The View From 1776
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Read Robert Stapler’s analysis of American presidents succeeding or failing to meet the challenges of their times (it’s presented as a comment on another recent post).
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Friday, August 08, 2014
Obama’s Quest To Transform Our Constitutional Federal Republic
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Wednesday, August 06, 2014
Yes, But What Do You Really Think Of Him?
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Tuesday, August 05, 2014
Liberal-Progressivism Is Inherently Tyrannical
As Madison and Hamilton wrote extensively in the Federalist papers, individual rights of all varieties, especially property rights, would be too vulnerable to mob sentiment, to the tyranny of the majority, without the Constitution’s multiple checks and balances to prevent concentration of too much political power in one person or group.
City Journal’s Myron Magnet reviews four books that describe the near fatal torture inflicted upon the Constitution by liberal-progressive collectivization of power since the beginning of the 20th century.
Read It’s Not Your Founding Fathers’ Republic Any More.
Presidents, Congresses, and courts are creating an elective despotism.
Alexis de Tocqueville, in his famous Democracy in America, warned us against the tyranny of the majority that would, if unchecked, override and obliterate the rights of individuals under the Bill of Rights. He warned us against the stifling effects of an all-pervading bureaucracy like the centralized administration in socialist France.
Religious morality having been replaced in 1789 Revolutionary France by worship of the Goddess of Reason, Tocqueville wrote, the French people were prepared to tolerate any degree of political tyranny, so long as they received their welfare-state benefits. This same pattern was repeated in 1930s Germany, and now is fully formed in the United States.
“Fairness” and “caring” mean expropriating the property and income of people who are out of favor and giving it to people in favored classes. Social justice is nothing more than the tyranny of the majority, a mob looting in slow motion. Liberal-progressive social justice is a reversion to pre-civilization barbarism in which there is no rule of law, and might makes right. Once having embarked on liberal-progressive socialism, what Freiderich Hayek called The Road to Serfdom, the average citizen finds it easier to ignore tomorrow, to eat, drink, be merry, and let the government take care of him. It is this which led to tyranny, in ancient Athens and now in the modern world.
See also Death Of The American Idea,
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Revolutionary Aspects Of Our War Of Independence
Robert Stapler presents a thorough review of his differences of viewpoint with my earlier post.
I must say that I don’t disagree with any of Mr. Stapler’s points. The impetus behind my assertion that the 1776 struggle was conservative rather than revolutionary was to combat the present-day education propaganda aimed at discrediting the predominating ethos in the colonies at that time.
The intention of such educational propaganda is to legitimize the liberal-progressive doctrine that the Constitution has no permanent meaning, that it is a instead a Darwinian, evolving document that is subject to changes in public opinion, that Judeo-Christian morality must be banished from the public square and replaced with Marxian-Darwinian materialism.
A Commentary on the July 21, 2014 article ‘The War of Independence’
By Robert Stapler
While I agree in substance with my good friend Thomas Brewton on his main point the American Revolution (or ‘War of Independence’) was overwhelmingly ‘conservative’, I find myself for once at odds with him and forced to side with our longtime adversary Mr. Jay that it was also in some degree ‘revolutionary’. Having said this, I must also protest my reasons for agreeing with Jay are, with but one exception, not the ones he cites. The one semi-valid point Jay makes was “what made the war ‘revolutionary’ is that it did not involve regime change, but rather the creation of an entirely new … system of governance.” Of course, it did involve ‘regime change’, for what is any change of government as an outcome of conflict but regime change; this one just happened to be for the better. Moreover, the change was far from being ‘entire’, and retained far more than what was altered. Yet, it did result in a ‘new system of governance’ different enough from its original to be classed ‘revolutionary’. While I agree (with Thomas) both the system first adopted (a loose confederation of fully sovereign states) and the later one (a federation of states with a central authority established for coordinating efforts and interests) were highly conservative structurally, they were also clear breaks with our colonial past in that neither of those bodies had as features any provision for ‘inheritable power’ (aka, a nobility possessing an inheritable ‘right to rule’). Whatever else we may say about that war, the resulting system was a paradigm shift away from certain key elements under which we’d been previously governed and took for granted, and which made our new system significantly different from any we’d directly experienced before; among them:
a) no longer part of a global empire (large commercial impacts for us)
b) repudiation of Britain’s monopolistic ‘mercantile’ policies (Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, published in 1776 had a profound effect on our more intellectual Founders, including Franklin, Jefferson and Madison. Hamilton, too, though he argued against Smith’s ideas, was nonetheless influenced by them)
c) specifically written v. a constitution built largely on tradition and precedents
d) no longer subject to a monarchical system and hereditary privileges
e) no longer subject to ‘state sponsored’ religion, at least not nationally
f) brought slavery, indenture and bound-apprenticeship into question
g) ‘voting rights’ restrictions hotly disputed
h) brought into question who could stand for office
i) agitation to make legislative deliberations more public
j) right of government to tax other than on fixed, well-defined, and commonly agreed upon objectives disputed
k) politically ‘free’ speech (while the British already had substantial arguments in its favor, it was not yet a well-respected ‘right’)
l) personal-responsibility and self-sufficiency an underlying principle supporting notion government should butt out of purely personal affairs
m) frontier opened up, and prevailing idea government ought not to impede settlement
n) spirit of reform, & denunciations of remaining ‘arbitrary’ aspects of British system (aka, ‘rule of law’ had special meaning to rebels somewhat different than that prevailing in Britain)
o) spawned (briefly) early feminist movement (Abigail Adams, Lucy Knox, & Judith Sargent Murray)
p) advocacy for a more educated constituency
The above list illustrates the colonies were, at least from the British standpoint, already quite ‘radicalized’ even before the hostilities began. Among war objectives most Americans felt keenly was a sense they were breaking with a past with which they were no longer or entirely comfortable. Our merchants (e.g., Robert Morris) wanted greater freedom to trade with whomever he wished, free of Britain’s monopolistic meddling. The more political among us were no longer trusting of a system that wasn’t written down in clear, concise and unequivocal form, and wanted greater assurance political rights would be respected. America’s yeomanry were mostly fed up with kings and nobles, and wanted no further part of that breed. Religious freedom, even beyond that assured by Britain’s ‘Toleration Act of 1689’ and an end to tithes was demanded. Freedom of speech, while already a British assumption, was limited to a specific ‘right to petition’ the king and a specific right protecting Parliaments members only, and was not yet broadly interpreted to cover all public (or even private) speech. Moreover, Parliament was left free to curtail speech among ordinary citizens as it saw fit. While true the British (multiply sourced) constitution did eliminate the king’s taxing authority, it in no way limited Parliament’s power of taxation. So, while all the grievances listed in the Declaration had some precedent (making them ‘conservative’ gripes), their interpretation was somewhat open to dispute or still in flux.
