Hillary chooses Karl Marx 1

… as her running mate.

Posted under Humor, Videos by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

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The Left against science (2) 6

It is said that conservatives tend to be anti-science, with the Bush administration serving as a prime example. The evidence adduced usually comes down to three things: opposition on moral grounds to unrestricted embryonic stem cell research, support (mainly by evangelicals) for the theory of intelligent design, and skepticism about the inevitable catastrophic impact of global warming, said to be wholly or largely anthropogenic in origin. 

Before condemning conservatives for their irrational opposition to “established” scientific truths, one would do well to pause and examine the record of liberals and leftists with respect to propounding and believing scientific nonsense. The following list of absurdities, masquerading as scientific certainties, which people on the Left have believed over the past 100 years will illustrate my point:  

1.         The theory, first propounded by Sigmund Freud, that mental disorders which are not somatic in origin are caused mainly by the desire on the part of a child to kill its parent of the same sex and to have exclusive sexual rights to its parent of the opposite sex

2.         The widely held conviction that the scientific laws of history were discovered by Karl Marx and that these laws constitute a Master Theory explaining the evolution of every important aspect of human society, including politics, economics, and culture

3.         The belief that intelligence is either a meaningless term or, to the extent that it is meaningful, determined entirely by one’s environment

4.         The notion, first propounded in 1969 by biologist Paul Ehrlich, that the “population explosion” would doom the human race to massive starvation (hundreds of millions of deaths in the 1970s and 1980s and the 50% probability that Great Britain would be no more by the year 2000)—a prediction that has been spectacularly refuted in all its particulars without, however, diminishing the reputation of Ehrlich among his many progressive followers

5.         The belief, repeatedly expressed at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, that the disease would sweep through the heterosexual community in this country and claim tens of millions of lives (actual numbers: about 17,800 people in this country died of AIDS in 2009)

6.         The fear that biologically engineered foods, sometimes referred to as “Frankenfoods,” pose a serious threat to the human race, despite the consensus among the overwhelming majority of agronomists that such fear is groundless

7.         The fear that irradiating foods to kill their bacteria somehow makes these foods dangerous to consume

8.         The belief, despite all evidence to the contrary, that vaccines are dangerous and are responsible for the increase in childhood autism

9.         The fear that man-made pesticides, particularly DDT, are so harmful to the environment that we were justified in not using them even if it means the deaths of millions of children in Africa from malaria

10.       The belief, based on postmodern revelation, that scientific truths are merely social constructs and not actually descriptions of reality, despite the obvious fact that these so-called constructs have given rise to technologies (e.g., email, telephones, and automobiles) that confirm these truths beautifully

11.       The theory, propounded by radical feminists, and widely subscribed to in academia, that gender differences are not inherent but (like science itself) merely social constructs, despite the overwhelming evidence in human history and of current research pointing to profound and unalterable differences

None of the above absurdities have ever been taken seriously by those “easily manipulated and ignorant right-wing simpletons” in flyover country. Over the years, they have been largely the province of self-styled progressives, people whose prejudices and ideologies often come to us dressed up as science, but who, like most of us, believe what they want to believe, regardless of the evidence of the real world.

Robert Kantor, TAC Associate    June 18, 2015

The faith is dead long live the faith 13

Here are facts and figures from a Pew survey conducted between June and September of 2014, reported by the Washington Post:

Christianity is on the decline in America, not just among younger generations or in certain regions of the country but across race, gender, education and geographic barriers.

The percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years to about 71 percent, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. …

That’s still a lot of Christians. Nearly three-quarters of the nation.

At the same time, the share of those who are not affiliated with a religion has jumped from 16 percent to about 23 percent in the same time period. The trend follows a pattern found earlier in the American Religious Identification Survey, which found that in 1990, 86 percent of American adults identified as Christians, compared with 76 percent in 2008. Here are three key takeaways from Pew’s new survey.

  1. Millennials are growing even less affiliated with religion as they get older 

The older generation of millennials (those who were born from 1981 to 1989) are becoming even less affiliated with religion than they were about a decade ago, the survey suggests. In 2007, when the Pew Research Center did their last Religious Landscape Survey and these adults were just entering adulthood, 25 percent of them did not affiliate with a religion, but this grew to 34 percent in the latest survey.

The trends among the aging millennials is especially significant, said Greg Smith, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center. In 2010, 13 percent of baby boomers were religiously unaffiliated as they were entering retirement, the same percentage in 1972. “Some have asked, ‘Might they become more religiously affiliated as they get older?’ There’s nothing in this data to suggest that’s what’s happening,” he said. Millennials get married later than older generations, but they are not necessarily more likely to become religiously affiliated, he said.

  1. There are more religiously unaffiliated Americans than Catholic Americans or mainline Protestant Americans

The numbers of Catholics and Protestants have each shrunk between three and five percentage points since 2007. The evangelical share of the American population has dropped by one percentage point since 2007.

There are more religiously unaffiliated Americans (23 percent) than Catholics (21 percent) and mainline Protestants (15 percent). …

That’s 36% of Christians accounted for. What sort of Christians are the remaining 35% if neither Catholic nor Protestant? Are they all Mormons?

The groups experience their losses through what’s called “religious switching,” when someone switches from one faith to another. Thirteen percent of Americans were raised Catholic but are no longer Catholic, compared with just 2 percent of Americans who are converts to Catholicism. “That means that there are more than six former Catholics for every convert to Catholicism,” Smith said. “There’s no other group in the survey that has that ratio of loss due to religious switching.” There are 3 million fewer Catholics today than there were in 2007. While the percentage of Catholics in the United States has remained relatively steady, Smith said we might be observing the beginning of the decline of the Catholic share of the population.

Pew estimates there are about 5 million fewer mainline Protestants than there were in 2007. About 10 percent of the U.S. population say they were raised in the mainline Protestant tradition, while 6 percent have converted to mainline Protestantism.

