The View From 1776

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The Corruption of Public Education: How It Happened

In the 19th and early 20th century period, American public schools were among the best in the world.  Since 1960, public education has fallen apart.  American students today rank near the bottom in tests of subject knowledge, when compared to the rest of the world.  What went wrong?

Much has been written about the disintegration of American education.  Among the many are three that you should make a point to read:  Thomas Sowell’s “Inside American Education: The Decline, The Deception, The Dogmas;” Alan Charles Kors’s and Harvey A. Silverglate’s “The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses;” and Diane Ravitch’s “Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms.”

They are in a sense chronological.  Professor Ravitch catalogs the ideologies that began to take over American education around 1910.  Professor Sowell describes the effects of those ideologies on present-day school curricula.  And Professor Kors, collaborating with ACLU attorney Silverglate, describes the Big Brother enforcement methods of liberal-socialists to shut out any classroom or campus dissent against the radical socialism that is taught as the uniquely scientific truth.

In simplest terms, the history of education is one of changing ideas about who is to be taught, what is to be taught, and how it is to be taught.

We have had a complete reorientation from the colonial and founding periods of our nation.  Alexis de Tocqueville, describing conditions he observed in 1831, wrote, “In New England every citizen receives the elementary notions of human knowledge; he is taught, moreover, the doctrines and the evidence of his religion, the history of his country, and the leading features of its Constitution.”

The effects of secular socialist doctrine in Tocqueville’s native France were to become apparent here over the succeeding seventy years.  By 1900, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and other colleges founded to train Protestant ministers had largely abandoned that as their primary mission.  American universities were becoming seats of secular instruction.  No one would quarrel with the introduction of larger doses of mathematics and the introduction of science courses in chemistry, physics, and biology.  The trouble came from introducing the so-called social sciences which had been invented by French socialist intellectuals. 

Charles Darwin’s 1859 speculative (and still unproved) theory of evolution was the tipping point, because it combined both socialist ideology and what passed for science.  As Darwin wrote in his autobiography, he was motivated to theorize about evolution because of his antipathy towards “the damnable doctrine” of Christianity.  The whole point of evolution was to discredit the Bible’s Book of Genesis and to demonstrate that all life forms had evolved, purely accidentally with no Divine intervention, through the mechanism of random, materialistic forces in nature.  As his academic champion Thomas Huxley said, there is no such thing as morality or sin; there is only the struggle for survival.

The idea began to take hold that belief in spiritual religion and morality was ignorance, that every human activity was the product of the rational human mind alone.  By the time of the First World War in 1914, the educated middle and upper classes were becoming converts to the religion of socialism.  By the 1950s, as Wiliam F. Buckley, Jr. documented in “God and Man at Yale,” the faculty were predominantly atheists or agnostics, and believers in socialism, as were the writers of most of the standard text books.  Thus was born the Eastern Liberal Establishment, whose members were both Republicans and Democrats.

Professor Ravitch is a leading historian and policy analyst of education.  She has taught at Columbia University’s Teachers College and New York University, served as assistant secretary in the U. S. Department of Education, and is a self-described life-long liberal.  Nonetheless, she writes that liberals have done terrible damage to public education.

At the beginning of the 20th century, education was envisioned as a ladder reaching from the gutter to the top of the social structure.  Students were to be given the opportunity to climb as high as they could go.  Few families had the money to send their children to college, and most children left school at an early age to join the work force and contribute to the support of their families.  But for those students with the ambition, energy, and intelligence, a full college-preparatory curriculum was available.

The 1917 Russian Revolution profoundly changed this picture.  Enthralled with socialism’s promise of earthly perfection, the general public was prepared to listen to socialist education theories.  The cause was taken up, principally by Professor John Dewey and his colleagues at Columbia University Teachers College.  Many of them had journeyed to the USSR to observe the Soviet education system and had returned with energetic determination to transform American education into the Soviet model. 

Lenin, in his 1923 speech to the Commissars of Education in Moscow, proclaimed, “We must hate ? hatred is the basis of Communism.  Children must be taught to hate their parents if they are not Communists.”  Professor Dewey didn’t take it that far, but, in his many books, the phrase “education for democracy” in effect meant reorienting education methods to prepare students for communal living under socialism.  It also mean de-emphasizing teaching the content of subject matter.  Dewey, for example, wrote that “dead” history had no place in the school curriculum; stop teaching American history and Constitutional traditions; provide “experiences” of cooperative, communal work projects, and downplay individual excellence. 

Dewey’s Progressive Education asserted that teaching specific subject matter harmed students, who should “learn by doing.”  Presumably students were spontaneously to intuit algebra and calculus in the process of experiencing group work projects. 