Perhaps the most repulsive idea (to British sensibilities) put forward soon after the Declaration of Independence was a determination among rebels that, whatever system should eventually be adopted, there would be no further tolerance of hereditary power and/or of a nobility. This was, to Britain’s political class, the worst possible form of Jacobinism, and had to be put down however great the cost in coin and blood.
A Revolution in Thinking, If Not One of Form
Thomas is, off course, perfectly correct the war was not, itself, ‘revolutionary’ nor fought to overthrow a colonial system with which the rebels (prior to hostilities) were perfectly comfortable and frequently defended as the best of all possible systems. The real revolution in thinking and system took place during the war and in the generations immediately following. For example, abolitionism began gathering steam in the northern states even before hostilities ended with Britain. What this illustrates is the war and separation from the old world order (and its perceived ‘evils’) represented in American minds a revolution in thinking with a huge emphasis placed on casting off all things ‘unenlightened’. If Founders from Adams to Monroe were somewhat old-fashioned in their desire for preserving what was best of the old ways, radicals like Thomas Paine were not; and Paine’s ideas enjoyed a broad following among the American yeomanry and army ranks. In fact, Paine’s polemics energized patriotic passion far beyond the limited reach of even our most influential statesmen and military leaders. Paine quickly became our primary propagandist, and any reading of Paine can only be viewed as an appeal to ‘homegrown radicalism’. As later events show, Paine was dissatisfied with our Constitution, and his dismissal by Congress and his ‘Age of Reason’ treatise show just how radical he really was (or became). Washington and many of the leading Founders began distancing themselves from Paine and his extreme notions in the latter half of the war; which shows that whereas the Founders were certainly enlightened or even a bit ‘progressive’, most of them drew a line at the kind of sweeping social changes Paine advocated. However, if Paine’s views were too radical for Congress and Washington, he long remained a darling among ordinary patriots.
Thomas cites Madison’s arguments for adopting the Constitution (Federalist Papers) as proof of foundational ‘conservatism’. However, I’d be less than forthcoming by not admitting the Federalist Papers were also propaganda used to persuade New York State’s most influential men (who were mostly politically conservative) that the proposed system was in no wise ‘radical’ the way many feared. That Madison was addressing primarily ‘conservative’ gentlemen (i.e., those most likely to attend New York’s adopting convention) is beyond doubt as he proved himself many times a persuasive propagandists for changes he favored. This is not to say Madison was in any sense disingenuous, only that he was sublimely skillful in his presentations, and took great pains to calm any and all fears voiced against adoption. It should be further noted Madison’s own opinions regarding objectives changed with time, and shifted from outspoken advocate of federalism to unflinching opponent of federalist overreach, and from a conservative to a liberal in his choice of faction.
It should be noted that while Adam Smith is today regarded a cornerstone of fiscally conservative thought, he was in the context of his own day what we would regard a ‘progressive’. Smith’s lengthy epistle on national wealth was, in fact, a call for sweeping social changes, and his particular concern was the counterproductive exploitation of labor and disregard for England’s ‘poor’ as embalmed in the ‘mercantile system’. As such, he would have had a good deal in common with today’s unions and Britain’s Labor Party. However, I would not class him a radical as his great interest was also for Britain’s economic well-being and improvement of its global system of trade. Also, his mode of outreach to the poor was to put them to work and engage them in his nation’s political dialogue, not to create entitlements that effectively keep them poor and shut them out. As our Founders were conversant with Smith’s ideas (far more than we are today) and at least some of them endorsed those ideas, it cannot be they were entirely conservative.