Evangelical Protestants have experienced less decline, due to their net  positive retention rate. For every person who has left evangelical Protestantism after growing up, 1.2 have switched to join an evangelical denomination.

Then comes apparently good news.

  1. Those who are unaffiliated are becoming more secular

The “nones,” or religiously unaffiliated, include atheists, agnostics and those  who say they believe in “nothing in particular”. Of those who are unaffiliated, 31 percent describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up six points from 2007.

“What we’re seeing now is that the share of people who say religion is important to them is declining,” Smith said. “The religiously unaffiliated are not just growing, but as they grow, they are becoming more secular.”

And people in older generations are increasingly disavowing organized religion. Among baby boomers, 17 percent identify as a religious “none,” up from 14 percent in 2007.

“There’s a continuing religious disaffiliation among older cohorts. That is really striking,” Smith said. “I continue to be struck by the pace at which the unaffiliated are growing.”

White Americans (24 percent) are more likely to say they have no religion, compared with 20 percent of Hispanic Americans and 18 percent of black Americans. The retention rates of the “nones” who say they were raised as religiously affiliated has grown by seven points since 2007 to 53 percent.

The religions are such musty old things. Relics from the pre-science age – or the ages between Greek enlightenment and the West European Enlightenment. Dark and awful. Christianity and Islam in particular are calculated to cause profound anxiety with their terrible doctrines of hell.

Trouble is, many who turn away from those old religions, embrace Leftism. And that’s a religion too.

In his excellent book Thinkers of the New Left, Professor Roger Scruton writes of the devout Marxist, Louis Althusser:

[Althusser says that] you can understand [Marx’s book] Capital only if you already believe it. That is the criterion of religious faith, which is locked inviolably within the single thought of its own validity – the thought that “I understand because I believe”. For the scientific mind, belief is the consequence and not the cause of understanding. But it is precisely the scientific failure of Marxism which necessitates Althusser’s enterprise – that of the sacralisation of Marx’s texts and the transformation of their content into revealed dogma. … When Althusser turns to the text of Capital, it is partly in order to give vent to religious awe, but also to extract a phrase or a paragraph, which he encases in metaphysical nonsense, like a drunken mystic commenting on the gospels.

The minds of most people living in the last two thousand years have been darkened by the mystic fantasies of three individuals:

  • the confector of Christianity, St. Paul;
  • the concocter of Islam, Muhammad;
  • the inflictor of Communism, Karl Marx.

Communism is secular Christianity 20

The idea that compassion is the essence of morality, entered history – to become in time a significant ethical philosophy – with the teachings of St Paul.

St. Paul, the author of Christianity, preached to his converts that they must “love all”.[1] How to do this was explained by the writers of the gospels. Forgive them if they harm you. Turn the other cheek. Love the sinner though you hate the sin. It was an ethos that preferred love to justice (in contradiction to Judaism which held justice to be the highest value).

St. Paul went to extreme lengths in explaining how a follower of “Christ Jesus” must conduct himself in relation to other people.

He must humble himself until he was no more in his own eyes than “the filth of the world, the scum, the muck that is scoured from things.”[2] He must live for others, sacrifice himself for others, the only use of his life being for others. Not only every other individual, but the collective of mankind was of more value than the Christian’s own life. The plight of others is what matters, never your own predicament. Your only legitimate happiness must be a product of your giving and yielding to others.

So fanatically against self-consideration was St. Paul that his  ideal Christian society was one in which there was no private property. Share all you have, he told his followers. And the reason he gave for this is particularly pertinent: So that you’ll all be equal in worldly possessions.[3]  

Disdain for private property, and the idealizing of equality also entered history with Christianity.  

St. Paul went even further. You must be prepared to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”[4] You must not be privileged above others. As a Christian you must renounce your  individual wants, talents, aspirations to serve the collective. That way, you are buying the approval of “Christ Jesus”, by whose grace – and only by whose grace – you may be “saved” to live eternally with him. Yet all your efforts to be good according to Pauline precepts might not after all, however painstakingly pursued, buy you that ticket to heaven. And since God is all-knowing, your fate is pre-determined.

To the Christian, this life was only a time of preparation for eternity. What mattered for the Christian was what happened to his “soul” after his bodily death. Naturally, it became a cult of martyrdom. Christians took up their crosses to follow their Lord; joyfully sought crucifixion for themselves, or death in the lion’s mouth in the Roman arena. Some wore hairshirts. Some sat on the top of tall pillars for years. Some died for “Christ Jesus” in battle with followers of other faiths, or with rival claimants to the certain knowledge of Christian “truth”.

And while human life continues, the Church will be the only power on earth. Both the Catholic and Protestant churches became totalitarian tyrannies whose spies tirelessly sniffed out heretics to be tried, imprisoned, tortured and killed.

When would the eternal life of bliss – or agonizing punishment – begin? Immediately upon your own death, or at the end of time when “Christ Jesus”  will judge the quick and the dead? The answer remains unsettled. But there will be an Apocalypse, a cataclysmic event which will change everything, marking the end of days, and then – if not before – the chosen will live happily ever after in the perfect state of  heaven, ruled over by the all-powerful government of the Triune God; while the rejected burn in hell.

Thus Christianity.

What other ideology claims the moral high ground by justifying its every deed by claiming it to be in the service of the weak, the exploited, the injured, the underdog? Or to put it another way, Justification by Compassion?

What other dogma has it that the plight of the collective matters above all? What other teaches that it is it the duty of the individual to sacrifice himself, his personal wants, talents, aspirations to the greater good of the collective?[6]

In what other ideal society is private property abolished – “so that all will be equal in worldly possessions”? Who decries “privilege”? Who holds equality as the highest ideal? 

In the name of what political orthodoxy were totalitarian tyrannies established whose spies ceaselessly sniffed out heretics to be tried, imprisoned, tortured and killed?

Where do we find revered texts predicting a cataclysmic event that will change everything, after which the chosen will live happily ever after in a perfect state, under the rule of an all-powerful government, while the rejected will be excluded, condemned, punished, and destroyed?