Underlying this doctrine was the idea that a planned, socialistic society required training students to fill specific jobs to which state-planners would later assign them.  Thus was born the trade school and the junior high school.  It was in the latter that students were tested and administrators decided what they were best suited for, assigning them to trade schools or to different study programs in academic high schools.  This too, in Dewey’s terms, was “education for democracy.”  Incredibly, Dewey and his Columbia Teachers College colleagues were able to sell the public on the idea that providing a full pre-college education in high school was elitist and anti-democratic.

By 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt imposed socialistic state-planning on the Federal government, graduates of Columbia Teachers College occupied influential positions across the nation, as heads of school boards, state educational authorities, and deans of teachers colleges.  Progressive education had gone national.

Until after World War II, the effect was relatively limited, because very few people went to college.  Most public school teachers took the common sense attitude that Progressive education was a bunch of malarky.  They went right on teaching American history and Constitutional traditions.  Their students still had to read and write reports about the best examples of Western literature and to absorb stories that illuminated examples of virtuous conduct.

The GI Bill after World War II for the first time made it possible for large numbers of young people to attend college.  Enrollments doubled and quadrupled from 1945 into the 1960s.  Bill Clinton’s Baby Boomer generation became the first in history of whom a very large percentage attended college.  For the first time, a very large percentage of the population was taught the religious doctrines of socialism and instructed that the Christian religion and the morality of their forefathers was unscientific value judgment. 

Many of them became the anarchist student radicals whose activities ranged from public demonstrations, to occupations of university buildings, to underground organizations that murdered, bombed, and robbed in the name of solidarity with the Viet Cong.  Today those student activists are disproportionately represented in politics, the media and the arts, the legal profession and the judiciary, and especially in the teaching profession.  Thus was born the virulent anti-Americanism that widely infects American colleges and universities today. 

One of the most destructive events was President Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act, in the mid-1960s, which for the first time put the Federal government into the business of directly funding local schools.  Once paying any part of the local bills, the Feds demanded the right to set standards for text books and teaching methods.  Columbia Teachers College socialists and their confreres across the land were now empowered to convert public education into a mandatory catechism in the socialist religion and its precepts of secular social justice.

Thomas Sowell’s book describes the results.  An astonishingly high percentage of local tax money is spent on administrative jobs and and special education departments, all mandated by Federal funding programs.  Meanwhile teaching basic subject matter languishes.  Hence the very poor showing of American students compared to pupils from elsewhere in the world.  As a consequence, American companies are forced to seek work visas for foreign nationals or to outsource jobs overseas, because there are no longer enough qualified American graduates. 

Professor Sowell notes the prevalence of “affective” education courses.  These are courses designed, not to teach specific bodies of knowledge, but to “give students an appreciation for” some social justice idea or another.  Schools directly contradict the moral teachings of parents.  Sex education programs, for example, teach high school students how to engage in pre-marital sex.  Schools dispense condoms, which students understandably take as an official imprimatur for sexual promiscuity.

At the same time, as Professor Sowell records, performance standards are non-existent or drastically lowered.  Grade inflation has become the norm, from elementary school to the Ivy League.  Schools are steadily moving away from grading students or ranking them.  Instead they emphasize “self-esteem,” which supposedly comes from hearing someone tell you that, contrary to all evidence, you really are a great guy.  Or that your shortcomings are not your fault, but the result of an oppressive capitalistic society. 

Finally, Professor Kors and his friend Harvey Silverglate document the kangaroo court tactics routinely employed at colleges and universities in every part of the country.  To enforce their multicultural ideas of “diversity” and “tolerance,” college administrators routinely subject students to treatment that violates the Bill of Rights guarantees of freedom of speech and due process of law.  In the few cases that have gone to Federal courts, the schools almost always lose.  But few students are aware of the truth and fewer still have the money or time to pursue legal remedies.

The bottom line today is that far too many schools, from the elementary level to the colleges, are working assiduously to convert inexperienced youth to the religion of socialism and employing strong-arm tactics to silence students who question these practices.  The moral fiber of the nation is being rapidly dissolved.  If this continues, we can be assured that the United States will become a third-rate has-been like France or will fall victim to a foreign power.

Posted by Thomas E. Brewton on 06/22 at 09:51 PM
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Monday, June 21, 2004

Can the International Criminal Court Prosecute American Military Personnel for Alleged War Crimes?

Once again the forces of liberal-socialism attempt to highjack our Constitution and our laws.  What’s going on?  Are we obliged to obtain UN Security Council approval for military actions?  Do the UN Human Rights Charter and the articles of the International Criminal Court outrank our own laws?

A June 18th New York Times article states:

” Secretary General Kofi Annan harshly criticized the United States on Thursday for seeking immunity for its peacekeeping troops from the International Criminal Court.