However conservative the Founders (i.e., political leadership) may have been at the outset, the nation’s yeomanry had some ideas of their own how any new government placed over them should operate, and were generally more open to sweeping change. Having fought and suffered through a long war of independence, they were understandably apprehensive any new system must have safeguards against oppression. More than that, as the middling to lower-class economically, they were open to ideas that levelled their playing field and provided them new opportunities for improving their situation. Though there is little in the way of literature describing yeoman expectations, it does exist and can be discovered in journals, broadsheets, and letters of the time. Moreover, the Founder’s recognized from the outset they must appeal to yeoman sentiments to inspire them to fight for ‘The Cause’, that their case for war must be compelling to simple farmers and artisans; and that the losses suffered by both officers and privates in such a contest must form an effectual bond or ‘covenant’ between them as would not end in independence alone or in advantage to a few which political leaders might later disregard. War shapes objectives and our ideas of them even more than do initial grievances; and, the Framers were nothing if not shaped by debates over yeomen expectations of this shared ‘cause’. Thus, when it came time to constitute a new government (1787), the Framers were intensely mindful of this ‘unwritten’ covenant they’d earlier formed with America’s yeomanry; of promises sworn to and of which they, as ‘honorable men’ had every intention of honoring.
The Genêt Affair & the French Revolution
American sentiment during the French Revolution and just after teaches us, that at least by 1790 (and likely much sooner), a ‘spirit of revolution’ was clearly in the air in America. Much of this spirit was a direct result of shared excitement and suffering, of the large number of Frenchmen who had flocked to our shores in support of our cause. A ‘bond of brotherhood’ was thus formed between their and our ‘patriots’. It was not until the ‘Terror’ (September 1793 - July 1794) that many Americans began having doubts regarding the revolution taking place in France. Yet, even this revulsion was not universal among us, and a great many Americans (including some of our leading lights) continued supporting the French in the conviction some bloodshed was acceptable (see https://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/d/592/ ) so long as it resulted in an end to monarchy along republican lines. The French Revolution was a severe test of what our American experiment stood for, and divided Americans for the first time regarding its ideals.
In 1793, the Genêt Affair (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmond-Charles_Gen%C3%AAt ) challenged those principles and our government more directly and severely. Citizen Genêt was sent by the new radical regime as an ambassador to our shores with the flagrant goal of recruiting us to fight against and harass the British with whom we maintained a fragile peace, and against whom our continued separation was less than assured. Genêt’s incitements were, thus, an existential threat to American peace and independence. Even so, hundreds of Americans, including some who were both influential and perfectly aware of the risks, flocked to Genêt and/or openly supported his cause. Nor were most Americans entirely ignorant of the differences between their and our revolutions (see https://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/d/593/ ). Indeed, some of our own hot-heads embraced French radicalism as a kind of ‘continuation’ of changes taking place here they regarded incomplete; and, for a time, seemed ripe to boil over into partisan violence. It is important to understand, the ‘Reign of Terror’ that began in September of that same year, would not become well known to us nor its implications understood until the following summer. So, at least from our war of independence through 1794, a spirit of ‘real’ revolution was very much alive this side of the pond, and was only damped as the revelations from France piled up.
When we speak of the ‘Founders’, we must be careful not to exclude these ‘yeoman founders’ who risked their all as much or even more than did their more affluent and educated leaders.
American Revolution as a continuation of the British Civil Wars of 1641-1688
At least one notable historian has made the point our War of Independence was, in many respects, an extension of the English Civil Wars and Glorious Revolution. While Thomas is perfectly correct our new system substantially mirrors and preserves major features of the British system of their time, we need to understand that that system was, itself, still in flux as a result of convulsions their side of the pond a mere 88 years earlier. Prior to the English Civil Wars (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Civil_War ), Britain was ruled primarily by its monarchs with its Parliament subject to arbitrary kingly dissolution. One result of those wars was King George III could no longer dissolve nor prorogue a British Parliament, and was subject to certain other important restrictions that would become points of contention with us. But, he could and did still prorogue and dissolve colonial parliaments with impunity, and with or without Parliamentary consent. [side note: British Parliamentarians (almost as much as we) contested King George retained such a power over our parliaments, but, as this was the first time (since the Civil Wars) any king had interpreted the new rules in this way, it would not be resolved as an issue their side of the pond until well after our separation.]
Those wars plus the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glorious_Revolution ) established Parliamentary independence of the King and placed certain objects beyond his reach; including taxing-authority and ultimate control of the army (its size and uses). As such, it was an early foray into ‘limited government’. Recall one of the more prominent complaints made against King George was his arbitrary dissolution of colonial parliaments. The list of grievances in the second half of our own Declaration of Independence could easily have been a laundry list of British Parliamentarian complaints from a century earlier. Our own revolutionary leaders were certainly ‘preserving’ the constitutionally-based parliamentary system then extant in Britain, but, just as importantly preserved its ‘revolutionary’ spirit instilled in them by grandparents, parents and teachers; many of whom had lived through and supported England’s political struggles.