The answer is Communism, learnt from the unquestionable authority of Karl Marx.

Marxist Communism insists that the only power must be the Communist Party.

It predicts an inevitable Revolution as its all-transforming Apocalypse. After the Revolution the faithful – those whom the Communist Party spares – will live happily ever after in a perfect Communist state.

While Communism posits no divinities, it declares that something superior to man’s will determines what must inevitably happen – an hypostasis named History.

It rejects the notions of a supernatural authority and a non-material existence. But the rest of Marxist Communism’s essential doctrine is derived from only one source – Christianity. Though neither Marx nor any of his apostles seem to have been aware of it.

The current head of the Pauline Christian Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has tackled this subject.

AP reports (January 11, 2015):

Pope Francis is insisting that his concern for the poor and critique of the global economic system isn’t some novel, communist-inspired ideology but rather the original and core “touchstone” of the Christian faith.

He is right about that. Communism is inspired by Christianity, not Christianity by Communism.

Some U.S. conservatives have branded the first Latin American pope a Marxist for his frequent critiques of consumerism and focus on a church “that is poor and for the poor”.  But in an interview contained in a new book, Francis explains that his message is rooted in the Gospel and has been echoed by church fathers since Christianity’s first centuries.

Again, he is right.

“The Gospel does not condemn the wealthy, but the idolatry of wealth, the idolatry that makes people indifferent to the call of the poor,” Francis says in This Economy Kills, a study of the pope’s economic and social teachings. …

Wrong. Early Christianity did condemn the wealthy. The Gospel of Luke, for instance, tells a story to make that very point.[7]

Specifically, Francis summarized a verse from the Gospel of Matthew which is the essential mission statement of his papacy: “I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was in prison, I was sick, I was naked and you helped me, clothed me, visited me, took care of me.”

And overlooked the question why “I” was in prison.

“Caring for our neighbor, for those who are poor, who suffer in body and soul, for those who are in need: this is the touchstone. Is it pauperism? No. It is the Gospel.”

Right.

He cites church fathers dating to St. Ambrose and St. John Chrysostom as expressing the same concerns, and noted somewhat wryly that if he had said the same “some would accuse me of giving a Marxist homily”.

Well recognized! Though I cannot resist mentioning in passing that the two saints, Ambrose and John Chrysostom, whom he cites as being especially zealous about caring for the suffering, did not extend their compassion to everyone, they being among the most vicious preachers against the Jews in all history.[8]

How interesting it is that the Pope felt moved to say, not that Marxism and Christianity are different, but merely that of the two similar ideologies, Christianity came first.

To be compassionate is not of course morally wrong. But as a cause so high that in its name human lives may be sacrificed, moral superiority hypocritically claimed, a monopoly of power be instituted, and the unique possession of Truth asserted, it is hideous.

And hideous is the history of both Christianity and its daughter Communism.

 *

Afterword on Charity:

The “first” letter of St. Paul “to the Corinthians”, chapter 13, is a rather good poem declaring love, or charity, to be the highest virtue. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. … And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Whether the poet meant “love” or “charity” has been a bone of contention in Christendom. William Tyndale was sentenced to be burnt at the stake by the Church of Infinite Compassion for translating it with the one word rather than the other.

As an aside, I don’t believe that St Paul was the author of the chapter. It is far too well written to be from the pen of such a clumsy writer as he was. For an example of his poor writing, see his authenticated letter to the Romans.[9]

But what of charity – regarded by Christians as love in practice? Though I am not against it, I do not see it as a great virtue. It is no solution for poverty – just prolongs it.

I do think charity is preferable to Communism/Socialism as a means of redistributing money from those who have earned it to those who have not, private enterprise always being preferable to government control.

But still it is unjust.

To give it is very satisfying to the ego. And contrary to Christian dogma, there’s nothing wrong with self-indulgence.

But as self-advertisement it is repulsive.

Ideally, charity would be practiced only by consenting adults in private.

 

Jillian Becker    January 14, 2015

NOTES

1. Love one another, love all. 1 Thess.4:9 , Rom.13:8, 1 Cor 13. All quotation is from the King James Version of the New Testament.

2. 1 Cor.4:13

3. 2 Cor 8:14

4. Rom.12:12

5. Become 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; Do only the most menial work for a living. 1 Thess.4:11,1 Cor.4:12; Bear affliction –  persecution, injustice – with patience. Rom.12:12-14,  even with joy. 1 Thess.5:16,18

6. It is well documented that numerous loyal members of the the Communist Party, in the USSR and its satellite states, were persuaded by the Party to let it kill them for the sake of the Party. An interesting account in English of how the Communist Party thus devoured its own is Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kovály, whose husband Rudolf Margolius was a martyr to the greater, humaner, compassionate cause in Communist Czechoslovakia.

7. Luke 16:19-31

8. 379 A.D.  Vicious writing by St. John Chrysostom and St. Ambrose in Milan who said: “The Jews are the most worthless of all men. They are lecherous, greedy, rapacious. They are perfidious murderers of Christ. They worship the Devil. Their religion is a sickness. The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ and for killing God there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. Christians may never cease vengeance, and the Jew must live in servitude forever. God always hated the Jews. It is essential that all Christians hate them.” He was called the Bishop with the Golden Tongue. St. Ambrose, Bishop of the Church offered to burn the synagogue himself. St. John Chrysostom’s Homilies against the Jews may be found here.

9. eg. of St. Paul’s confused thinking and poor writing, Rom. 5:12-18: “12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. 15 But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. 17 For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”

Conservatism: what is it? 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kirk says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As we most emphatically do …

…  and that material needs are their only needs …

As nobody does!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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The darkness of this world (7) 1

The Darkness of This World 

essays on

Our Gnostic Age

7

On May 5, 1818, there was born, in the Prussian city of Trier, one of those rare persons who change the course of history. He did not live to see his prophecies warp the world. He died in 1883, and the first earth-shattering event of which he was an effective cause came thirty-four years after his death: the Russian Communist revolution of 1917.