He said the Security Council should resist the American move, which he said was “of dubious judicial value” and particularly deplorable this year “given the prisoner abuse in Iraq.”

“I think in this circumstance it would be unwise to press for an exemption, and it would be even more unwise on the part of the Security Council to grant it,” Mr. Annan told reporters. “It would discredit the Council and the United Nations that stands for rule of law and the primacy of the rule of law.”

The Secretary General’s statement implies that the United States is bound to submit to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and that our own laws and the Uniform Code of Military Justice regulating our armed forces are subordinate to this tribunal.  The statement also presumes that U.S. action in the conduct of a war, albeit without UN involvement, is subject to approval by the Security Council.

The analysis by Alfred Thayer Mahan (see “Once More: Why are We in Iraq?”) posted below on June 12th provides a substantive refutation of that argument.

Paradoxically, the idea of international law originated in Christian concepts of morality, but is today employed by the UN and liberal-socialists around the world to espouse amoral, secular socialism.

International law had its origin in a work called “On the Law of War and Peace,” written in 1625 by a Dutch jurist named Hugo Grotius.  At that time, Europe was in the first decade of the Thirty Years’ War, one of the most savagely destructive series of military campaigns the world ever has endured.  Almost every nation in Europe was involved, and most of Continental Europe suffered at one time or another between 1618 and the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 that ended hostilities.  But the bulk of the fighting was in the principalities of the German Confederation.  Germany was devastated to such a degree that, a century later, many towns had still not fully recovered.  The Thirty Years’ War, by the way, is what Voltaire had in mind in his satirical novel, “Candide.”

Horrified by the unprecedented degree of barbarity exhibited everywhere by mercenary armies roaming freely across the countryside, Grotius proposed that nations, as well as individuals, are subject to the moral principles of natural law.  As everyone understood in those days, natural law was God-given and governed everything and every action in the world.  Grotius based his work on the Bible and classical Greek philosophy, just as St. Thomas Aquinas had done in the early 13th century when he incorporated Aristotle’s concepts into Christian doctrine.

While wars are sometimes necessary and justifiable, Grotius wrote, nations must respect the rights of individuals who are non-combatants.  Aristotle had said that natural law made man a political being, that is, that the civilizing forces of organized political life produced the highest attainments of human beings.  But, most importantly, pursuit of personal morality and civic virtue were the highest good of the individual and of the state.

Thus, said Grotius, nations must conform to the same Christian religious dictates in their international relations.

A century later, in the so-called Age of Enlightenment, French philosophers decapitated civilization by dismissing concepts of religious morality.  Individuals’ and nations’ conduct were to be regulated by the social justice precepts produced by the minds of intellectuals.

Thus, today the UN and its liberal-socialist supporters, no longer bound by Grotius’s Christian moral principles, are free to proclaim any course of action that captures their fancy to be “international law.”

Saturday, June 19, 2004

The Decline of Western Civilization: Explanatory Notes - Part Four

This is Part Four of the narrative to supplement the list of dates and events in the timeline posted below on May 15, 2004.? It reviews the corruption of understanding about our unwritten constitution during the 20th century.?

Since 1900, the United States has become a largely socialistic nation if we measure it from the standpoint of education, the media, the judiciary, and, to a lesser extent, Congress and the state legislatures.  Some citizens still cling to vestiges of the unwritten constitution of 1776.  But public education has been so thoroughly debased since 1960 that they constitute a rapidly dwindling part of the population.

Americans remain intelligent, hard-working, and well-intentioned.  The problem is that their understanding of what is true, good, and decent can be no better than what they are taught.  And the liberal-socialists who set the agenda for education are converting an exploding portion of our youth to the religion of socialism.

If this continues unabated, the United States is foredoomed to disintegrate into warring camps pitting Christians and religious Jews against liberal-socialists and their fellow travelers.  Rhetoric from our colleges and universities since 9/11 makes clear that they are turning out a militantly anti-American, atheistic cadre of youthful liberal-socialists, who are our version of Germany’s National Socialist Hitler Youth. 

As a house divided, we become defenseless prey for Islam and Al Queda terrorism.


The full timeline and Part One through Part Three are accessible from the left-hand side bar, either under most recent entries, or under the monthly archives.  The full timeline is also accessible via the sidebar to the right of your screen.

Part One of the explanatory notes covered Plato and Aristotle, noting that both held that morality, for individuals and for the political state, is the highest and best expression of human nature.? Aristotle explains this as part of the natural law, the intelligent design of the world, to which everything in existence conforms.  It was posted on Sunday, May 16, 2004 .