Many of our colonists were near descendants of those same political dissidents (both against and for the crown) many of whom arrived here in successive waves following the ups and downs of that power struggle; some of my own ancestors among them (both sides). This is something our high school history books (even those of my schoolboy days) entirely fail to mention. Those same schoolbooks emphasize religious dissidents who fled here, but little about such political dissidents, many of whom brought with them a sense of unfinished business and factional feuds. Those of the Parliamentarian faction were known as ‘Whigs’ (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiggism ) whereas those fighting to preserve the old order (fewer in number this side of the pond) were known as ‘royalists’, ‘Cavaliers’ or ‘Tories’. The Whigs came first, which gave them the advantage both politically and economically, and a good many of our leading Founders came from this class; especially in the Northern colonies. Regardless what motivated these progenitors to emigrate, most of their children grew up in the New World ethos of self-sufficiency and self-rule, thereby pitting them against a distant and arbitrary rule which was no longer the standard in their perceived ‘country of origin’. Thus, it was not by accident opposing factions in our own war self-identified as ‘Whigs’ and ‘Tories’, with the former favoring separation and the latter opposing it. That made the Tories (most of whom were evicted as a result of our contest) the true conservatives and the Whigs (aka, rebels) a sort of ‘progressive’ or ‘revolutionary’ faction; at least in relative terms. As things worked out, the Southern (more conservative) faction wound up politically dominant, mainly due to Washington’s overawing influence and the North’s need to keep the Deep South in the Confederacy after the war. Thus, when we speak of Founder ‘conservatism’, we need to differentiate a little which Founders we mean and their relative contributions to the outcome.
Another thing for us to consider is, what effect did evicting our most vocally conservative elements (i.e., those stubbornly loyal to Britain) have on our political composition, and, in turn, on our perception the war was conservative in nature? Had the Tories not been evicted, our national conversation justifying separation from England as ‘having preserved British norms’ would have been very different. Those Tories would have had much to say refuting such a contention by pointing out all the many, significant, and sweeping changes wrought by the war; and they would have been right! By evicting them, that particular debate never happened, however, and the narrative passed down to us is unmistakably one-sided as a result. It is said the victors write our histories, and that is noticeably true in this case.
Differences between the American and French Revolutions
The French Revolution began without any clear objective beyond the simple one of avenging poverty compounded by long abuse. There was no long prelude to it (unless you count our own political struggle), no broadsheet campaign, no ‘committees of correspondence’ and no dissenting colonial legislators to give it direction. It was the temper and disagreement of French political-thinkers (in the absence of a strong leadership) that shaped their revolution first one way, then another with each succeeding factional shift becoming more strident and radical. Also, it took us far longer to achieve our goals such that, by the time we did achieve them, our passion for sweeping societal change was effectively spent. The French, in contrast, achieved regime change quickly and almost bloodlessly such that their passion and frustration against their ruling class was still in need of an outlet. Where we were also fortunate is in that our ‘radicals’ were few and our statesmen many, and all of the latter determined and of one mind. Whereas the French were weakly led and without clear (or at least common) objectives, our movement was strongly led and with well-defined objectives most Americans embraced and willingly defended. The French Revolution began nearly as conservatively as our own. Indeed, moderates of the Estates General of 1789 regarded our system their model. Unfortunately for the French, order soon broke down and their radicals took over; forcing their moderates out (and to the guillotine). There are other differences, but these suffice to explain why the French revolution was so much more ‘radical’ than our own.
There are more points I could make in defense of our ‘War of Independence’ as also having been ‘revolutionary’ in nature, but feel these suffice to make the case. I can also produce ample proof and arguments for their fundamental ‘conservatism’, but am unconcerned a strong case needs to be made for that. That the Founders did not intend a true revolution is beyond dispute; but can it really be said the French intended one? Or, as is so often the case, did events and a dearth of leadership shape their outcome for them? That our leaders were fundamentally conservative (i.e., not out to destroy the underlying fabric of an accustomed order, but rather to preserve its essential features) is undeniable. Yet the war they waged, its declared objectives, its motivating spirit, and its outcomes are equally and undeniably ‘revolutionary’. So whether our revolution was, by design or chance, ‘essentially conservative’ is less relevant than were its impacts on our political systems and on mankind as a whole.
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Friday, July 04, 2014
The War Of Independence
Our struggle formally commenced on July 4, 1776 with the Declaration of Independence. Calling the ensuing conflict the Revolutionary War is a misnomer.
Our 1776 struggle with Great Britain should be called the War of Independence, not the Revolutionary War. Liberal educators want you to believe that we Americans share a common heritage with the savageries of the French and Russian socialist revolutionaries. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ours was not at all a revolution in the sense of the 1789 French Revolution or the 1917 Russian Revolution. Those were mob uprisings that wiped out the existing systems of government, society, spiritual religion, and private property rights, ending with the subordination of individual rights to the rule of an intellectual elite.
The Americans’ purpose was the exact opposite: to preserve the already well-established colonial systems of self-government without in any way affecting the institutions of religion or the rights of property. Our War of Independence was, in short, a conservative defense of well-established tradition, not a radical upheaval.
American colonists would have happily remained British subjects if their rights as Englishmen had been respected by Parliament and the king. They were in fact very proud to be Englishmen, because England was the most powerful and the freest nation on earth.
They objected to the administration of George III, because it had abruptly decided to change fundamental procedures of self-government that had evolved in the North American colonies during the previous century and a half. American colonists, and their cousins in England, believed that neither the king nor Parliament could arbitrarily impose heavy and unprecedented taxes. Nor could the king enforce collection of those taxes with military troops quartered among the private citizens, at those citizens’ expense. These things they saw as unconstitutional seizure of their property by the crown. The best known slogan from the War of Independence says it all: “No taxation without representation.”
Freedom, in 1776, meant limitations that kept government from arbitrarily encroaching upon individuals’ political and property rights. Today “freedom” means that the Federal courts can arbitrarily legitimize the latest academic fads that attack the centuries-old traditions of morality and natural law upon which the United States was founded.