Karl Marx was the second child and eldest son of a prosperous lawyer. Two years before his birth, his father, Herschel Marx, had taken a step that must have amazed, even outraged, a good many of his Jewish co-religionists in his (overwhelmingly Catholic) home city, which for generations had had its rabbis from the Marx family: he was baptized by the Lutheran church, becoming Heinrich Marx. Protestant Christianity itself did not attract him irresistibly, but he wanted to play a full part as a citizen of (largely Protestant) Prussia. He was a man of reason who admired the products of reason: machines, engines, modernity in general. In 1824, overcoming his wife’s opposition to the move, he had his seven children (an eighth was yet to come) baptized into the recently established Evangelical Church of Prussia, Lutheran and Calvinist.

In his late teens, Karl fell in love with an aristocrat, Jenny von Westphalen, the friend of his older sister, and at about the same time decided to become a great poet. He wrote love poems to Jenny, and hate poems to the world.

The poems are bombastic, full of religio-romantic imagery. Little meaning can be found in them. But they do reveal the character and mentality of their composer. They are emotional, defiant, rebellious, destructive, swaggering, and express above all a hunger for power. Typical is this monologue from a verse drama titled Oulanem, the eponymous hero speaking: “Ha, I must entwine me on the wheel of flame,/ And in Eternity’s ring I’ll dance my frenzy! If aught besides that frenzy could devour,/ I’d leap therein though I must smash a world/ That towered high between myself and it!/ It would be shattered by my long drawn curse,/ and I would fling my arms around cruel Being,/ Embracing me, ‘twould silent pass away,/ Then silent would I sink into the void./ Wholly to sink, not be … oh, this were Life,/ But swept along high on Eternity’s current /To roar out threnodies for the Creator,/ Scorn on the brow! Can Sun burn it away?/ Bound in compulsion’s sway, curse in defiance!/ Let the envenomed eye flash forth destruction –/ Does it hurl off the ponderous worlds that bind?/ …… And we, we Apes of a cold God, still cherish/…… The viper so voluptuously warm,/ That it as Universal Form rears up/ And from its place on high grins down on us! And in our ear, till loathing’s all consumed,/ The weary wave roars onward, ever onward! ”

The young poet cast off the Christian God he had been lightly brought up to believe in, but he clung on to the concept of Satan and the powers of evil. He wrote, in a lyric titled The Fiddler: “Why do I fiddle? Or the wild waves roar?/ That they might pound the rocky shore, / That eye be blinded, that bosom swell, / That Soul’s cry carry down to Hell./ … I plunge, plunge without fail/ My blood-black sabre into your soul. / That art God neither wants nor wists,/ It leaps to the brain from Hell’s black mists/ … Till heart’s bewitched, till senses reel:/ With Satan I have struck my deal./ He chalks the signs, beats time for me,/ I play the death march fast and free.” “

With lines such as these young Karl expected to be recognized as a towering genius who would be listened to by a dumbstruck Europe. He intended through the power of his words to have an effect on history – a dire and destructive effect, apparently, while waves rolled onwards and pounded rocky shores. But his poems were received less favorably than he had confidently anticipated. The editors of periodicals to whom Karl sent a selection for publication returned them without comment. Indeed it seems that only Jenny von Westphalen was moved by them, especially by those dedicated to her. “Jenny! Do I dare avow/That in love we have exchanged our souls,/That as one they throb and glow,/And through their waves one current rolls?

His father would have liked Karl to take up some useful and lucrative career, in engineering perhaps, or science; something that would have involved him in the amazing developments of the age. Reason was pouring out inventions for the improvement of everyday life: gaslight on the streets, steam powered trains and ships, factories with machines that mass-produced goods. But such mundane things were of no interest to the young man of passionate poetic vision. He would never even visit a factory. Heinrich Marx and his son Karl stood on opposite sides of the post-Enlightenment divide between Reason, which fertilized civilization, and Romanticism, which poisoned it. …

 

The whole of this essay may be found on our Pages, added to the earlier essays under the same title. Access it by clicking on The Darkness of This World under the Pages heading at the top of our margin, and scroll down to 7, The Fiddler and His Proof

Posted under Articles, communism, History, Marxism, Philosophy, Religion general, Socialism by Jillian Becker on Sunday, January 26, 2014

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In Memoriam: Antony Flew, Philosopher of Atheism 8

[Photo: John Lawrence]

Antony Flew, the philosopher, atheist, and defender of freedom, died on April 8, 2010, at his home in Reading, England. I knew him, to my pride and delight, for many years. We would meet a few times a year (we both served on the Council of the Freedom Association, as I still do), and wrote to each other frequently about books, events, issues, campaigns, tactics. On politics and religion we saw eye to eye. We were both atheist conservatives. He was a classical scholar, more widely and deeply erudite than anyone else I’ve ever known. And he had the humility of true greatness. When I asked him to write the introduction to a new edition of a book I was editing on, and against, Karl Marx (The Red Prussian, by Leopold Schwarzschild) he told me that he was not the best person for the task, and gave me a short list of experts who, he insisted, knew more than he did and whose names would better grace the book. Only when they’d all declared themselves unable or unwilling, Antony said he would “do his best” to write a good introduction – and a very good introduction it is.

Obituaries on both sides of the Atlantic say that Antony Flew was the world’s most famous atheist, and that he suddenly changed his mind and declared that God exists after all.

It is true that he did say this. But he never said it when he was in his right mind.

It would have been unkind of me to write what I am about to write while he was alive. Yet I think it is absolutely right that I say it now, because it’s necessary to do him justice. So I declare that the reasoning by which he arrived at his certainty that God does not exist was never cancelled or reversed by the sloppy arguments of his senility.

Of his many books, the one that matters most for his reputation as an atheist is God & Philosophy. It was first published in 1966. Later editions appeared at intervals, the last in 2005. To judge by the new introduction he wrote, he was as sure of his atheism then as he had been in 1966.