Part Two, posted Thursday, May 20, 2004 , covered the end of the Western Roman Empire and the beginning of the Middle Ages.? Christianity was presented as the basis of Western civilization and the sole unifying force across tribal and national borders.? Greek philosophy was incorporated into Christianity in the 13th century with St. Thomas Aquinas?s ?Summa Theologica,? which separated governance into the spiritual realm, under the church, and the secular realm, under the political ruler.? Both were part of the God-given natural law, so that separation of church and state did not mean at all that religion had to be rejected by the political state.? This is the understanding on which the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are inseparably based. Thus the idea that the First Amendment requires renunciation of all expressions of religion in government is arrant nonsense.

Clearly this understanding is no longer accepted by roughly half the American population today.?

Part Three, posted Monday, May 24, 2004, covered the period from the mid-1700s to the beginning of the 20th century.  This was the misnamed Age of Enlightenment in which the wisdom of thousands of years was thrown away.  Intellectuals presumed to play the role of God and introduced the atheistic, secular, and materialistic religion of socialism.  The religion of socialism spread from France, to Germany, to England, and finally to the United States after the Civil War.  American liberals geared up for a long-term campaign in the colleges and universities to discredit spiritual religion in general and Christianity in particular, and to convert impressionable young students to the religion of socialism.  This is what William James called “tough-minded” science.

At the beginning of the 20th century, most educated people in the Western world took for granted that they lived in an era of Progress.  Science had illuminated basic knowledge about the physical world.  Presumably the so-called social sciences were doing the same thing for human relations and political societies.  Progressives were confident that, if they could put intellectuals and social-engineering experts in charge of society, they could achieve earthly perfection.  Who needed God and spiritual religion?

This expectation was finally exploded after President Johnson’s Great Society was imposed in 1965.  We got stagflation with interest rates of 22 percent, inflation approaching 20 percent, a four-fold increase in crime rates, complete disintegration of public education, widespread drug addiction, soaring welfare rolls, burning cities, riots, looting, and the highest illegitimate birth rates ever experienced in world history.

Liberal-socialists, however, cling firmly to their gospel of state-imposed equality, demonstrating further that socialism, and its American sect of liberalism, are not science, but blind-faith religious doctrine.

The path from Progressives of 1900 to the Great Society of the mid-1960s was blazed by intellectuals in the universities, in the arts, and in the media.

Meanwhile, outside the dilettante circles of Greenwich Village, more serious work was afoot.  Socialists and anarchists became increasingly effective in organizing strikes and acts of violence in Eastern and Midwestern cities, as well as in the mining camps and other industries of the West, where the International Workers of the World (I.W.W., sometimes called the Wobblies) led the parade. 

Former Idaho Governor George Steunenberg was assassinated with a dynamite bomb in 1905, because he had opposed an illegal mining strike.  In 1910 radicals bombed the Los Angeles Times building, killing twenty one workmen.  The leader in that bombing later appeared in socialist Eugene O?Neil?s play “The Iceman Cometh” as a heroic voice for social justice.

More than a hundred socialist and anarchist newspapers around the country regularly featured articles describing how to make dynamite bombs and how to plant them to inflict the maximum number of deaths.

Socialism, after World War I, became a common discussion topic in newspapers, magazines, churches, and ladies? and men?s clubs.  Devastation caused by the First World War in 1914-18 and the stalemating of President Wilson?s Fourteen Points policy brought widespread despair about the bleak future for western democracies.  As a consequence, support grew among the general public for Soviet and Fascist-style national planning.  As liberal journalist Lincoln Steffens said after an interview with Lenin in 1919, ?I have seen the future and it works.?  Coming out of that New York intellectual milieu of the 1920s was Franklin Roosevelt?s campaign theme in the 1932 election that the old system of Jeffersonian individualism had failed and must be replaced by state-planning for relocation of population groups, redistribution of income, reallocation of land ownership, unionization of all workers, and regulatory reorganization of industry and agriculture.

World War I also brought the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) into existence to defend socialists and anarchists who attempted to sabotage military preparations.  They were kept busy.

In the post-World War I decades, socialists and anarchists unleashed another terror campaign.  On June 2, 1918, bombs exploded in eight cities.  Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson received a bomb in the mail, as did Georgia Senator Thomas Hardwick.  The Postal Service intercepted thirty-four other bombs addressed to prominent citizens, including John D. Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, and Postmaster General Albert Burleson.

In 1920, liberal activists planted dynamite in a wagon outside the Wall Street headquarters of J. P. Morgan, timed to detonate shortly after noon, in order to kill the maximum possible number of people on the street for lunch hour.  With shrapnel tearing through the packed sidewalk crowds, 38 people were killed and some 300 wounded. 

Liberals? crude tactics of terrorist bombing and assassination proved to be self-defeating.  In the 1920s, they switched to a subtler and more effective long-range strategy. 