Freedom has come to mean lack of restraint and the absence of consideration for the rights and sensibilities of others. First and foremost today it means animalistic gratification (sexual promiscuity, marital infidelity, drug and alcohol abuse) without personal responsibility and without regard to the corrosive effect on society.
As Alexander Hamilton noted in the Federalist papers (which were written in 1787 and 1788 to persuade the states to ratify the Constitution), the words of the Constitution, by themselves, are not much protection for the individual liberties claimed in the Declaration of Independence. Lawyers and judges can weasel around words and take them out of context to make them appear to mean almost anything they wish. The only safeguard is a knowledgeable public, steeped in tradition and alive to every threat against those liberties. We no longer have that safeguard.
After more than three generations under the socialist welfare state imposed here in 1933 by the New Deal, we are far advanced along what Nobel-Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek called The Road to Serfdom. In that classic 1944 analysis of the inescapable shortcomings of socialism, Hayek accurately predicted the general malaise and economic decline in post-World War II Great Britain under its socialist government. At about the same time, President Franklin Roosevelt was praising the benefits of the socialistic collectivism of his New Deal in his 1944 State of the Union address. The original Bill of Rights based on Jeffersonian individualism, he said, had proved inadequate. The People had accepted a Second Bill of Rights that promised Security in the sheltering arms of Big Brother’s socialistic welfare state.
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Wednesday, July 02, 2014
The Religious Foundation Of The United States
While the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of any official religion at the Federal level, Judeo-Christian moral values and religious faith were inseparably interwoven with all political issues in 1776 and in 1787, when the Constitution was crafted.
Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in 1831, traveling from New England to New Orleans. The year before, in 1830, France had been convulsed by one of its repeated political upheavals after the 1789 Revolution. Tocqueville’s purpose was to discover how the United States had managed to avoid the episodic armed rebellions and bloodshed in the streets of Paris that plagued French political life under socialistic egalitarianism, the societal condition called social justice by liberal-progressives.
His observations were set forth in Democracy in America, often cited as one the best surveys ever written regarding American political, social, and religious life.
Two things struck Tocqueville forcibly as he traveled across the United States. Everywhere there was a strong attachment to the equality conferred by political liberty, and everywhere there was an unwavering devotion to Christianity. The two, he concluded, were inseparably connected.
“On my arrival in the United States,” he wrote, “the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.”
“[Christianity] contributed powerfully to the establishment of a republic and a democracy in public affairs; and from the beginning, politics and religion contracted an alliance which has never [as of 1831] been dissolved.”
“The sects that exist in the United States are innumerable. They all differ in respect to the worship which is due to the Creator; but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man…. all sects preach the same moral law in the name of God.”
“In the United States religion exercises but little influence upon the laws and upon the details of public opinion; but it directs the customs of the community, and, by regulating domestic life, it regulates the state…. Thus, while the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash and unjust. Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it.”
“When [people in France] attack religious opinions, they obey the dictates of their passions and not of their interests. Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot.”
A century later Bancroft Prize-winning historian Clinton Rossiter, who described himself as a centrist, somewhere between labor union radicals and the late Senator Barry Goldwater, wrote in The First American Revolution (1956):
“Finally, it must never be forgotten, especially in an age of upheaval and disillusionment, that American democracy rests squarely on the assumption of a pious, honest, self-disciplined, moral people. … Whatever doubts may exist about the sources of this democracy, there can be none about the chief source of the morality that gives it life and substance. From Puritanism, from the way of life that exalted individual responsibility, came those homely rules of everyday conduct – or, if we must, those rationalizations of worldly success – that have molded the American mind into its unique shape. … The men of 1776 believed that the good state would rise on the rock of private and public morality, that morality was in the case of most men and all states the product of religion, and that the earthly mission of religion was to set men free.”
Tocqueville would have said that present-day American liberal-progressives’ advocacy of libertine license in personal life and smothering regulation of economic activity and public expression of religious faith represent all the worst elements of French political life, the very sources of France’s social and political instability. French revolutionaries had destroyed the monarchy and the Catholic Church, making the nation a secular and socialist republic. It was the absence of religious moral restraint that had permitted the slaughter in the Reign of Terror of more than 70,000 people in the name of perfecting humanity. This same secular irreligion in the 20th century was to murder as many as one-hundred-million people in Soviet Russia, National Socialist Germany, Mao’s China, Castro’s Cuba, Cambodia, and other liberal-progressive-socialistic countries.
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Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Liberal-Progressivism’s Religious Foundation
Enraged reaction on the political left against the Supreme Court’s recent defense of First Amendment religious freedom reminds us that liberal-progressivism, Nazism, Fascism, and communism all are modern-day tyrannical variants of ancient gnosticism.
Gnosticism is a body of religious doctrine that denies the reality of actual experience and asserts that perfection of human nature and of political and social conditions can be obtained here on earth. Attaining perfection, of course, requires that a radical left-wing elite with claimed superior knowledge gain political power to regulate every daily aspect of society, from the food we eat, to the sources of energy that power our economy, to the thoughts we think and utter. This is the core of liberal-progressivism’s regulatory political state.
As George Orwell wrote in his novel 1984, distortion of language’s meaning has been an essential tool employed to the end of gnostic perfection of society. The recent Supreme Court decision upholding the state of Michigan’s referendum banning racial preferences produced an eruption of left-wing language distortion. Read The Language of Despotism, by Bruce Thornton.
