good people vote left. (When, in 2008, a Californian woman came upon a stall set up on a main street to canvass votes for the Republican presidential candidate John McCain, she called the police, and was astonished to learn that to solicit public support for the anti-collectivist Republican Party was not illegal.) Again, as with Christianity, the allegiance to the doctrine has little or nothing to do with its ideas. Most adherents could not explain what the ideas are. But they know that good people find them good, that good people vote for them. And that is all they need to know. Who doesn’t want to think of himself as a good person?

But the question of how did this become the case has not been fully answered. There is another aspect to the story. In order for one doctrine to succeed, it is necessary for other, counter doctrines to fail.

And the success of Leftism now – would it have happened if the conservative Right had been paying attention? Remember that old saying that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”? Well, the Right was not being vigilant. It didn’t bother to argue against political correctness. It disregarded the cynical shenanigans going on in the United Nations as if it were nothing but a zoo housing many clamorous beasts who were safely confined and could in no way threaten American life, liberty or happiness. If it was made to feel now and then the bullying, deceitful, sly, sometimes violent tactics of the Left, it shrugged them off. Conservatives went on being civil and preferring honesty when the world’s mood had changed to favoring lies and abuse. They put their confidence in the fact that America had been founded as the political embodiment of the idea of personal freedom; had demonstrated to the world – forever, they believed – that freedom brought prosperity and might and stunning innovation. They assumed that the rightness of individual liberty, the capitalist system, and government by the people had been established forever. So strong and free a country could afford to be tolerant. Let some wild, immature, misguided persons preach despotism (Communism, Socialism, Progressivism, Greenism, whatever), the system was strong enough to be hospitable to alien ideas, and to allow dissent or even rebellion. Tested, it would prove itself inviolable. It could not only withstand opposition, it could absorb it and dissolve it. No special effort was required. American history was on the side of those who would defend freedom and the Constitution. The separation of powers would protect them. The free press would dilute propaganda. Open enquiry in the academies would ensure that all points of view were argued and the most rational, the most humane, would persuade serious scholars. But they were wrong.

In their complacency, conservatives did not even notice the Long March. They could not mark its stations of success. Even now there are deluded Republicans who have not absorbed the fact that most Americans like collectivism; that they don’t object to electoral fraud; that they accept a failing economy; that many would rather live on government handouts than become rich; that being rich has become a morally bad thing; that it’s okay for foreign powers to develop weapons that can kill vast numbers of Americans; that the press does not report what is happening in the world but only what it wants to happen; that courts of law are willing to prefer foreign law to the Constitution; that it doesn’t matter if American representatives abroad are attacked and murdered; that freedom has become a term worthy only of contempt; that American history is a trail of shame; that a cruel religion – Islam – is being allowed to seep through the body politic, and is protected and advanced by the government itself.

But now millions of conservatives are waking up and are asking, how did this happen? It happened because people patiently, energetically, persistently planned it and made it happen.

What can we do about it, they ask themselves and each other.

What they have to do about it is change the minds of the people. First they must be sure that they want the free republic the founders established; that they want to maintain free markets; that they don’t want a welfare state; that they do want to preserve national defenses; that they want indoctrination in the schools to stop; that they want to forbid the application of foreign law; that they do not want to go on funding an institution – the UN – that consistently works against their interests. Then they must decide that their political philosophy is right, uniquely right, and must be implemented at any and all costs. Then they must start teaching it. With energy, persistence, patience and fiery enthusiasm. It will take time. But that is the only way. Teach, preach, argue, use every method that works. Give up the idea that it’s better to be gentlemanly than to sink to using the methods of the opposition; that if you do as they do you will have betrayed the very values that you are fighting for. So let them win? No! They have made the fight low and dirty. Get down in the dirt and fight it.

How badly does the conservative right want to win and hold on to power in America? How important is it to them that they should?

If it is as important to you, Conservatives, as it needs to be, tell the voters, tell the children that the free market is the only means of creating general prosperity, and why. Tell them that central planning of an economy cannot work, and why. Tell them why competition is good for everyone, producers and consumers alike.

Tell them what profit is and why it is essential for ensuring abundance.

Tell them that only where people are free can there be discovery and innovation, improvement in everyone’s daily life, better technology, the advance of civilization. Explain why. Show them the proofs of history.

Tell them the truth about life in the Third World. Not politically correct sentimental drivel, but the actual awful facts about life in most other countries.

Tell them why impartial judgment is the only means to justice; why all sane adult citizens must be treated equally by the law; why people must be judged by their actions, not their intentions or feelings.

Tell them why government should be kept small and its powers limited. Tell them what the essential tasks of government are: protection of the nation, of the individual, of liberty, of the rule of law itself. And why governments should not be allowed more power and money than it needs to fulfill its few essential functions.

Shout down the shouters. Tell Muslims what is wrong with their creed and why American secularism is better. Don’t allow them to build a protective wall around themselves to shut out criticism of their absurd and savage beliefs.

Tolerate only the tolerant and tolerable.

It will take time. Start now. Tell them.

 

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