Following the lead of the English Fabian socialists four decades before them, they saw that there were two keys to success.  First, as celebrated writer and Fabian socialist leader George Bernard Shaw explained, bomb-throwing and rioting gangs of socialists in the streets would never persuade the majority of the English public that socialism was a better form of government than the British constitution.  Shaw knew that the benevolent instincts of the educated middle and upper classes made them susceptible to socialism.  To gain their support it would first be necessary to make socialism appear respectable, which meant enlisting well-regarded public figures who naively thought that socialism was no more than a rational and scientific movement supporting God, motherhood, and the poor.  As with today?s Hollywood stars, such figureheads need not really understand the full implications of what they are publicly supporting.

The second key to success was to play for time and to abandon the idea of a French-style revolutionary overthrow of established government.  Ultimate success would come by electing political representatives who favored socialism and by infiltrating the judiciary and the educational establishment to train young people as future socialist activists. 

American liberals, led by the ACLU?s Roger Baldwin, decided in the 1920s to use political jujitsu.  Their most effective decision was, through the Harvard Law School, to promote a radically new interpretation of the Bill of Rights.  They would manipulate the Constitution to make it destroy itself.  The game plan was to change public perception of the Constitution as a protection of individuals? rights against arbitrary government power and to present the Bill of Rights as a license for radical subversives to do anything they wished to undermine the Constitution. 

The notorious Sacco-Vanzetti trials and investigatory reviews over seven years, from 1920 to 1927, were the great propaganda vehicle for promoting this new tactic. 

Evidence against Nicola Sacco and Bartolemeo Vanzetti was overwhelming.  The two men gunned down and killed the paymaster of a Massachusetts factory, in front of many witnesses, as he was carrying the cash box from company offices to give workers their weekly pay.  Several witnesses to the murder were able to pick out Sacco and Vanzetti from a police line up.  Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested late the night after the murder at a rail station where they were awaiting a train out of town.  They carried a pistol with ammunition matching the murder bullets.  Shell casings found at the site, as well as the bullets that killed the paymaster, were different from standard U.S. ammunition and fit a pistol not available in this country.  In ballistics testing, M.I.T.?s science lab confirmed with microscopic examinations that other bullets fired from that pistol, as well as shell casings, had identical marks to those at the murder site.  These findings were only part of the massive evidence confirming the guilt of Sacco and Vanzetti.

Baldwin and his ACLU colleagues, along with the radical I.W.W. labor group, decided to turn Sacco and Vanzetti?s conviction into an international propaganda circus, claiming that the two men had been railroaded by a bigoted system only because they were professed radical liberal-socialists.  For seven years, during which the State of Massachusetts granted every requested means to review the evidence and trial procedures, the ACLU and the I.W.W. waged propaganda war in newspapers and magazines around the world.  Mass demonstrations and candle-light vigils were staged for publicity purposes. 

The Sacco-Vanzetti cause became an international rallying flag for world socialism.  Socialists organized mass demonstrations in the streets of major European cities, just as they did in 2003 to oppose American military action in Iraq.  Today, despite the irrefutable guilt of Sacco and Vanzetti, school texts state as ?fact? that the two were convicted only because they were anarcho-socialist radicals. 

Liberals used the sensationalism they had created to smear all efforts to stop terrorism, calling them infringements of First Amendment rights of free speech.

The notorious Scopes ?monkey? trial in 1925 was just a continuation of the ACLU?s basic purpose of attacking tradition and morality.  Pitting ACLU attorney Clarence Darrow against William Jennings Bryan, it was not staged for the purpose of defending science, which hardly needed the effort.  According to the ACLU, which organized and financed the trial, the purpose was to discredit religion in public life and to make it an object of ridicule. 

Finding no success in its efforts during the 1920s to influence Congressional or Executive branch policy through the Constitutional process of election campaigning, the ACLU turned to its ultimately successful strategy of circumventing the political process via judicial activism.  The ACLU?s consistent policy still is to give legal support to any activity that affronts traditions of morality or civility and to support cases, such as outlawing recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, that undermine original Constitutional concepts.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, reflecting a judiciary increasingly receptive to socialist religious values, opined that truth is simply whatever wins out in the market place (a position with which Hitler?s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, the master of the Big Lie, would have felt completely comfortable).  ?Value free? in fact was simply code for banishing traditional values that impeded acceptance of materialistic socialist values.

New York City dilettante intellectuals at the beginning of the 20th century, young rebels bored with Victorian morality and seeking to shock their elders, found absorbing exotica in socialist and anarchist doctrines current among the uneducated immigrant throngs of Manhattan?s Lower East Side and Greenwich Village.  In the 1920s magazines like “The New Yorker” made them and their world-weary sophistication famous through the snappy repartee of the celebrated Algonquin Hotel ?roundtable? names like Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott, and Robert Benchley. 