In 2007 a new book appeared under his name titled There is a God. The subtitle crows: How the world’s most notorious [sic] atheist changed his mind. The authorship is ascribed to Antony Flew “with Roy Abraham Varghese”. But no one who has read God & Philosophy with attention could possible believe that There is a God was a product of the same intelligence. Either the powers of Antony Flew had faded away, or some other mind engendered this work. In fact, both those things happened. It has emerged that he did not write it. He had spoken, and other hands had written. He could not even remember what was in it. And of that failure of memory and general weakening of his mental faculties, the actual writers had taken advantage.

There is a God is distinctly written for an American readership. It refers, for instance, to the Red Sox. I’d have bet a mint that my friend Tony Flew had no idea who the Red Sox are – Chinese school-boys, he may have supposed.

According to Dr Richard Carrier, who tried to ascertain from Professor Flew himself whether he had really “found God”, the authors of There is a God are Roy Abraham Varghese who is known for his work on “the interface between science and religion”, and Pastor Bob Hostetler – two people with a big blunt axe to grind.

Carrier’s detailed account of how Flew claimed he was, but then again was not, converted to belief in a creator-God when certain scientific facts were brought to his attention, makes the whole sorry story plain. Carrier records that the philosopher admitted to finding the subject “too hard” to deal with; that he failed to remember anything about There is a God; that he repeatedly contradicted himself. He tells us about the bewildered old man being awarded a prize by an Evangelical Christian University. (The Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth, bestowed on him by the university of Biola at la Mirada, California.) The prodigal son returned! Much rejoicing in Christian circles. As if the willingness of a senile man to concede – on and off – the existence of a creator-God, were all the proof they needed to shout in the face of atheists and sceptics: “There, you see? If even he can see it now, you should not have the hubris to think you know better and continue to deny it!”

How insecure these believers must be in their belief!

Carrier writes: “It is certainly possible that Flew looked at ten drafts [of There is a God]. I see no reason to believe Flew was able to understand or even recall what he read.” Flew admitted to having “a nominal aphasia”. But it was more than “nominal”. “Flew could not even recall the arguments of the book , not just who made them or what his sources were.”

Carrier found that whenever Professor Flew himself stated his position, it was always to reaffirm his atheism. Statements to the contrary were never made by him directly, though one at least, firmly insistent that he really had changed his mind, was put out by the publisher on his behalf.

However, I know it was not a total scam. I know that at times he did think he had changed his mind.

I saw him soon after the book appeared and asked him was it true he now believed in God.

“Yes,” he replied, “but not the Monster”.

I understood of course what he meant by “the Monster”. He had rejected the Christian God while still in his teens because he could not reconcile the evil in the world and hell after it with a beneficent deity. Such a deity could only be a Monster. His father, a Methodist minister, was distressed by young Antony’s rejection of his faith, but Antony said, as he was to repeat throughout his life, that he had to go “where the evidence leads”. Now he told me, only the existence of “an intelligence” can explain the nature of the universe. This intelligence, this non-monstrous god, made the laws of nature and then had nothing more to do with his creation – the theological position known as deism.

In God & Philosophy, there is a section on “Order and Design”, in which the author asks the question: “Does order in nature itself presuppose an Orderer?” Elegantly and fully he reasons over a few pages that it does not. (This is not the place to quote his reasons, but I hope to whet some appetites for seeking them in the book.) “So we conclude that order in the universe by itself provides no warrant whatsoever for trying to identify an Orderer.”

The meticulous arguments are abandoned as though they had never been made, in the later book There is a God. The reason given there for belief in a creator God, is that the author has learnt about DNA, about its “enormous complexity”, and sees that there must have been an Orderer who made the universe! He also sets out the “fine-tuning” argument. Both the arguments, from “irreducible complexity” and “fine-tuning” have been thoroughly refuted.

Then there is the “Stratonician presumption”, as Flew himself named it after the Greek philosopher Strato of Lampsacus, the third head of Aristotle’s Lyceum, who formulated it. The presumption is that in explaining the world you can do without entities that are not necessary for the completeness of the explanation. In God & Philosophy, Antony Flew does not find it necessary to call in God or gods.

But suddenly, in There is a God, such a supernatural being becomes essential to explain the world’s existence. *

From Antony’s point of view these pressing believers had not done him a disservice. He told me that there was to be a TV documentary about him and his conversion. He was innocently surprised at the attention he was getting, and the unexpected windfall it brought with it. He was paid what seemed to him a very large sum of money. He had never been a rich man, and he was happy for his wife and daughters that they would have this fund at their disposal. (This most generous-hearted of men was painstakingly frugal: every letter he posted was in a re-used envelope with a label stuck over the old address.)

So there’s the picture. A pair (or more?) of American Christian Evangelicals (and a Jewish theologian and physicist, Gerald Schroeder) had worked on him rather than with him, when he had become mentally frail, to produce this cancellation of a lifetime’s thought. In his dotage, these Evangelicals battened on to him, dazzled him with science that was utterly new to him – the big bang, DNA – and rewarded him like a Pavlov’s dog when he gave the response their spin elicited. He was subjected to intellectual seduction, much as Bertrand Russell was by Communists in his senile years.

What seems to me intolerably sad and wrong is that the reputation Antony Flew ought to have, as an atheist philosopher who brilliantly defended atheism throughout his long and distinguished professional life, is now to be replaced by a phony story that he who had been a convinced atheist changed his mind. Is the man who defended atheism better than anyone since David Hume, to be remembered as a deist?

Is this to be allowed to happen – that he be remembered as a man who saw the error of his atheist ways and became persuaded that there was a God – simply because he suffered a softening of the brain in his last years? The truth is that the Antony Flew who conceded the existence of a “creator-intelligence” was not “the Flew” – as he liked to allude to himself – that he had been at the peak of his powers. His faculties were deteriorating, his memory came and went unreliably, he was confused, bewildered and – because he was in a state of decline – taken advantage of.

