The Decline of Western Civilization: a Summaryhttp://www.thomasbrewton.com/index.php/weblog/the_decline_of_western_civilization_a_summary/
Human history, before the Greek city states emerge around 500 BC, is one of despotic autocracy (e.g., Egypt, Persia, and Babylon). The even older Hebrew Old Testament of the Bible creates a paradigm of history as the unfolding of God’s Will in society’s adherence to moral law. Christianity opens the way for every individual to gain spiritual communion with God and directs each person, as an individual, to live a moral life.
17th century European advances in mathematical and scientific knowledge open the way for French revolutionary intellectuals to declare that God and morality are superstitious ignorance. The new Religion of Humanity is materialistic, atheistic, and amoral socialistic collectivism. Salvation of humanity, they preach, is in the hands of mankind itself, under the leadership of an intellectual elite. Unfortunately for the people, earthly perfection of humanity requires reversion to the despotic autocracy of ancient history in order to impose social justice.
Rather than perfection of humanity, liberal-socialism (the American sect of this religion) brings us the savagery of Revolutionary France, the Soviet Union, Fascist Italy, Nationalist Socialist Germany, Red China, and the many other socialist dictatorships of the 20th century.
This time-line was prepared at the request of a reader. It’s presented here as both a reference tool for readers, and as an adjunct to teaching materials for home-schooling parents. The perspective presented, it is safe to say, is not likely to be given to today’s students in our public schools and in our colleges and universities.
ca. 950 BC -500 BC ? Old Testament books of the Hebrew Bible
399 BC ? Socrates condemned by the Athenian democratic assembly.
390 ? 322 BC - Plato and Aristotle
ca. 150-250 AD ? Christian New Testament books of the Bible
411 AD - Alaric sacks Rome; St. Augustine writes The City of God.
476 - End of the Western Roman Empire; last emperor executed by Odoacer.
500 - 1200 - Christianity spreads across Western Europe; becomes the sole unifying force and the foundation of Western civilization.
ca. 1155 - Henry II establishes English common law.
1215 - Magna Carta establishes English private property rights against the king.
1273 - St. Thomas Aquinas writes Summa Theologica, incorporating Aristotle’s theory of natural law into Christian doctrine.
1300s - 1500s - The Renaissance in literature, art, and architecture. Humanism, led by Catholic priest Erasmus, revives knowledge of and interest in classical Greek and Roman literature and their focus on nature.
1517 - Martin Luther starts the Reformation; a century or more of warfare rages across Europe as modern national states come into being; northern Europe breaks away from Rome.
1600s - Tremendous progress in mathematics and science; the age of Galileo, Descartes, and Newton.
1700s - Beginning of modern age in manufactures and shipping; great increases in productivity and general increase in wealth.
1750 - 1780s - French philosophers of the Revolution (Rousseau, Diderot, Condorcet, Turgot, Voltaire, et al) begin propagandizing for social justice via revolt against the monarchy and the Catholic Church.
1787 - Constitutional convention in Philadelphia.
1789 - American Constitution is ratified; it becomes the law of the land. French Revolution of July 14, 1789.
1793 - Reign of Terror slaughters more than 70,000 Frenchmen on the guillotine in the world’s first instance of terrorism as official state policy, after confiscation of Catholic Church property and imprisonment of priests removes all moral restraint.
1795 - Napoleon rises to power; begins military conquest of Western Europe to establish the French Empire in the name of Liberty, Brotherhood, and Equality.
1815 - British and Prussian troops defeat Napoleon at Waterloo; Congress of Vienna imposes monarchy on France, and monarchs of Europe unite to block revolutionary socialism.
1825 - Henri de Saint-Simon systematizes revolutionary doctrines into socialism; publishes The New Christianity, which calls for a catechism of socialistic morality, called social justice, to replace the religion of Christianity. Government is to be by councils of intellectuals and managers empowered to regulate all economic activity. Education will be under intellectual control to insure that only socialism is taught.
1822 - 1842 - Auguste Comte in 1822 publishes System of Positive Philosophy, which is carried to Germany by his young pupils studying with German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, thus cross-pollinating German statist and French socialist philosophies. Comte’s socialist positivism becomes widely studied in German universities. Comte?s Positivism denies existence of God and reality of religion and morals; only reality is things detectable by senses like sight, smell, and hearing; creates The Religion of Humanity, which says that the object of worship is humanity itself; “discovers” the Immutable Law of History that supposedly pushes human society inevitably toward perfection under a government of socialized regulatory control directed by intellectuals.
1830 ? Second revolution in France deposes monarch; triggers revolutionary activity elsewhere in Europe.
1831 - Alexis de Tocqueville comes to the United States, traveling from New England to New Orleans to learn how the Americans, with even more political equality than Revolutionary France, have maintained political order and domestic harmony. Later publishes findings in Democracy in America; concludes that a firm adherence to religious morality is the built-in check that keeps political government from overstepping its bounds and self-regulates its citizens, which he notes is the opposite of conditions in socialist France.