If one was worthy of serious attention in those days, he had to be at least an agnostic and a liberal-socialist, as almost every novelist, poet, and playwright in the public eye was.  A typical example was Theodore Dreiser, much admired by liberal critics and a member of the Communist Party.  Magazines like Max Eastman?s “The Masses” and new publishing houses like Alfred A. Knopf spread the gospel to a larger public. 

To a degree that is hard for people today to envision, socialism and anarchism were fashionable ideas between 1900 and the 1940s.  By 1912, socialism had become a favorite topic of magazine editorials, church sermons, college lectures, and academic theses.  Socialist propaganda was pouring forth in magazines, novels, and dramas.

Most of the best known late-19th-century and 20th-century writers and thinkers who influenced the understandings of college and university students considered themselves to be socialists or anarchists, and in a few cases communists.  Edward Bellamy?s novel “Looking Backward,” published in 1888, sold over a million copies; it described a paradisiacal socialist society of the future that had eliminated wars, crime, poverty, and all manner of human social ills.  Playwrights George Bernard Shaw (a leader of the British socialist paty) and Eugene O?Neil were avowed socialists.  Others extolling socialism included Carl Sandburg, John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, Frank Harris, William Dean Howells, Jack London and Upton Sinclair. 

In 1906, Upton Sinclair and Jack London founded the Intercollegiate Socialist Society.  Journalist John Reed, a staff writer for Max Eastman?s” The Masses,” wrote “Ten Days That Shook the World,” the 1919 account of the Bolshevik revolution that made him an official hero of the Soviet Union.  In recent years Reed was made the subject of the sympathetic Hollywood movie “Reds.”

Economist Thorstein Veblen savaged the capitalist system in his 1899 “Theory of the Leisure Class.”  In 1913, Charles A. Beard?s “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States” endeavored to prove that the Constitution was no more than a conspiracy by wealthy property owners to exploit the workers.  Historians like Vernon L. Parrington in his “Main Currents in American Thought” ignored the actual concerns of colonists that led to the 1776 War of Independence, instead declaring that the essence of American history was its conversion to French-style social justice at the expense of inalienable natural-law rights to private property.

By the time that America entered World War I in 1917, liberals had succeeded to a remarkable degree.  The earlier canon of American writers, in fiction, drama, history, economics, and the social sciences, had been displaced by liberal writers preaching the gospel of secular socialism.  Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and Mark Twain gave way to writers who pictured 1776 America as backward and oppressive.  From this onslaught in the opening decades of the 20th century has come our present-day saturation of politics, the judiciary, education, and the media with liberal-socialism.

Progressives? infatuation with socialism was characterized also by a blind, unquestioning faith in ?scientific? management and social engineering.  Hence the thesis of Herbert Croly in “The Promise of American Life” (1909) and Walter Lippmann in “A Preface to Politics” (1914) that America?s competitive position in the world required putting affairs of state into the hands of trained managers and scientists, under a strong leader.  Lippmann joined with Croly in 1914 to found “The New Republic,” which became the flagship publication of liberal-socialism in the United States.

They were anxious to have an activist President who could overpower the traditionalist mind-set of Congress and the Federal judiciary of that era.  Herbert Croly proclaimed that the nation was mired in mediocrity by its devotion to Jeffersonian individuality.  A vigorous leader was needed to break through the social and constitutional barriers that separated us from scientifically-managed greatness.  Political power, Croly insisted, must be taken from the states and collectivized at the national level.  Moreover, the constitutional powers of Congress must be tightly constrained and taken over by the powerful personality needed for the presidency.  The United States required Nietzsche?s iron-willed Super Man, or at least an American version of the German Empire?s Otto von Bismarck.

Greenwich Village intellectuals wholeheartedly accepted both Sigmund Freud?s materialistic and secular mind-restructuring and his doctrine that sexual desires are the focal point of human existence.  The ills of modern society, said Freud, are guilt resulting from the conflict between man’s true sexual nature and the strictures of Christian religion.  To be in the swing of things in New York City, one had to be in psychoanalysis and one had to sneer at people who still had faith in Christianity and industrial America. 

It was in that vein that H. L. Mencken declared that Puritanism was a neurosis.  The future of humanity was not upward, but downward toward the sewer of moral relativism.  The human soul was thrown out and replaced by worship of our genitalia.  We see the results today in our juvenile preoccupation with hedonistic sensual gratification in movies, TV, and the print media.