His handwriting became shakier. He put letters to other people in envelopes that he addressed to me. (They probably got the letters I was supposed to receive.) When I sent him the print-out of an article I had written deploring the Islamization of Britain, he sent it back to me a few weeks later as an article of his own that he would like me to comment on. When he was to meet me and a few colleagues at a certain old club on Pall Mall (the famous street of clubs in the heart of London) which he must have visited dozens or even hundreds of times, he couldn’t find it. A search party rescued him and brought him to the meeting. He had become unsure of himself. He did not always remember, or possibly even grasp, points put to him in a discussion.

But what an enthusiast he forever was for ideas! His face would light up, his voice grow urgent with excitement. A passionate intellectual who was always gentle, always courteous even in the heat of argument, Antony Flew was the epitome of a reasonable man. Or I should say that is what he had been, and that is the way he should be remembered, this great philosopher and atheist. (His country bestowed no honors on him. I think he should have been made Companion of Honour, which is in the sole gift of the sovereign. England deserves her great men ever less!) Even those who disagree with his atheism must surely acknowledge in the name of justice and decency that his achievements, not his late and lamentable capitulations which seemed to cancel them, should be what he is remembered for.

Jillian Becker  April 18, 2010

*

*Here is a sample of the “reasoning” of these Christian ghosts, writing in the name of Professor Flew:

“I put to my former fellow-atheists the simple central question: ‘What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a reason to at least consider the existence of a superior Mind?’

Easy reply: manifest purpose.

They state in his name that the immaterial, ie mind, cannot come out of the material.

Reply: How can the material come out of the immaterial – ie matter out of “Mind” or “God”?

The radicals who rule 0

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are disciples of the left-revolutionary Saul Alinsky. Hillary Clinton encountered him personally and wrote an academic essay on his theories. Obama never met him but is his political child, faithfully following his intructions for changing the world. To what? An explicit answer cannot be found in the works of radical leftists, but what one gathers and gleans from them is this: an entirely different world in which human beings will not be as they are but transfigured, their nature so utterly changed that they will commit no crimes, never desire to have one thing that everybody else doesn’t have, and will have no aggression, envy, or hate in them. Or something along those lines. The picture of what will be is never apparently clear even in the revolutionary mind itself. A Marx, a Lenin, a Mao, an Alinsky can describe in any amount of detail what hell is – life as it’s lived now, especially in America; but they cannot describe their heaven (see our post Heaven and Hell, December 16, 2009). They require the utter destruction of this world so that the amorphous fantasy, the new world that they cannot visualize will arise on the ruins of the old. All they are sure of is the first step: destroy this world. This they can and will strive to do with fanatical passion. Anything may be done, however unjust, however cruel. Any number of the living may be sacrificed, for their suffering will buy the bliss of that far more worthy future human race.

Alinsky lays out practical steps for achieving the total destruction in his book Rules for Radicals. David Horowitz, the doughty fighter for freedom in general and especially for free speech in the academies, has written a booklet titled Barack Obama’s Rules for Revolution: The Alinsky Model *, in which he explains fully what the Alinsky ethos is, and what tactics Alinskyites will use to create not heaven on earth but chaos.

Here are some quotations from the booklet:

Alinsky’s advice [to his followers] can be summed up in the following way. Even though you are at war with the system, don’t confront it as an opposing army; join it and undermine it as a fifth column from within. To achieve this infiltration you must work inside the system for the time being. Alinsky spells out exactly what this means: “Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people.” In other words, it is first necessary to sell the people on change itself, the “audacity of hope”, and “yes, we can”. You do this by proposing moderate changes which open the door to your radical agendas: “Remember: once you organize people around something as commonly agreed upon as pollution, then an organized people is on the move. From there it’s a short and natural step to political pollution, to Pentagon pollution.”

There is no real parallelism in the war which radicals have declared. One side is fighting with a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners battle plan against the system, while the other is trying to enforce its rules of fairness and pluralism. This is the Achilles heel of democracies and all radical spears are aimed in its direction.

At first it might seem paradoxical that an American president who has been the beneficiary of an electoral process second to none in its openness and inclusion should have been a veteran advocate and functionary of an organization like ACORN, which has been convicted of the most extensive election fraud in American history. But this is perfectly intelligible once the Alinsky method is understood. ACORN activists have contempt for the election process because they don’t believe in the electoral system as it is constituted in a capitalist democracy.

The really serious revolutionaries, the ones prepared to burn down the system and put their opponents up against the wall, have never had a plan. What they had – and still have – is a vague idea of the kingdom of heaven they propose to create, in Marx’s case “the kingdom of Freedom”, in Alinsky’s case “the open society”, in the case of the current left, “social justice”. These ideas are sentimental and seductive enough to persuade their followers that it is all right to commit fraud, mayhem and murder – usually in epic doses – to enter the promised land. But otherwise, revolutionaries never spend two seconds thinking about how to make an actual society work. How to keep people from committing crimes against each other; how to get them to put their shoulder to the wheel; how to provide incentives that will motivate individuals to produce wealth.

On this passage two points should be noted: The radical left’s understanding of what “the open society” means is the opposite of what the philosopher Karl Popper meant by it in his great work The Open Society and Its Enemies. Popper meant a society in which individuals are free to strive for their own ends, a society in which Adam Smith’s “natural order of liberty” (or what Karl Marx called, with contempt, “capitalism”) prevails. George Soros, who has benefitted hugely from the real open society of America, spends part of the fortune he has made in it on promoting collectivism with Alinskyite strategems through his “Open Society Institute”. And it should always be remembered that “social justice” is the opposite of justice. “Social justice” means endowing those who have not earned anything with the hard-won gains of those who have.

It must seem simply incredible that the chief enemy of a country should be its own elected president; that the man entrusted to lead it should be waging war on it. Many conservatives cannot bring themselves to believe even in the possibility that Obama – even though he is universally acknowledged to have been an Alinskyite in the past – is still of a mind to wreck the America he’s been elected to lead.