1830s - Industrial revolution, based on division of labor in factory settings, vastly increases productivity and lowers cots of products. England leads the way, with France limping behind; America joins the race in a big way.
1848 - Third wave of socialist revolutions in Europe. Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto. Irish potato famine brings big immigration to cities like Boston and New York, exacerbating city slum problems.
1851 - 1861 - Otto von Bismarck, Prussian landed aristocrat, unites member states of the German Confederacy into the German Empire under Prussian Kaiser Wilhelm I. German socialist party gains considerable power in the Reichstag. British upper class become infected with religion of socialism.
1859 - John Stuart Mill publishes On Liberty, a favorite of American liberals, which defends rights of anarchists and socialists to advocate their religion; says that society is diminished if even one dissenting voice is silenced. Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species, with the intent to discredit what he calls “the damnable doctrine” of Christianity. Darwin’s speculative theory, for which there exists no proof at all, maintains that there is no God, no Divine plan to the universe, that everything is random, chaotic chance in which life just “happened” and all species result from external, material influences, with no inherent nature to guide the development of life. Marxists enthusiastically endorse Darwin, exulting that evolution proves the validity of Godless, materialistic socialism.
1860-65 - American Civil War and events leading up to it preoccupy Americans, who are largely unaware of and uninterested in spread of socialist religion from France to Germany, then to England. War creates giant, interstate railroads, mines, steel mills, and other businesses, concentrates financial power in New York City. Farmers begin protests that produce the Populist Party in the 1880s.
1870s - German universities, medical science, chemistry, physics, historical and classical scholarship become the finest in the world. American scholars who aim for advancement in American universities attend German universities, where they absorb the prevailing Hegelian statist and French socialist philosophy. Harvard and Yale convert from schools to train ministers of the Gospel to secular universities, focusing in the social sciences on promulgating the new “scientific” socialism. Johns-Hopkins University is established, modeled on the German universities. Only about 2 percent of Americans go to college, but those who do emerge as the first American liberal-socialists. The first group of American women go to college, emerge openly socialists, working predominantly in the social services such as Jane Addams’s Hull House in Chicago and settlement houses in other cities. Their goal is to convert America from private property ownership to socialized regulation of the economy. Caring for the less fortunate is transformed from a moral issue, handled by churches and local social organizations, into a national political issue of socialistic “fairness.”
1879 - John Stuart Mill’s Chapters on Socialism declares that socialism is preferable to English constitutionalism, provided that the people can be sufficiently well educated to live good socialist lives.
1881 - Bismarck establishes world’s first social welfare system, both to neutralize socialists, and, as he said, to enable him to herd the German people like cattle, because of their resulting dependancy on the national state. (Franklin Roosevelt adopts Bismarck’s policy in 1935 with imposition of Social Security; mandatory FICA taxes remove source of voluntary funding for church-based and other local charity groups).
1880s and 1890s - In England and the U.S., industrialization brings people off the farms and into the cities, where living conditions often are horrible. American industry already is the colossus of the world, producing almost as much as the rest of the world combined. Twenty million or more immigrants flood into the U.S. to supply insatiable demand for cheap labor. They bring with them traditions that are the opposite of ours, traditions in which property ownership is the enemy of the people. Nonetheless, American education’s “melting pot” approach Americanizes their children, and immigrants desire to become full-fledged American citizens. But significant fringe elements of socialist and anarchist radicals are concentrated in New York and other large cities, the Mid-West, and the Pacific Coast. Radical leaders like Emma Goldman preach “propaganda of the deed,” i.e., assassinations, bombing property. One of her followers assassinates President William McKinley in 1901.
Beginning of the Progressive movement in American politics. Progressives were today?s liberal socialists and liberal Republicans. Progressivism was more a religious state of mind than a national political party. Progressivism coincides with the Victorian era faith in Progress, the certainty that the world was progressing toward ever greater political freedom and perfection of humanity, as envisioned by Comte in his Religion of Humanity and Positivist philosophy. World War I brutally ends euphoric optimism and creates a disillusioned generation with millions of its young men lying in European battlefield cemeteries; leaves the 1920s intellectuals open to the clarion call of Communism and the 1917 Russian Revolution as the messianic solution to the world?s problems.