Intellectuals of the 1920s subjected every aspect of American society to scorn and ridicule.  What comes through in reading the views of that day, however, is a strong sense of inferiority when those intellectuals compared America to the supposed sophistication of Europe.  They seem to be at pains to say to the rest of the world, don?t look at us, we have nothing to do with these American boobs.  See particularly the collection of essays published in 1922 under the title “Civilization in the United States: An Inquiry by Thirty Americans,” edited by Harold E. Stearns, as well as countless articles in “The New Republic,” “The Nation,” and similar publications.  Then, as now, liberals assumed that sophisticated French socialists carried more authority than Americans who had written the Constitution.

Backed by the cultural relativism of anthropologist Franz Boas and his graduate students, Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, the intelligentsia in the 1920s and 30s identified Christianity with ignorance.  Professor Benedict?s “Patterns of Culture” and Professor Mead?s “Coming of Age in Samoa” are among the best known and most widely assigned of all college text books.  The general thrust of these anthropological works was the judgment that every culture is as good as any other, and in a democratic society one was not permitted to make value judgments.  Therefore, the nation?s founding traditions of Constitutional individualism, based on religion and morality, had no particular claim to validity.  The religion of socialism, then all the rage in New York intellectual circles, had as much, or more, validity. 

In addition, Mead?s work sought to show that the sexual behavior codes of sexual abstinence before marriage were baseless.  She reported that, in Samoa, adolescents were encouraged and expected to indulge freely in sexual liaisons, with no apparent ill effects on society.  Later researchers, however, have been unable to document such behavior.  Some of them have concluded that Professor Mead, in typical liberal-socialist fashion, pre-conceived a theory, then went in search of evidence for it.

The biggest of all the academic intellectual guns was Professor John Dewey, an ardent socialist and opponent of religion and morality.  He was among the first to receive a Ph.D. from Johns-Hopkins, the new university modelled upon the socialist and statist German universities.  Dewey?s influence was immense in providing philosophical support for socialism and in revolutionizing theories of education to spread socialism among young students.  He lived to the age of 92 and remained tireless in the first half of the 20th century in promoting liberal-socialism with hundreds of lectures across the country and countless magazine articles and books.

At the University of Chicago in the 1890s he developed his theories of Progressive education.  Children, he taught, should not learn specific bodies of subject matter, particularly what he called ?dead? history.  They could learn most effectively through carefully structured ?experiences,? such as class projects and field trips.  The aim was to down-play individual excellence, and to emphasize collective work and play environments that would build the new human nature required for the egalitarian socialist state to come.

In the early decades of the 1900s at Columbia University, Dewey was a key figure in converting Columbia Teachers College into a training school for Progressive methodology.  By the 1930s, Columbia graduates were in positions of influence in college faculties, public schools, and departments of education in almost every state.  Dewey?s emphasis on methodology, as opposed to content and performance, is the source of today?s abysmal educational results.

Dewey?s philosophy of Pragmatism put a theoretical underpinning to the materialism and amorality of liberal-socialism.  Darwin, he said, had shown that there is no Divine plan to the universe, merely random chance exercised through changes in creatures? materialistic environments.  Thus, as Comte and Marx had theorized, there is no inherent human nature.  Intellectuals, by changing the educational and political regulatory conditions, can create Lenin?s New Soviet Man and perfect human society.

Teddy Roosevelt, and later to some extent Woodrow Wilson, were the answers to intellectuals? prayers.  A damn-the-Constitution activist, Teddy Roosevelt became President after William McKinley?s assassination by social-justice anarchist Leon Czolgosz in 1901.  Without pre-approval from Congress, for example, Teddy committed the nation to the cost of building the Panama Canal and started a civil war in Central America to obtain territorial rights. When asked where in the Constitution he found authority for these actions, Roosevelt said that he knew what the situation required and simply did it, whether Congress would concur or not.  It was the beginning of the ?implied powers? doctrine that Teddy?s young cousin Franklin Roosevelt was to use twenty years later to impose a thoroughgoing system of socialist state-planning. 

Teddy also set the pattern for our present-day expectation that the President is to be the dominant figure in national politics, grasping ever-greater measures of power at the expense of constitutional checks and balances.  His legacy is an American public that labors under the delusion that a President can run the nation as if it were a private company.  This, of course, is precisely the collectivized management and social-engineering demanded by liberal-socialists.

After decades of calling for a President who would simply override Congress and the state governments to implement collectivized, socialist state-planning, the liberals got their man with the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932.  FDR campaigned on the promise to institute state-planning to counter the Depression.  The only available state-planning models at the time were Soviet Russia and Fascist Italy. 

FDR?s first major program, the National Recovery Administration, set up industrial councils under government control to fix wages, selling prices, and production quotas.  Ironically, Italian dictator Mussolini told reporters that the New Deal version was too rigid compared to his Fascist State Corporatism. 