“Chaos”? “Wreck”? – don’t these words vastly exaggerate what’s happening?  But look at what he’s done: set the people against Congress, the states against the federal government, former allies against America; let enemies become dangerously strong; and loaded such a burden of debt on the people as will crush generations to come. Isn’t wrecking and chaos well underway?

Today in Townhall, Michael Medved writes a plea to conservatives not to characterize Obama as a revolutionary, or a radical of any sort. While never actually saying that Obama is not a radical revolutionary, he pleads that it’s politically unwise to say that he is. Here’s how he ends his column (but it’s worth going to the source to read the arguments):

If conservatives persist in characterizing the President of the United States as vicious and radical, insanely bent on the destruction of the Republic, we may find reassurance from the already like-minded but we’ll lose nearly everyone in the persuadable middle. As a result, we could spend the next decade or more as an increasingly impotent, irrelevant and angry opposition, howling in the political wilderness.

We don’t agree in this instance with Michael Medved. Horowitz’s booklet explains at length why it is just such fears that Alinskyites take advantage of. We think it’s time to fight seriously (though not unscrupulously as the radicals fight), and nothing can be won if the enemy isn’t recognized and named.

*Order it from The Freedom Center, PO Box 55089, Sherman Oaks, Ca 91499 Tel: 800-752-6562.

The new religion and carbon-neutral sex 5

All religions have a foundation myth.

The foundation myth of the religion of Environmentalism is man-made global warming.

Its Old Testament consists of the books of Karl Marx and the lesser prophets who came after him: eg Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci, Mao, Marcuse … Its New Testament consists of the Gospel according to Michael Mann and Al Gore, and the E-pistles  of the Climatic Research Unit Apostles.

This is part of an article on the (priestly and inquisitorial) powers of the Environmental Protection Agency, by Jonah Goldberg:

Tim Wirth, a former Senator and now chairman of the United Nations Foundation, once said: “We’ve got to ride the global-warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing, in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.” New York Times columnist and prominent warm-monger Thomas Friedman has repeatedly said (most recently this week) that he doesn’t care if global warming is a “hoax” because even if it is, the fear of it will force us to do what we need to do.

And it just so happens that … global warming fuels nearly every progressive ambition. Wealth transfers from rich to poor nations: Check. The rise of “global governance” and the decline of American sovereignty: Check. A secular fatwa not only to erode capitalism but to intrude on every aspect of our lives (Greenpeace offers a guide to carbon-neutral sex): Check. Weaning us off of oil (which, don’t let the Goregonauts fool you, was a priority back when we were still worried about global cooling): Check. The checks go on for as far as the eye can see, and we will be writing them for years to come.

Under the bed at Lambeth Palace 3

 Britain has been hit by economic crisis from the same causes as the US. The world’s anti-free-marketeers, Communists, Socialists, European haters of the Anglo-Saxon world, and a multitude of left-wing churchmen are gloating, calling the meltdown a ‘crisis of capitalism’.

Madeleine Westrop comments:

I know you are Atheist Conservatives: so, if you have any interest in your diametric (or dialectic?) opposite, consider for a moment the Church of England. It is advocating Karl Marx.

I don’t mean that the whole ecclesiastical edifice is daubed in Hegelian anti-God revolutionary anti-Capitalist slogans.  Most of the Anglicans I know are constitutionally unable to talk about politics, religion, money or even ideas at an English dinner party.   (I suppose if Marx had bred dogs or polyanthus…) Our dear old Anglican aunts go to the pretty parish church every Sunday and are true blue Conservatives from their charming hats to their patent shoes. 

But look further up.  Turn your gaze from the modest and crumbly foundations to the airy spires above.   The astonishing thing is that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior figure in the Established Church, turns to Marx when the world is troubled.

An article in the Spectator this week was written by The Most Reverend and Right Honorable, his Grace Dr Rowan Williams, Primate of All England, Lord Spiritual in the House of Lords, overseer of the Anglican Communion (the third largest denomination in the world), Ordinary to the Chaplains in the Army, Navy and Royal Airforce, Visitor, Patron and Governor to hundreds of charitable trusts, President of the House of Bishops and the General Synod, Chairman of the Archbishop’s Council, Church Commissioner responsible for administration of the wealth and property of the Church (about £6 billion and hundreds of acres of land), resident and official host to many at Lambeth Palace, resident of the Old Palace at Canterbury, bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury, blesser of oils, annointer of the Monarch at each coronation.  I have counted how many have been enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury and I think Dr Williams is about the 109th, since the first, St Augustine in 597 AD.

Dr Williams has decided to write about the economic crisis afflicting the world wholesale money markets, the banks and the stock-markets and ruination of all our pensions and savings to boot.  He says that unimaginable wealth has been generated by fiction and paper with no concrete outcome beyond profit for the traders.  He says the challenge is now to connect money to material reality.  And then it comes: “Marx long ago observed the way in which unbridled capitalism became a kind of mythology, ascribing reality, power and agency to things that had no life in themselves.”  He reminds us that “ascribing reality to what you have in fact made yourself” is idolatry. 

I agree there has been an “unreality” exposed because those debt obligations turned out to be worthless.  But this was not the work of a Monster Capitalist system.  Exposure is just what happens when you find out you have been stupid enough to deal in rotten wheat or quack medicine.  And there has been “unreality” in thinking such prodigal borrowing and spending was sustainable.  Again, this is not Monster Capitalism at work, but simply old fashioned bad business practice.

Was Dr Williams  thinking of the sorcerer in Marx’s Communist Manifesto?  In 1848 Marx and Engels wrote:

Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. 