As I wrote in The Liberal Jihad - The Hundred-Year War Against the Constitution,the term gnosticism derives from the Greek word meaning “to know.” Gnosticism refers, not to a doctrine of genuine knowledge, but to various schools of mysterious, conspiratorial ideologies known only to a select group. The gnostic aspect of liberal-progressive-socialism leads its believers to countenance tyranny, from abridgment of individual rights to mass murder. Theirs is an amorality that asserts that the end justifies the means. Stalin’s slaughter of tens of millions of people was justified by American liberal-progressives in the 1930s as necessary to bring social perfection to future generations.
Beginning in the 18th century, liberal-progressive gnostics theorized a secular evolution of political and social conditions ending in a new scientific, atheistic, and materialistic age of socialism. In this new scientific stage, the masses were to be instructed and managed from on high by intellectuals, because it required abandonment of Judeo-Christian morality and age-old constitutional, social, and legal traditions. Nancy Pelosi, for example, was flabbergasted that anyone should suggest that the Constitution might stand in the way of Obamacare, a quintessential gnostic program for forcible imposition of liberal-progressives’ vision of social perfection.
There is, however, a yawning gap between liberal-progressives’ untested theories of political and economic perfection via regulation and the results they impose upon the real world.
Standing in the way of liberal-progressive gnosticism is the individualism of Judeo-Christian morality and Constitutional protection of individuals’ rights against the tyranny of the majority. Karl Marx inveighed against spiritual idealism and proclaimed that human nature itself could be molded by the materialistic conditions of the workplace and by government regulation. It was, he proclaimed, within the power of a collectivized government controlled by the workers to perfect society. This conviction survives in today’s liberal-progressivism, exemplified by global-warming frenzy, speech codes, affirmative action, and statistical racial quotas being imposed by Eric Holder’s Justice Department.
Triggered by the Vietnam war, gnosticism burst forth with renewed virulence in the 1960s and 1970s. Baby boomers, the first generation tutored in the ideology of socialism in large numbers, took to the streets and college campuses aiming to “bring the Vietnam War home, kill their parents, and destroy Amerika.” Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1962 issued the Port Huron Statement, its version of the Communist Manifesto. Weatherman, the Black Panthers, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and similar underground, gnostic organizations resorted to bank robberies, bombings, and murders of innocent bystanders. Liberal-progressive-socialists rationalized this destructive violence on a cold-blooded, theoretical plane. The perpetrators, they said, were merely responding to the criminal nature of a society organized along traditional capitalistic lines.
They still believe that any actions to combat the purported evils of spiritual religion, moral codes, or capitalist individualism would be justified by their vision of social justice.
Liberal-progressive icon Herbert Marcuse said, in a 1967 speech entitled Liberation from the Affluent Society, “Needless to say, the dissolution of the existing system is the precondition for such qualitative change… And we must see that we can generate the instinctual and intellectual revulsion against the values of an affluence which spreads aggressiveness and suppression throughout the world… I will only remind you of the various possibilities of demonstrations, of finding out flexible modes of demonstration which can cope with the use of institutionalized violence of boycott, many other things— anything goes which is such that it indeed has a reasonable chance of strengthening the forces of opposition. We can prepare for it as educators, as students.”
Marcuse’s acolytes and those of similar mind are today’s leading educators, too many politicians, labor leaders, and judges.
The best perspective on liberal-progressive gnosticism is in Eric Voegelin’s Science, Politics & Gnosticism. He wrote: “The more we come to know about the gnosis of antiquity, the more it becomes certain that modern movements of thought, such as progressivism, positivism, Hegelianism, and Marxism, are variants of gnosticism… The death of God is the cardinal issue of gnosis, both ancient and modern.”
“The world is no longer the well-ordered, the cosmos in which Hellenic man felt at home; nor is it the Judeo-Christian world that God created and found good. Gnostic man no longer wishes to perceive in admiration the intrinsic order of the cosmos. For him the world has become a prison from which he wants to escape… the aim always is destruction of the old world and passage to the new. The instrument of salvation is gnosis itself— knowledge…
“Self-salvation through knowledge has its own magic, and this magic is not harmless. The structure of the order of being will not change because one finds it defective and runs away from it. The attempt at world destruction will not destroy the world, but will only increase the disorder in society.”
This, of course, is what the United States and western European nations confront today: a world on the verge of bankruptcy, resulting from liberal-progressive-socialistic wishful thinking and pretension that the real world’s economic realities can be restructured by their minds. A fairy-land version of foreign policy in which Obama’s “hope and change” will lead Islamic jihadists to lay down their arms and embrace us, their sworn enemies, as soul brothers. In short, liberal-progressive gnosticism is, at an accelerating pace, destroying the economic, moral, and political foundations of the western world.
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Sunday, June 29, 2014
Liberal-Progressive Human Rights Doctrine
From the beginning of his presidency, Obama has repeatedly praised Islam and favored Islam over Israel, even at the potential expense of Israel’s obliteration and the slaughtering of its entire population. This is human rights?
The only speech that liberal-progressives believe the law should respect is doctrines of secular socialism. If they don’t like your opinion, they will have it silenced, one way or another (see Washington Redskins case).
Europe has been riven by riots and intimidation by Muslims demanding that sharia supplant local law and centuries-old constitutional custom. That campaign is more subtly underway here in the United States.
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Wednesday, May 07, 2014
The Fed Aims To Continue Stealing Your Money
2% annual inflation, the Federal Reserve’s current policy target, will produce cumulative inflation of 144% over a normal 45-year working span. At retirement almost $2.50 will be required to purchase what $1.00 buys today.