1890s - 1930s - Beginning in the 1890s, William James, along with John Dewey, pioneers philosophy of pragmatism. James’s The Will to Believe (1897) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) make the case for agnosticism in a scientific age that had corroded faith in spiritual religion. Both James and Dewey preach that, with the world and our knowledge of it continually evolving (in keeping with Darwin’s theory), there can be no fixed principles of morality or timeless religious truth. Dewey, in addition, is immensely influential in moving education away from teaching fixed bodies of knowledge (why pupils today test at the bottom of the world in math, chemistry, and physics). His Democracy and Education (1916) is the catalyst for Progressive education, which teaches that pupils learn by “experience,” that is they are to be conditioned to communal living under socialism by emphasizing “projects” and “field trips” to give them an “appreciation” for cooperative living. Individualism is to be shunned as selfishness and greed. In 1919, Dewey and a group of fellow socialists found the New School for Social Research in New York City (of which former Senator Robert Kerry is now president), inspired by Soviet education after the 1917 Russian Revolution.
President McKinley assassinated (1901) by anarchist follower of Emma Goldman. Teddy Roosevelt becomes first activist President; embraces many social justice causes; inclined to act unilaterally in Bismarckian fashion (as with Panama Canal and fomenting revolution in Columbia to gain access for the canal route).
Herbert Croly in 1909 published widely-read The Promise of American Life, which advocates a Bismarckian approach to American politics: a strong leader must simply override Congress and state legislative bodies to impose intellectuals’ vision of socialized regulation to perfect society and move America from mediocrity to French and German socialist greatness. Croly’s father earlier had founded an Auguste-Comte church for The Religion of Humanity in Manhattan and published the first American exposition of Comte’s Positivist philosophy and religion. Croly and young Walter Lippmann, fresh from the presidency of Harvard’s student socialist club, found The New Republic in 1914. That journal becomes the most influential liberal-socialist publication in the first half of the 20th century.
The ACLU comes into being in 1916, as America begins preparations to enter World War I. ACLU co-founder Roger Baldwin was a follower of terrorist-anarchist Emma Goldman and set the ACLU to defending socialists and anarchists who attempted to sabotage American war efforts. Like today’s protesters against anti-terrorist military action, 1916 adherents to world socialism believed that the war was fomented by greedy capitalists just to make war profits and that social justice (equalizing property distribution) was the only route to world peace. Baldwin, in the 1920s, conceives strategy of judicial activism to pull an end-run around Congress and legislate from the judicial bench in support of socializing the Constitution.
Supreme Court - In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt appoints Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. to the Supreme Court. Holmes?s 1881 The Common Law sought to undermine 700-year traditions of English and American common law, declaring that law had to evolve in keeping with Darwin?s doctrine of evolution. As Harvard Law School professor and Massachusetts Supreme Court judge, Holmes organizes Cambride, Massachusetts, group to promote ?scientific? socialism; close friend is Harvard professor Harold Laski, who edits and publishes Holmes?s essays. Laski later returns to his native England and assumes leadership in socialist London School of Economics. In his essays and legal opinions, Holmes flatly rejects ideas of natural law (the basis of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution), morality, or any other form of higher law, maintaining that the law is no more than whatever a judge declares it to be. Echoing John Dewey?s emphasis on ?experience? vs. learning, Holmes writes, ?The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.? The law should develop with social experience and should permit the National State to experiment with social planning. On the United States Supreme Court he becomes the first activist judge to support socialist causes.
Holmes?s socialist colleague Louis D. Brandeis, appointed to the Supreme Court by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, was famous for his ?Brandeis briefs? when he had argued before the Court as an attorney. Brandeis did not argue from principles of established law, but adduced massive volumes of social statistics to argue his cases on the basis of social justice, which he believed should trump established law. In complete agreement with socialist doctrine of Saint-Simon and Comte, he strongly favored regulation of the economy. In his Supreme Court opinions, he argued that state-run enterprises always were preferable to privately-run businesses. Private business was to be looked upon with suspicion, whereas state-run business would be more efficient, productive, and beneficial to the people. Agreeing with Holmes, Brandeis declared that the economy should be regulated ?to meet changing social and economic needs.?
Benjamin N. Cardozo, was chief judge of the New York State court system when he was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Hoover in 1932. He generally sided with liberals Louis Brandeis and Harlan Stone in approving New Deal social planning. He wrote the majority opinion upholding Social Security legislation that destroyed the American system of individual responsibility and morality that successfully had protected families against undeserved misfortune during the preceding 315 years of American life.
1920s and 1930s Novelists and Playwrights, centered in New York?s Greenwich Village, are nearly unanimously adherents of socialism, anarchism, or Soviet Communism. They include most of the writers who constitute the standard canon of American literature for college students: the New Yorker magazine?s Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott, and Robert Benchley; novelist Theodore Dreiser, playwrights George Bernard Shaw (a leader of the British socialist party) and Eugene O?Neil, Carl Sandburg, John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, Frank Harris, William Dean Howells, Jack London and Upton Sinclair. Journalists Henry Demarest Lloyd, Ambrose Bierce, Robert Herrick, Frank Norris, Charles Edward Russell, Allan Benson, and David Graham Phillips.
In 1906, Upton Sinclair and Jack London had 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.