This is nuts. Dr Williams can’t just say the problem is that we have created a Capitalist Monster and idolised it. For a start, here in England the problems have not occurred where old-fashioned capitalist values have prevailed.  The Northern Rock Bank lent out 110% mortgages to people who couldn’t make repayments and the bank went bust.  The taxpayer now has to pay a Bishop’s ransom for this failure. But Northern Rock was not a single-minded profit-mad selfish Capitalist Monster.  If it had been a bit more selfish it might have been more prudent. It gives 5% of its profits to ‘tackle disadvantage’ in the North East of England through a charitable foundation. It was a Labour Party pet and it was lending improvidently while the Labour Government was also borrowing like crazy to fund its socialist “transformations” (spending).  Northern Rock shared basic Labour Party socialist values. The bank employed Deborah Mattinson, Gordon Brown’s focus group guru, to advise it about social responsibility.  The Northern Rock charity gave money to the left wing think-tank the IPPR, which the Labour Government has used to outsource its own policy making.  In fact 17 departments have outsourced to the IPPR over the last 10 years.  And the inclusion and acceptance of the market system in a movement for social justice was part of the plan set out in Tony Blair’s New Labour movement.

Dr Williams also accepts private enterprise to some extent.  He writes,

Of course business is not philanthropy, securing profit is a legitimate (if not a morally supreme) motivation for people…It’s true as well that, in some circumstances, loosening up a financial regime to allow for entrepreneurs and innovators to create wealth is necessary …But it is a sort of fundamentalism to say that this alone will secure stable and just outcomes everywhere.”

Which brings me to the second reason that the Shelleyesque Capitalist Monster, or the ungovernable sorcerer’s powers, are both inappropriate ideas.  Securing profit is a morally supreme motivation.  And while it is true that profit may not alone secure stable outcomes, the waste of wealth always produces unstable outcomes. True wealth (as contrasted with inflated speculative bubbles of paper wealth) is a sine qua non of stability, along with peace, the rule of law and liberty.

The problem is that Dr Williams has chosen a scoundrel unemployed insolvent misanthropist who sponged off his dying father and friends and couldn’t afford to bury his own child, for his lessons in morals and economics.  He chose Marx.  Instead he should have chosen a prudent, kindly, careful man who worked hard and made a meticulous study of how the wealth of nations can be increased and warned us against the very problems that have arisen in our economies: Adam Smith.  (It seems hardly worth mentioning in this Atheistic context, but it strikes me that an Archbishop might also have taken advice from Smith who believed, at least, in ‘a beneficent Providence’ over the anti-Religious Marx.)

Moreover, Marxism doesn’t really help to explain our predicament. The Communist Manifesto says that economic crises occur because of over-production:

“It is enough to mention the commercial crises that, by their periodical return, put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly…. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity – the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed. And why? Because there is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.”

But but but! Our present ills arise because we have unrealistically overestimated our wealth.  Dr Williams pointed this out himself.  We are not in trouble because of over-production!  It is truer to say that we have spent more than is justified by what we have produced.  National debt in the United Kingdom is high: the Government says it is about £650 billion but if you add in the hidden debt obligations – Northern Rock, public sector pensions, Public-Private partnership commitments, decommissioning of power stations – the figure is at least doubled.  In other words, to claim the official figure for debt,  about 37% of our gross domestic product, is to make a wild underestimate.  And where Government led, we followed.  Personal debt amounts to about £1.4 trillion.  Adam Smith would not have approved:

Whatever we may imagine the real wealth and revenue of a country to consist in, whether in the value of the annual produce of its land and labour, as plain reason seems to dictate; or in the quantity of the precious metals… in either view of the matter, every prodigal appears to be a public enemy and every frugal man a public benefactor. 

It is true that the economic crisis has been made worse by the obscurity of the real state of things. But how like a priest to say that the problem is, in the end, idolatry of an unknowable, ineffable dark thing.  We should shine light on the problem rather than condemn it to the shadows. Obscurity and superstition is our enemy here. 

Take the South Sea Bubble problem of three hundred years ago. The south Sea Company bought a monopoly of trade with South America.  The company underwrote the National Debt for interest Payments from the Treasury. This all seemed rosy. Share prices soared and other companies were founded in a frenzy of speculation. People had no idea what they were buying or risking: for example, one to fire square canon balls, and one just for an unknown undertaking of ‘great advantage’. Ladies’ maids and porters bought carriages on supposed mountains of wealth. When the value of the stocks crashed, investors were made destitute overnight and suicides and arrests followed.  Isaac Newton lost money and said “I can calculate the movement of stars but not the madness of men.”   

Smith discusses, years later, the South Sea company itself in The Wealth of Nations:

The directors of such [joint stock] companies, however, being managers rather of other people’s money than their own; it cannot well be expected that they should watch over it with the same anxious vigilance with which the partners in a private company frequently watch over their own. Like the stewards of a rich man, they are apt to consider attention to small matters as not for their master’s honour, and very easily give themselves a dispensation from having it.  Negligence and profusion must always prevail… in the management of the affairs of such a company.  

How apt this basic analysis seems today.  Risk takers must be responsible and face moral hazard. And responsibility, like charity, is best applied close to home.  England has had some marvellous institutions, the building societies, owned by their depositors whose only purpose was to provide finance for buying houses.  They were prudent and profitable, on the whole and allowed multitudes to buy their own house by slow and careful saving.  However, in the last twenty years or so they have ‘de-mutualized’ and become publicly owned banks, dealing in the wholesale markets and lending to the inflated ‘buy to let’ investment market.  Since they have stopped being owned by their depositors, many have had disastrous losses and only this week, the biggest ‘buy to let’ lender, the Bradford and Bingley bank (building society that was) has been nationalised.

There is no Monster. In fact there is no capitalist system. There are frugal habits that build wealth and wasteful or irresponsible habits that destroy it.  It is terribly dangerous to condemn the market for failings in ourselves and our Governments.   When you go to bed tonight, you might look under the bed: pessimists might check on a hoard of gold coins rather than trust banks; Marxist revolutionaries might simply turn in; but let us hope only the Prelates  are looking for Monsters.  

  

Posted under Articles by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, October 1, 2008

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