When I was in high school in 1948, 50¢ would buy a large hamburger steak, french fries, a glass of iced tea, and a piece of pie. In 1958 a starting salary of $5,700 put me in the top 1/3 of earnings for MBA graduates. New York City rent in a newly constructed apartment building in a classy neighborhood was $200 a month. Congress, President Nixon, and the Federal Reserve have stolen the difference from me since then.
The following article from Barron’s outlines the sickening and enraging plunge in the value of your life’s savings engineered by Congress and the Federal Reserve. Note especially that Congress, by tossing the ball to the Fed, has abandoned its original constitutional duty to fix the value of our money.
Has Economy Been Hurt by Floating Dollar?
A leading Elliott Wave theorist says the next bear market will expose some serious structural weaknesses.
By ROBERT PRECHTER
May 7, 2014 1:41 p.m. ET
Editor’s Note: Prechter is founder and president of Elliott Wave International, an independent financial analysis and market forecasting firm. He is also publisher of The Elliott Wave Theorist monthly newsletter.
For 173 years, the United States used money as a medium of exchange. In 1965, it switched to using a floating accounting unit. This change coincided with a dramatic yet hidden reversal in the net trend of worth for U.S. corporations.
The Money Era: 1792-1964 In 1792, Congress passed the U.S. Coinage Act, which defined a dollar as a coin containing 371.25 grains—equal to 0.7734 Troy oz.—of silver (plus some alloy). Congress did not say a dollar was worth that amount of metal; it was that amount of metal. Conversely, an ounce of silver was $1.293.
The same act declared that a new coin, the Eagle, would consist of 247.5 grains of gold (plus some alloy). It valued this coin at ten dollars, meaning 3712.5 grains of silver, a value ratio of 15:1. This ratio valued gold at $19.39 per oz.
In 1834, Congress passed another coinage act valuing gold at $20.69 per ounce, thus tweaking the gold/silver value ratio closer to 16:1. In 1837, another law edged the gold content of an Eagle to 232.2 grains, meaning gold was now valued at $20.67 per ounce. A dollar, however, was still 0.7734 oz. of pure silver.
The silver standard ended in 1873, when a new Coinage Act scrapped the definition of a dollar as a certain amount of silver and adopted a new definition based on gold, maintaining the formula of $1 = 1/20.67 ounce of gold. The Gold Standard Act of 1900 confirmed this definition.
In 1913, Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act. This act created a new banking corporation and gave it monopoly power to issue dollar-denominated banknotes and checking accounts backed by bonds issued by the Treasury. In other words, it gave the Fed the power to use government debt as backing to create spendable dollar-denominated credits to benefit the government. The Fed issued its notes on dollars it never had.
The Fed’s activities diluted the supply of dollar-denominated credits, reducing their value relative to gold. The government decided it did not want to pay its creditors. In January 1934, Congress passed the Gold Reserve Act, under which the government seized Americans’ gold, canceled all business contracts in gold, outlawed citizens’ possession of gold and reduced the amount of gold that would define a dollar. President Roosevelt personally dreamed up a new value for the dollar, which he pronounced to be 1/35 of an ounce of gold, thus raising the “price” of gold to $35.00 per ounce. In one stroke, the government seized 41% of the value of everyone’s dollars. Because the Act prohibited U.S. citizens from trading in gold, this new, lower, value of a dollar was thereafter applied only to international transactions.
Incredibly, however, the U.S. remained on a money standard, because Congress simultaneously reinstated the silver standard for domestic transactions. It authorized the Treasury to issue paper dollar “certificates” redeemable in silver at the rate of $1.29/oz., the same statutory value the dollar had in 1792. With the silver price still low from the Great Depression, this was, briefly, a “fair” price. Congress passed the Silver Purchase Act of 1934 to allow the Treasury to acquire silver to back the notes.
This scheme failed to last even three decades. With the government’s continued borrowing and the Fed’s monetization of much of it, the government’s bills soon outnumbered the dollars of silver backing them. Smart people began redeeming the bills for silver, and the Treasury’s supply of silver began to dwindle. In 1961, it plummeted by 80% as redemptions ballooned. That year, President Kennedy issued an Executive Order to halt the redemption of silver certificates and urged Congress to let the Fed take over the nation’s currency. In 1963, Congress obliged by passing Public Law 88-36, which revoked the Silver Purchase Act and authorized the Federal Reserve to issue banknotes unbacked by money. For a time, however, an enterprising citizen could still trade the Treasury’s paper notes for silver coins at par, and the U.S. mint continued to make silver coins through 1964 with what silver it had left.
The Watershed Year: 1965 By 1965, the Fed had issued enough Federal Reserve notes to replace the circulation of silver-backed U.S. Treasury notes. On July 23, Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1965, which declared that commonly used U.S. coins would henceforth be tokens containing no precious metal.
Through these maneuvers, Congress ceased exercising its Constitutional “power to coin money, and regulate [make regular] the value thereof.” Instead it outlawed money and replaced it with an elastic, non-regular unit of account.
The year 1965, then, marked the official end of money usage in America. That’s when the Fed’s notes and the Treasury’s tokens became the official currency, unredeemable in anything. The dollar became merely an accounting unit. The government was now fully free to extract value from its citizens’ savings accounts through the process of issuing debt and having the Fed turn it into checking accounts.