A 1935 American Writers? Congress proclamation called for the destruction of capitalism and the establishment of a workers? government. Among the signatories were John Dos Passos, Theodore Dreiser, James T. Farrell, Waldo Frank, Lewis Mumford, Richard Wright, Malcolm Cowley, Nathanael West, Erskine Caldwell, and Nelson Algren.
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 1776 War of Independence, instead declaring that the essence of American history was its conversion to French-style social democracy at the expense of inalienable natural-law rights to private property.
1929 ? The Great Depression begins; President Hoover, a professional mining engineer, tries three years of social engineering to prevent job layoffs and wage reductions, working against the only way to get out of a recession without inflation. With no success, he loses to Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 election. FDR fulfills campaign promises and begins collectivization of power in Washington; institutes New Deal programs modeled directly on Mussolini?s Fascist State Corporatism (note that Fascism and Nazism are merely nationalistic sects of socialist collectivism). For the first time, an American President attempts to manage the entire economy with French and Soviet-style regulation. None of it succeeds; Depression is as bad in 1938 as in 1933, when FDR took office.
1941 ? Japan ends the Depression by bombing Pearl Harbor. World War II creates further concentration of Federal power at expense of state and local governments.
1946 - Congress passes Employment Act that creates Council of Economic Advisors and makes it official policy for the Federal government to manage the economy to promote full employment. Government?s performance has been abysmally bad. Beginning in 1776, in all periods before the imposition of socialism by the New Deal, price levels had always risen sharply during times of war, then dropped rapidly back to the levels prevailing before the wars. Since FDR took office in 1933, prices have risen dramatically and steadily, year after year, during wars and peacetime. Prices today are 942% higher than in 1932, when commodity price levels were at the average that had prevailed since 1776. $10 today buys less than $1 bought in 1932. Individuals once saved for their children?s futures, but inflation has made that a chancy tactic. As a result, the savings level has fallen from around 5% of income in the 1920s to less than zero today (i.e., using credit cards, people are spending more than they earn).
1960s ? President John F. Kennedy preaches individual responsibility, but lends sympathetic ear to Socialist Party president Michael Harrington, whose The Other America declares that a third of Americans live in abject poverty, ignored by the rest. After JFK?s assassination in 1963, President Lyndon Johnson takes Harrington?s prescription to heart, expanding government jobs to employ everyone. The Great Society (a name borrowed from British socialist Graham Wallas) institutes full socialism by dedicating Federal policy to redistributing income, jobs, and educational slots equally, without regard to individual talent, performance, or merit. Concept of entitlement replaces equality of opportunity.
1960s Student anarchists ? Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) developed after the 1962 ?Port Huron Statement? drafted by Tom Hayden, later ?Hanoi Jane? Fonda?s husband. Hayden?s statement accused the U.S. of imperialism abroad and Fascist repression at home. His fellow SDS leaders included Rennie Davis, Abbie Hoffman, and Jerry Rubin. Two years later, Rubin led the protests that became known as the Cal-Berkeley Free Speech movement, at about the same time that John Kerry testified before Congress that he had witnessed widespread raping, ear-amputations, and murders as routine actions by American soldiers, under orders from their officers. A more radical underground offshoot, Weatherman, led by Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayer, aligned with the Black Panthers and other minority groups and began a series of burglaries, murders, and bombings. Protesting the Vietnam War, their slogan was ?Bring the war home! Ice a few pigs!? Members were exhorted to arm themselves and take to the streets for armed revolt. Today Dohrn and Ayer are what the New York Times called respected members of academia.
1968 ? Richard Nixon becomes President; takes the dollar completely off the gold standard, removing last barrier against inflation; institutes price and wage controls; balloons Federal spending. Nixon proclaims, ?We are all Keynesians now,? referring to British economist John Maynard Keynes, who formulated the economic theory that the Depression was caused by people saving too much money and that the answer to every economic problem is to tax the rich and spend the revenues on anything, even digging holes and refilling them the next day. Hyperinflation begins, leaving President Carter to inherit the whirlwind. Inflation hits 22% annually, unprecedented in American history, wiping out roughly 57% of the value of people?s life savings. Just to pay the bills, men are forced to moonlight on two or three jobs, women forced to enter the full-time labor force (women?s full-time participation rose from 28% in 1958 to 51% in 1968). Children left at home turn to delinquency and drugs. Education falls off the cliff, crime rates more than quadruple, unmarried pregnancies hit levels never before experienced in world history, and nearly two-thirds of young blacks under the age of 20 in 1965, when the Great Society entitlements begin, never even attempt to enter the labor force (historically, black men and whites had participated at the same 78% level).
1970s onward ? Student radicals became legislators, judges, and educators, instituting multi-cultural education and speech-and-behavior codes through leverage of Federal funding to education that began under LBJ?s Great Society.