FDR followed Bismarck?s lead and instituted a socialistic welfare state financed by sharply graduated taxes to redistribute income and wealth.  By 1944, FDR was proud to proclaim in his State of the Union message that Americans had found the original Bill of Rights inadequate and had replaced it with a Second Bill of Rights that guaranteed equality under a socialistic welfare state.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Once More: Why are We in Iraq?

Despite liberals’ protests, there is no necessary conflict between moral principle and the use of political and military power.

No one outside the Bush Administration’s highest councils can know with certainty all the reasons for our invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

Liberal-socialists say that it was a disguised move to gain control of oil and to favor Big Business, and that the announced reasons were all lies.  Whatever their favored theory, liberals are united in denouncing President Bush’s flouting the “international community.”  Al Gore’s recent vitriolic screaming, “How dare he drag America’s good name through the mud,” captures the feeling accurately.

Alfred Thayer Mahan, a U.S. naval officer and president of the Naval War College in 1892-93, gave an answer that is still very much on target.

His 1890, “The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783,” became world famous.  It had enormous influence, both here and abroad.  Even the British, who then ruled the seas, bestowed special honors upon Mahan.  Among other things, it completely reoriented US military and foreign policy.  One may therefore safely take his judgments seriously.

Of particular interest were his carefully considered views regarding the concept of international law then gaining prominence among liberals, ideas later manifested in the League of Nations and the UN.

At the end of the 19th century most people believed in Progress based on scientific management and state-planning.  Socialism then seemed to educated people to be the best hope of mankind.  Pacifism and the socialist brotherhood of man, both aspects of the Religion of Humanity spawned by the French Revolution, were all the rage.

Mahan?s great work had emphasized that, in the final analysis, international relations have always been struggles for power of one sort or another, over one dimension or another.  Many people challenged this, in light of the so-called scientific doctrines of the day.  Mahan responded in a series of essays, the main points of which were the following:

(1)  Mahan first restated the postulate , upon which the Declaration and the Constitution were based, that there is a fundamental, natural law of morality to which all peoples and all nations are subject.

(2)  When conflict arises between moral law and positive (i.e., statute) law, moral law must prevail.  Our Civil War was a good example.

(3)  Arbitration under international law, in a forum such as the UN, may be acceptable when no moral issue is involved.  But any regimen under which a nation is obligated to resort to such arbitration on all international disputes is unacceptable, because it might force a nation to compromise on matters of morality.  The evils of war, he said, are less than the moral evil of compromise with wrong.  The great danger of undiscriminating advocacy of arbitration (e.g., resort to the UN for approval of all international actions) is that it may lead men to tamper with equity, to compromise with unrighteousness, and to soothe their consciences with the belief that war is always so entirely wrong that beside it toleration of any evil is preferable (does any of this sound familiar from the likes of Jacques Chirac, Al Gore, and Peanut Carter?).

(4)  Pacifists who crusade against war, demanding that international law be substituted, forget that man-made law is no more than regulated force.  If international law is to be effective, there must be a powerful military police to enforce it.  So long as evil exists, force must be available to meet it.  (Not, of course, according to Jacques Chirac and American academics and liberal politicians).

(5)  Instead of utopian ideas about the brotherhood of man and scientific planning, Mahan preferred what he called the equilibrium of natural forces in the society of nations.  The trouble with international law is that, being artificial, it is too often inapplicable to specific situations.  Far better is prudent judgment tailored to specific problems.  In contrast, the natural play of countervailing forces will always reach a better solution that conforms to actual conditions.

(6)  Mahan harmonized the concept of the equilibrium of natural forces with moral law.  He saw our Monroe doctrine as an example.  There existed no legal basis, no precedent in international relations for the United States to declare that European nations would not be permitted to expand their hegemony among Western hemisphere nations by force.  It was a moral judgment, but one based upon the potential threat of real power.  (Similarly, there was no precedent for preemptive action against Iraq.  It was a moral judgment responding to the specific conditions confronting us).

(7)  Of singular importance was Mahan?s relating the concept of the equilibrium of international powers to the concept of individual liberty and individual development.  Our American ethos demanded a government of limited powers that left the individual maximum personal liberty.  In the same way, each nation should be free to develop itself without the superposition of an international regulatory body like the UN.

(8)  To the objection that his doctrine was no more than might-makes-right, he pointed out that might is a product of efficiency and hard work, both qualities in full agreement with moral rectitude.  Returning to his beginning principle, Mahan said that might is not the right to wield unlimited power over other nations.  It carries always with it the obligation to prefer natural law morality to evil.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Tocqueville Revisited - Part One

Public understanding has changed greatly since 1831 when Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States and wrote his celebrated “Democracy in America”