The gold standard for foreigners lasted only another six years, during which time the Treasury shipped most of its gold overseas at $35 per ounce. Finally, in 1971, President Nixon issued Executive Order 11615, which reneged on the government’s obligation to pay out gold to foreign creditors. From then on, the dollar was only an accounting unit internationally as well as domestically.
173 Years of Convertibility Abandoned The United States dollar was a form of money for 173 years. Broadly speaking, we may delineate the key periods as follows:
1792-1873: silver money standard with gold convertibility
1873-1934: gold money standard
1934-1965: silver money standard
1965-present: Federal Reserve Accounting Units (no standard)
The change in 1965 shifted the basis of the nation’s accounting unit from money to the policies of politicians and central bankers. It set the government and the Fed completely free to create and spend new accounting units at their pleasure. No longer would the Fed’s notes or the Treasury’s IOUs be redeemable in anything. Officials still call the unit of account a “dollar” and “money,” but purists might accuse them of fraud on both counts. Or, if Congress merely re-defined these terms, it did so without telling anybody plainly what the changes meant.
Corporate Worth in the Era of Money vs. the Era of Unbacked Accounting Units The shift to fake money in 1965 just happens to coincide with the year that divides the long term trend of corporate worth in the United States from mostly up to mostly down.
There had been a breathtaking rise in total U.S. corporate worth during the money period and exposes the stunning net destruction of U.S. corporate worth since the start of the non-money period. From 1792, when a money standard was first made official, to 1965, when Congress abandoned the money standard, U.S. stock values, normalized to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, rose from being worth 0.09 ounces of gold to being worth 27.59 ounces, a difference of +30,556%. Since 1965, when the government abandoned the money standard, this stock average has fallen in value from 27.59 ounces of gold to 11.86 ounces, a difference of -57%.
The price of the Dow at year-end 2013 was not 16,500 but 245. This is not a made-up figure. This is the Dow’s true price. That’s the price you would be reading in the paper had the dollar remained 1/20.67 oz. of gold. Incredibly, the Dow at year-end 2013 is worth less than it was at year-end 1928, 85 years ago.
The only reason people do not know the stock market’s true pricing history and its current true value is that accounting-unit inflation has hidden the deteriorating worth of corporate America. But our chart tells the truth: There has been a net loss in corporate worth since 1965. A record overvaluation of the Dow’s dividends—by twice that of 1929—at the peak of the investment mania in 2000 provided a new high, but it was only temporary.
Despite our delineation of the money era from the accounting-unit era, the Fed deserves only part of the proximate-cause blame for the monetary and economic conditions of the bearish period since 1965. Congress is primarily responsible for bloating credit and for burdening the economy, by means of its debt engines (FHLBs, FNM, FMAC, GNMA, student loans), speculation guarantees (FDIC, FSLIC, bank and corporate bailouts), regulations (OSHA, EPA, EEOC, etc.), taxes (income tax, social security tax, inheritance tax, gift tax, capital gains tax, excise tax, gas tax, medical tax, etc.) and criminalization of enterprise (via thousands of state and local laws prohibiting free enterprise); and its own creation—the Fed—has helped finance it all.
The Fed has benefited three groups: the government, bankers and speculators. Its exchange of new accounting units for Treasury bonds has stealthily sucked value out of savers’ accounts and transferred it to the government. It has also enabled dubious bank loans and bailed out reckless speculators. These policies have burdened the American economy.
Hiding the Trend So, why do so many people seem to think the country has been prosperous? The Dow is at 16,500! The S&P is at 1880! But, of course, they’re not. In less than a century, government through its debt-fostering engines and the Fed through its monetary policies served to reduce the value of the original dollar by almost exactly 99%. From the dollar’s original value of 1/19.39 of an ounce of gold in 1792-1834, it slid all the way to 1/1921.5 of an ounce in 2011. With the dollar’s recent gain against gold (fall in dollar price), the reduction from original value to date is about 98.5%. So everything today is dollar-priced about 67 times where it would be had the dollar remained approximately 1/20 of an ounce of gold. Yet people have been complacent, even giddy, over their “prosperity” while they are secretly losing principal and being taxed on phony capital gains.
Stocks Are Not Cheap One might look at our graph and think that the Dow is now so cheap in gold terms that it has nowhere to go but up. But thinking so would be to underestimate the deep deterioration in the U.S. economy.
Incredibly, the year-end-2013 price of the Dow—11.86 ounces of gold, or just 245 original dollars—is nonetheless ridiculously expensive for what you get: a lousy 2.1% annualized dividend yield, even lower than it was at top tick in 1929; a P/E ratio in the high end of the range for the past century and three times what it was at major bear market bottoms of the 20th century; and a 4.7 price-to-book-value ratio (adjusted to the pre-2004 data series) on the S&P, which is two to four times its range from year-ends 1929 through 1987. The Dow is not cheap; it’s absurdly overpriced. At the same time, stock-market optimism today, by many measures, is as extreme as it was at the Dow’s record overvaluation in 2000.
The miserable value shown in the chart for December 2013 comes from a snapshot of the Dow at its second-greatest overvaluation in history. This condition virtually assures that the worst of the devastation of U.S. corporate worth in the non-money era still lies ahead.
The next bear market in stocks will expose the hidden weakness in the U.S. economy, and truth will come to light. It will be a horrible day and a glorious day at the same time.